Thrift Stores Looking More Like Consignment Shops

Have you noticed a change in the look at your favorite thrift store? The fact that thrift stores have a new middle class clientele has dispensed the belief that these stores catered only to the economically challenged or for junkers and dealers. And with many items being recycled department store markdowns, the apparel selection is not out of fashion, but up-to-date styles. Subsequently, thrift stores is expanding out of the inner city and into suburban neighborhoods, and even the physical layout of the stores has been updated and now are taking on the look of popular consignment shops.

Recently Markdown Mom visited one of her favorite thrift stores that has recently annexed two neighboring stores. This has provided not only needed space, but storefront display. Inventory has increased to include a larger selection of furniture, modern and antique, and to organize the merchandise more effectively, oftentimes creating theme display areas. These stores now are competitors not only for the consignment shops, but closeout stores. Although prices have gone up, they are still extremely reasonable. However, for the collector or antique hunter pricing is more savvy, and, therefore, it is more difficult to uncover a “find.” Plus mattresses and box springs banned before, now are being sold; however, this is new merchandise in their original wrappings. Additionally, thrift stores are now offering promos such as Senior Day each week when 55+ individuals can receive 25% off their purchases.

The main tip in finding a great bargain is to shop early, and shop often. Merchandise can change daily and timing is everything. Remember, you have more competition nowadays!

Bargain Banter: Buying and The “R” Word, Plus Out & About In Search of Store Markdowns

The "R" word is a double-edged sword.  One way it cuts, hurts retailers since even inventory control cannot  make up for the lack of customers in the stores and usually the hurt trickles down to laid-off employees and additional hardships placed upon those who were barely making ends meet before this crunch coping with rising interest rates on home mortgages with adjustable rates, and increasing inflation of energy needs, and staples such as food.

The other way it cuts is that retailers forced to make markdowns have some real bargains on the shelves.  What to do?  Of course, the first order of business is to see that you can keep a roof over your head, food, and be able to keep going to work.  But that doesn’t mean that you can forego any buying whatsoever because those of us with families still have to clothe our children, and see to their educational needs, and emotional well-being.  With that in mind, the mission of this blog is to see that you are able to get the best deal or the greatest savings, so that depreciated dollar can go further.

Markdown Mom has noticed that thrift stores have increased traffic, but even there you have to be a savvy shopper.  Prices at the thrift stores have gone up, especially books and antiques & collectibles, but you can usually get good bargains on about everything else.  Many items are bought in lots from familiar stores and usually priced at about half of the retail and most often, half of the stores’ markdown price.  As with any savvy shopping, be aware of the item’s retail price prior to its’ hitting the thrift stores.  Remember that much of this merchandise is past season;  so right now that means Fall-Winter merchandise including holiday.

Target instore is having some terrific sales with 30%-75% off especially in linens such as their top line, Fieldcrest, and some of it is the early Spring merchandise that came in right after the holidays.  But not all Target stores are created equal, the Super Target stores have more markdowns to select from since the smaller Target stores took their markdowns about 2 weeks ago because of space needs for the new merchandise. 

Plus, the jewelry sales slump has resulted in some real bargains of up to 75% off their better jewelry.

In electronics, you can even find some Wii programs and the occasional flat screen tv  at 30%-50% off

For all you Joy Mangano clients, you now can purchase her hangers at Target in an array of pastel colors. 

Wal*Mart has decreased their huge bins of DVD’s from 2/$11.00 to 2/$10.00.  Wal*Mart markdowns tend not be as deep since the original price is usually low end–so there’s not a lot of flexibility in discount pricing.  However, you can find apparel on circular racks with a flat price of $3 and $5.  Don’t pass those racks up since the material would cost you more than the completed garment. 

Oh, cooks and gourmets will be glad to hear that they are once again carrying those wonderful glass bottles with spouts for under $3 that are so handy for dispensing olive oil, vegetable oil, or making your own herb vinegars. 

