It was a plea borne out of both necessity and frustration.
Sue Ghebari, owner and operator of the popular 17th Ave Thrift, recently posted a message to her Instagram account asking thrifting resellers to limit their shopping practices to two items at her store.
“Thrifting has exploded in popularity in the last few years, which is so wonderful for our planet,” she says, adding that vintage items, in particular, have garnered a special interest, especially among the younger crowd.
But, as she explains in the post, this has created an issue for her small business as some resellers have seized the opportunity and have set up online shops where they can sell items that they have thrifted.
In some cases, resellers have purchased up to 30 items at a time at her shop, which relies on donations from Calgarians.
“The issue we are facing is resellers and boutique owners coming in and completely clearing us out of all the best pieces. Some argue that we should be happy to make a sale regardless of who is buying,” she explains.
“This practice actually hurts us because we lose regular customers in the process.”
Frustration and concern
That’s why 17th Ave Thrift is requesting that resellers limit the number of items they purchase from the shop, which donates a portion of the proceeds to local animal shelters, to two items.
“I don’t expect everyone to agree with this. I’m doing what’s best for my business and ultimately for the many rescue animals that we help every month.”
When contacted by Calgary Citizen, Ghebari says she wrote the post out of frustration because many of the more unique vintage items that would be popular with her regular customers are snapped up before customers even have a chance to view them.
“It was starting to feel like we were doing all the work, and then we would put it out and it would almost instantly get snapped up by either a reseller or someone who runs a consignment boutique,” she says.
It wasn’t meant to be a distribution centre
“That leaves us once again scrambling to fill our racks with items for the ordinary person. And we started noticing that we’re losing our customer base and sort of gaining the reseller base — but I can’t just be a distribution centre.”
Ghebari has been told to raise her prices like the big thrift stores have done to discourage resellers.
“We won’t do that,” she says, adding she was trying to find a reasonable compromise.
“I know this is an unorthodox business practice. I don’t expect everyone to agree with this. I’m doing what’s best for my business and ultimately for the many rescue animals that we help every month.”
“I didn’t want to completely alienate them — there are some very good people out there who are truly doing it for the right reasons. And I’ve become good friends with many of them,” Ghebari adds.
The post has received mostly positive support — even from resellers
Candice Martinuk, owner of Wandering Stone Studio, says she understands why 17th Ave Thrift had to make the public request.
She says she is essentially a reseller but has been thrifting for her whole life because you can “find cool stuff” and it’s “cheaper and more sustainable.”
“And when we take everything out of those thrift stores as a reseller, we leave nothing left for everybody else, or for that store. So if we’re going in and essentially cleaning them out, you’re making money off of that thrift store,” she says, adding she’s witnessed this happen personally.
“It’s one thing to take a couple of items, but to clear them out all the time? It is not a great practice. I think it’s important to be conscious as a reseller of your impact on the community.”
When it comes down to it, thrifting is a great way to promote upcycling and recycling
Martinuk believes thrifting is a great way to avert clothing and items to landfills, but she believes there is a delicate balance to be maintained.
“When we take away from those small businesses, it’s hard for them because people aren’t going to be drawn into those stores because there’s not going to be anything left,” Martinuk adds.
“We’re all humans doing the best we can trying to make a living … but we just need to be conscious of how we support the community.”
Ghebari agrees, adding she’s glad vintage is popular again — but she hopes there’s enough for everyone.
“I don’t know how long this trend will last. I think it’s fantastic that people are looking to shop for vintage pieces and maybe in some ways relive the past,” she says. “I just want a good balance.”
Know more about Calgary, every morning in just 5 minutes.
Get stories you won’t find anywhere else about the people, places, and businesses at the heart of our city.
By filling out the form above, you consent to receive emails from Calgary Citizen.