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Consumer demand for second-hand clothing fuels thrift shop growth in Halifax


If you've noticed more thrift shops and second-hand clothing stores popping up in the Halifax area, you're not seeing things; there's a growing market and more businesses are getting in on the competition.

"It's a competitive space and a space where a lot of charities operate because it's been established as a great means of fundraising," said Charlotte Genge, an expert and consultant in reusable fashion and clothing.

Genge operates the Great Halifax Clothing Swap and is a founding partner of By the Pound Thrift, a pop-up shop thrift event that allows customers to buy gently-used clothing by its weight.

"I've always had an interest in thrifting," said Genge, who has hosted community clothing swaps since 2008 to promote sustainable and environmental awareness within the fashion industry and to help encourage a culture of reusing clothing material.

Genge says there are more consumers who are eco-conscious and want to shop second-hand and thrift.

"For a long-time people have been thrifting because they love the thrill of the hunt," said Genge. "But I do think one of the main value propositions for thrifting has become this environmental awareness.”

In the thrift business, what's old is new again, and buying second-hand means garments are staying out of landfills and getting more use.

Genge believes buying second-hand means changing our habits and although, on an individual level that action might seem small, it makes a big difference.

"If, on a mass level, we can get people thinking that way, it will hopefully reduce the demand for new things," said Genge. "It's by all of us, educating each other and changing our behaviour that we get there."

Keeping clothing in circulation longer is good for the environment, says Genge ,who notes people are becoming more aware of what they purchase and second-hand is no longer just about the treasure hunt but also the shift in eco-conscious shopping.

"We are in an age where the climate crisis is here and now, making eco-consciousness an important value," Genge adds.

This shift in mentality is driving many to shop second-hand, says Paddy Williams, the store manager at Venture Thrift, a not-for-profit shop in downtown Halifax.

"The younger generation is becoming more aware of where their clothes come from and where their money goes," says Williams.

All proceeds from Venture Thrift support Affirmative Ventures, a charity that assists Nova Scotians with disabilities by helping them find housing and supporting their independence in the community while also keeping clothes out of landfills.

"If the world stopped making clothes, we'd still have more than we ever need," said Williams.

More work is needed to keep clothing and other textiles out of Nova Scotia landfills, says Kathryn Bremner, a program and development officer with Divert NS, a not-for-profit corporation promoting recycling across the province.

A landfill audit completed by Divert NS last summer revealed fashion and fabric make up a significant volume in landfills.

"Fashion waste makes up 18 per cent of landfill material, that's a substantial increase from 2017," said Bremner. "People may not be aware that they can recycle, repurpose, or donate their textiles.”

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories

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