John D. Rockefeller thought it was essential to well-ordered living.
Calvin Coolidge, perhaps the least memorable American president, thought this virtue should be sought not because it builds wealth but because it builds character.
Samuel Johnson, the creator of Britain’s first dictionary, believed that “without it, none could be rich; with it, none would be poor.”
What were they talking about? Thrift. Frugality. Prudence. Also known as the universal human urge to grab a bargain.
The difference now is that the old-fashioned virtues have become fashionable again. Frugality is In. Thrift has become Hip, especially among millennial consumers.
One of the most popular manifestations is Kijiji.ca, the made-in-Canada site that links bargain hunters with buyers and turns your old junk into somebody else’s fabulous treasure.
You can list almost anything on Kijiji for free but what shows up a lot in spring, when minds lightly turn to thoughts of a new wardrobe, is designer clothing and accessories at bargain-basement prices.
The second-hand business is booming, according to Matthew McKenzie, the general manager of Kijiji and a Leaside resident. (See our profile of Matthew McKenzie here.)
“People love finding good value,” he says, “and they recognize how the second-hand economy can deliver it on both sides of buy-and-sell transactions.
“We’re seeing that come to life in the way they shop, as Canadians exchanged more second-hand items than ever in 2017,” he added.
Bricks and mortar thrift is big, too
Thrifty shopping has all kinds of customers, not just the ones in need, or those who want to be green, but consumers who want to find a good deal.
Another Leaside outpost of the new “thrift is hip” mentality is Extoggery, an upscale consignment shop which has been on Brentcliffe Road for more than 20 years.
“We are a destination for many because of our constant supply of designer quality goods at reasonable prices,” says owner Anna Clarke.
“In the past few years there has been a steady increase in the consignment trade, both with items being consigned and with second hand goods being purchased,” she added.
“People today seem to be better at letting go of things they no longer need or want. Most items are no older than two to three years, leading to happy clients who have purchased quality goods at reasonable prices,” Clarke continued.
“Sales continue to be very strong, with year-over-year increases consistent with our target range of 8-14%.”
While Kijiji just links buyers and sellers online, Extoggery is a bricks-and-mortar retail outlet where staff have to examine, value and catalogue each item before displaying goods for sale.
Extoggery has been in business since 1939 at several locations throughout the city. Anna Clarke purchased the company about four years ago after working there for 18 years.
“We have a large number of clients who consign items as a result of our long history in the city, many of whom have been clients and customers for at least 30 years,” she says.
Fashion may change daily. But the universal urge to get a good deal, the bargain-hunter in all of us, rarely changes, so the Leaside entrepreneurs who scratch that itch will continue to thrive. Give a cheer for thrift.