KMart continues it’s clearance policy with an extra 60% off.  Usually there are several places in the store with clearance areas, it just takes times to locate them all, but well worth the effort!

Brides on a Budget-SAVE THE DATE

Getting married and worried about $$$?

Then, you’ll want to check out the Goodwill Bridal Showcase Event this coming Saturday, February 23, 9am to 3pm at the Twin Cities Goodwill/Easter Seals location on Fairview Avenue in St. Paul. 

There will be more than a hundred dresses including one-of-a-kind wedding gowns, bridesmaid, special occasion, and mother-of-the-bride dresses.  Most wedding gowns priced at $99.  New, slightly used, bridal store samples, and designer gowns will be 50 to 70% off the original price!  Also available will be women’s and men’s shoes, including men’s black wingtips.

The event is FREE.  There will be dressing rooms, free drawings and refreshments.  Participating wedding professionals include: City Image Salon Uptown, Wedding Gown Care Specialists, Post Haste Tailors, Midway Party Rental, Ideatap Studios, Twin Town String Quartet, Maurice Northrup Photography, Mocha Blue Concierge & Errands, Wells Catering Service.

553 Fairview Avenue North
St. Paul, MN 55104
Google Map


SAVERS® is one of America’s largest thrift stores.  The first store opened in San Francisco in 1954 by William O. Ellison, grandson and nephew of
Ben and Orlo Ellison who helped build the Salvation Army Thrift Organization during the 1930s and 1940s. Ellison’s vision of recycling and helping the
 community grew into a national chain
which now also has locations in Canada and Australia.

MarkDownMom’s recent excursion to Savers in Minneapolis, MN came with a number of wonderful surprises!

The amount of merchandise literally spans several rooms, so be prepared to bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes and spend at least 2 hours to uncover Savers many gems.   Savers has a wide array of clothing (many top notch brand names: Perry Ellis, The Gap, Aeropostale, Worthington, Lands End ), shoes, kitchenware, paintings/pictures, books/magazines, and other unique household goods. 

Don’t let the store overwhelm you and don’t be too shy.  You really need to dig in areas to find the best bargains.  Markdownmom took twenty minutes looking at Savers many pictures and almost missed two framed shadow boxes containing mounted butterflies for her daughter’s entomology collection, hidden in a corner amongst larger photos.  MDM snatched them up right away– a steal at $2.99!

In addition to the mounted butterflies, MDM sleuthed a large mahogany shadowbox lined in blue velvet for $7.99.  Shadow boxes like the one can cost online from $26.00-$48.00.  What a fantastic gift to display any collections! 

MDM found a few treasures for herself like this lovely crane in housewares for $6.99.

Donations come from private donors, non-profit alliances, and store closeouts which cycles frequently so every store will have a different selection and no two days will be alike.


 Items are priced higher than comparable thrift stores like GoodWill, St. Vincent de Paul’s, or Salvation Army, but proceeds help to support over 10,000 team members and help to fund community non-profits while promoting recycling efforts.

Find a Saver’s Store Location near YOU!

Tip of the Week #36: Upscale Thrift Store Special Events

Bargain Hunters don’t forget shopping the thrift and consignment stores this holiday season for some real deals and one-of-a-kind merchandise.  For example, Second Début, an upscale Goodwill store located in the Excelsior area of Minneapolis, Minnesota, today Saturday, December 8, 2007, beginning at 10a.m. to 6 p.m., will be holding a Fur & Leather Event.  Plus free gift wrapping during this month on all art work. 

Thrift stores and consignment stores are wonderful resources all the year around, but even more so during special holiday events like these.  The best way to insure you are kept up-to-date on all promotions is to sign-up and receive their emails.

Charity Silent Auctions Go Mainstream

Silent auctions for a number of years have been a staple of charity fundraisers.  Less raucous than the give and take of real auctions, nonetheless they provide an additional source of raising money for charities and other worthy causes.  These auctions have been coupled with charity events such as wine tasting, chef prepared samplers, dinners for special causes, to name a few.  The tax incentives usually include the price of the event’s ticket and the silent auction prize minus the value $$$ of each. 

