Three Rules For Running a Thrift Boutique
About a month or so ago, an intriguing flyer made its way into my mailbox.
Thrift boutiques – thriftiques, if you will – have been popping up all over as of late. Kate Goldwater and I know this facet of the gently worn world inside out and bass ackwards; it’s why AuH2O is the number one shopping listing on Yelp for all of New York City.
The rules of a successful thriftique operation are as follows:
1. Have an Eye.
Over the past few months, Kate and I have basically trained ourselves to be brand-blind. This isn’t because we have anything against labels; it’s because we understand the extent to which they influence our judgment.
I recently unearthed a stunning, cream linen pencil skirt from a bin at one of our go-to stock spots. We squealed with delight before we even knew what it was: A vintage Yves Saint Laurent. Yes, it was a lucky score, but when quality’s your end-game, the gems eventually find you.
When assessing any item, we deal with cut (is it flattering? is the fit versatile? is it too big or too small for our shoppers?), fabric (is it jersey knit that’s going to pill after one wash? is it scratchy vintage polyester?), color (we hate pink), seasonal wearability (fuck, another amazing vintage sweater we don’t have space to store) and stylistic relevance (can we cut out the shoulder-pads?). The brand’s the last part of the equation, and rarely the deciding factor.
Having an eye also means getting outside of your own head, i.e. knowing who you’re buying for. Our East Village shoppers are basically a walking street style blog: Their creative wardrobe choices inspire a lot of what we stock, and they rarely lead us astray.
2. Check for Damages.
A thriftique is, first and foremost, a screening tool designed to alleviate the browsing drudgery associated with traditional thrift.
That’s a verbose way of saying NO DAMAGED SHIT ON YOUR RACKS. If you’re going to tack on a convenience charge for curated secondhand stock, checking for pit-stains, missing buttons, busted zippers, fabric tears, pen marks, excessive pilling, iron burns, etc. isn’t an option – it’s your fucking JOB.
Note: If thrift warehouses and vintage junk shops are your stock sources, here’s your golden rule: If it’s really effing amazing, there’s probably something wrong with it. Write that down.
Kate and I do two damage checks for every single item we choose, and we do it every single time we stock, and we STILL mess up occasionally. If we pull something out of the dryer, see a stain and realize we’ve been had, do we say meh, whatevs, no one else will notice, we’ll just put it out anyway? No, because we’re not lazy pieces of shit.
If we knowingly stock a damaged item, it’s a big fat eff you to our shoppers – no item is worth having our judgment and/or thrifting skillz called into question.
If we unknowingly stock a damaged item, and a shopper catches the flaw, it’s 75% off its tagged price if she still wants it; if she doesn’t, we pull it off the floor immediately.
For any item that’s not wearable in its current form, you’ve got two choices: Fix it, or get rid of it.
3. Don’t Forget What You’re Selling.
No, really. What do you sell?
A vintage shopkeeper might answer authentic 60s and 70s era garb. A Housing Works manager might answer designer items at a discount. A Goodwill Boutique employee might say brands for less.
All of these answers amount to a steaming pile of cow dung – a crock of bullshit that enables many thriftique owners to rationalize overcharging for previously worn goods.
Vintage, designer – I don’t give a rat’s ass. First and foremost, it’s USED, and it should be priced as such.
So. Did Goodwill’s Greenwich Village Boutique hit or miss the thriftique mark?
Oy. Effing. Vey. Photographic evidence to follow. Stay tuned.