Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Used Merchandise Stores Prove They're as Good as New

As the economy went south in 2007, second-hand stores began attracting more customers. As consumers cut back on spending, many have turned to used merchandise as an alternative to new, more expensive goods.

National sales at these stores have steadily increased over the past two decades, and there's been a significant rise in recent years. Total retail sales, excluding vehicles, grew at a considerably slower pace since the industry's pre-recession peak in December 2007. Resale spending increased by 21.2 percent between the end of 2007 and August 2012, as shown in the graph below, whereas all non-auto retail dropped 7.1 percent.

Oregon's used merchandise sector follows national industry trends, as statewide employment in these establishments has risen alongside retail sales. Between 2005 and 2011, covered employment increased by nearly one-third. Job growth really took off in 2006, when the industry grew nearly 11.7 percent over the previous year. Year-over-year growth fluctuated during the recession, falling to 0.4 percent in 2007 but rising again every even year afterwards. In 2011 there were 2,239 jobs in the industry. 

Given the nature of this industry, there are likely many Internet and home-based ventures: think e-Bay sellers, estate sale organizers, or antique dealers. These companies are called nonemployers, and include the self-employed, businesses without employees, independent contractors, and others. Oregon had 818 nonemployer establishments in the used merchandise industry in 2010, comprised mainly of individual proprietorships (772), a few partnerships, and a handful of corporations. Nonemployers had receipts of nearly $28 million in 2010, which include sales, commissions, and other income reported on annual business income tax returns.

Portland in particular has a reputation for stylizing thrift and emphasizing the recycled aspect of used goods. Many recently opened second-hand shops in the Portland metro area have been upscale clothing businesses. According to America's Research Group, this trend may be due to young shoppers. Consumer research companies like the Zandl Group say that today's teens and young adults value unique and original styles, which often leads them to favor vintage and retro clothing or d├ęcor. With one of the youngest populations in the state, it's no surprise that Portland has a large market for thrift stores.

You can find out more about used merchandise stores in the full article, written by yours truly

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