Now some thrift stores have caught on to this fundraising vehicle by conducting their own in-store silent auctions.  Usually thrift store donations for auction include the more expensive donations the organization has received. 

For instance, on a recent visit, MDM found a copy of a Jackson Pollock print matted and framed, a animated cell from a motion picture studio, a TIVO® NIB and other various electronics, and more. 

How does the thrift store silent auction work?


  1. Each store has the bidder fill out a registration card, that is only good at that location, with an assigned number. 
  2. The items up for bid are usually showcased in a locked glass cabinet with an assigned number
  3. Once registered, the bidder then can make a bid for the item by logging it onto the item’s sheet in a designated 3 ring binder, and listing  his/her assigned bidder number and bid amount. The bidding sheet includes a description of the auction item, opening bid amount and bidding increments, its’ opening and closing date–usually a one week period. 
  4. It’s important to check back often especially on the last day of bidding.  Bidders need not be present since the registration card includes address and phone number of the bidder in order to be contacted by the thrift store.
  5.  All tax incentives of a charity event silent auction apply to thrift store silent auctions.  Usually the bidder will be looking to get the item at a bargain price; however, in the case of antiques or collectibles, that price can exceed fair market value depending upon the rarity of the item, and any amount above that can be deducted as a contribution.  Likewise, donating items for thrift store sale or auction is tax deductible.
Another way to go green and find a bargain at the same time!

Tip of the Week #34: October: Choose to Reuse Month–Bargain Coupons and More

Thrift stores, consignment stores, organic food stores are all part of the ‘think green’ movement.  By reusing what we have and food that is grown with the environment in mind, consumers and bargain hunters cannot only be savvy shoppers, but contributors to this overall effort. 

Hennepin County has declared the month of October as the "Choose To Reuse" month and has put together a special coupon book that saves even more $$$ at your favorite Twin Cities bargain sites.  With coupons for an additional 10%-50% off at local thrift stores, consignment stores, Whole Foods Stores, costume rental shops, record stores, vintage stores and other stores with dollar discount and freebies with purchases–this is a ‘must have’ book for this month for all bargain hunters.  Imagine the low prices are even lower with this offer–what a great idea!  Hurry and pick-up your coupon book good through October 31st.

Click Here→Choose to Reuse Coupon Book

Don’t live in the Twin Cities area?  Encourage your local county government to implement this great idea to promote recycling and reuse.

This Is a Two Green Thumbs Up Idea!

Not All Thrift Stores Are Created Equal

Thrift stores are like chain stores and like other forms of business can be tied into location, location, location!  The major distribution centers for thrift stores offer a variety of merchandise and since many are centrally located in urban areas or near colleges and universities, items can run the gamut from expensive furniture and art selections to an abundant apparel selection.  Increase customer traffic in these densely populated areas can spell more frequent visits and on-the-spot decision-making to secure a "find" for the bargain hunter.  Additionally, in urban areas you will find thrift store "outlets" where the customer can buy merchandise by the pound or the bag.  These outlets will have a greater apparel selection than other merchandise, and in some cases you will have to literally dig for your bargains.

Suburban thrift stores can offer more decorative designer items especially in furniture, rugs, and home accessories.  These stores tend to be smaller  and newer as thrift stores expand their suburban markets,   Among bargain hunters, thrift stores are known for the finds that can be found in each which varies according to the clientele.  You will find competitors such as antique dealers and flea market vendors checking out the merchandise on a regular basis during the week, especially on certain days of the week such as Thursdays when new merchandise is put on the floor for the weekend crowd. 

There is a new genre emerging in thrift stores and that is the upscale thrift store carrying only designer apparel, jewelry and accessories, and original art work.  Catering to a clientele that loves designer goods at bargain prices–not necessarily rock bottom prices–who love the idea of being green by buying recycle goods that are fashionable and sport designer labels.  These stores rival consignment stores and. in fact, the one that MDM found in Minneapolis is located in an area of boutiques and designer consignment stores.

