'People want to save money': Popularity of consignment and thrift stores growing as cost of living climbs

Victoria Women in Need Community Co-operative (WIN) is located in downtown Victoria.

If you find your dollar isn't going as far as it once did, you are not alone. That means more people are turning to consignment and thrift stores to save a buck.

At A to Z Kids, a consignment store in Langford, business is booming. Raising kids is not cheap, especially when you are trying to outfit your life to care for a newborn.

“People want to save money for sure with increased costs of living, rent and groceries,” said Heidi Pitts, the store’s owner.

As a general rule, Pitts prices her items for about half of what the product would cost new. She says traffic in her store has increased this year by roughly 20 per cent. It’s not just people needing to save money, she has also seen an increase in people that are feeling looking to make some extra income.

“This is a way for them to be able to sell their items and get money back for their kids, to buy other things,” said Pitts.

“Prices are on the march, no doubt about it,” said Dr. Mark Colgate, professor of business with the University of Victoria.

Colgate says B.C.’s inflation rate is sitting at around four percent. That’s higher than we’ve seen in the last 20 to 30 years.

He says there is a number of factors contributing to that high inflation rate.

Grocery costs have increased. Housing prices have skyrocketed and energy costs have risen.

“When basic items cost more, like food, gas and shelter, then you’re going to have to cut money on other things,” said Colgate.

Kate Charlebois is the marketing design and partnership co-ordinator at Victoria Women in Need Community Co-operative (WIN).

“Our gift certificate program in particular has seen a 40 per cent increase in the number of program participants,” said Charlebois.

That program allows women and trans, non-binary and two spirit people in need to shop freely in the store. Shoppers use gift certificates provided by WIN, with money raised through the store’s retail sales and donors.

“We’re seeing an increase need in people being able to access goods, such as warm clothing for wintertime, as well as housewares to furnish their homes,” said Charlebois.

Charlbois says in 2021, WIN helped 2,002 program participants in their journey to wellness and self-sufficiency.

Colgate expects prices to continue to rise over the next couple of years, but does expect the inflation rate to come back down to a more familiar 2 per cent by 2024.