Second Début-Goodwill Boutique
4300 West 36 1/2 Street
St. Louis Park, MN 55416
(952) 922-9640
(google map)

Store Hours:
Monday to Friday: 10am to 8pm
Saturday: 10am to 6pm
Sunday: 12pm to 5pm

Second Début-Goodwill Boutique located in St. Louis Park, Minnesota is certainly a treasure hunter’s dream!  The store offers a variety of brand name apparel, shoes, and accessories as well as artwork.  Women’s apparel is somewhat limited in sizes (2 to 16/18), but offers a good variety of blouses, t-shirts, sweaters, pants, jeans, and fall and winter coats.  Prices generally range from $10 to $50, depending on the item.  Customers are welcomed with cookies and a beverage to help re-energize them after a  hard day’s shopping. 


Attached to the clothing section is a room entirely devoted to paintings, photographs, and other prints (pictured left).  Among the many artwork styles you may find here include: Contemporary, Classic, Asian, African, and New-Age.




There is also a collection which sells at the store or for auction on E-bay (featured right). 

MDM found an Interesting contemporary, art-deco piece by John P. Martineau called "Bird N’ Hand," which sold for $45 (left) and a lithograph signed and numbered of an old wooden barn. 

If you are fortunate to have specialty or theme thrift stores in your city, please visit them often to check out new merchandise and any special sales like the upcoming art sale in Minneapolis.  As MDM overheard one customer state that shopping thrift stores is fun since "you never know what you may find." 

Save the Date: October 16, 2007 (10am to 4pm)
Second Début of Minneapolis 2nd Art Sale

John P. Martineau, "Bird N’ Hand" (12 of 40 prints)


Thrift Stores: Where The Present Meets The Past

Thift stores are not only places to find deals on a whole potpourri of items, but if you take the time, is a wonderful environment to explore items of the past. 

Recently MDM was visiting one of her favorite thrift stores when she came across this unusual piece of machinery.  Although gilded, it was made of cast iron, and a cursory look at it suggested some items were missing, however, the metal brand label did not fully identify what it was. 

Several gentlemen were seated near this object and MDM struck up a conversation with them and learned that this was a manual cream separator.  The missing items were a sieve/filter and bowls to collect the cream and other by-products.  The machine also had a chime system which was used to establish a certain speed and rythmn to the manual cranking action.  This photo shows a gentleman giving MDM and others a lesson on how the separator operated.  Machinery like this was used from the early 1900’s through the 1930’s on local dairy farms.    The current price asked by the thrift store was $300.

This is an example of how thrift stores, antique and specialty stores can provide insight into a bygone era and a learning experience not only in the fine arts and antiques, but a peek into everyday life long ago.  When shopping thrift stores, take the time to investigate items that are unusual or unfamiliar, you’ll be surprised how soon you can strike up a conversation with others and enrich your world from what you learn, but from the new friends you make who share your passion! 


Retro Plastic Grapes: A Decorating Plus and Collectible

 Another MDM’s Today’s Collectible, Tomorrow’s Antique!

Plastic grapes hardly describes these lovely lucite/resin grapes that were made in the 1950’s or earlier.  Most are attached with wire and covered in floral tape and anchored to a faux bois or piece of driftwood.  Many were used in decorative hanging light fixtures with a definite danish modern look.  These are wonderful accents for a livingroom coffee table or dining room center piece and as a decorating accent they go with most decors from victorian to contemporary.

The lucite grapes pictured at right are from MDM’s collection.  They are gold and clear incoloring  and they go well at all times of the year even with an eclectic decor.

These grapes were made in a number of colors and materials including crystal, agates, glass, alabaster and the colors can include pink, blue, green, orange, jade, lt. and dk. green, red, turquoise just to name a few.

For your best bargains look for these items at thrift shops and rummage or tag sales.  Ebay and Shopgoodwill will have others, but you will pay more–sometimes a lot more depending on the other bidders.