As shops closed during the height of the pandemic, more people turned to online shopping.
To adjust to this new reality, thrift stores have transitioned their businesses onto social media platforms like Instagram. From there, they continue to connect with their customers while advocating for sustainability.
Olivia Nelson is the owner and curator of Ladyhorse Clothing which launched its Instagram shop in December 2020.
“I decided to start an online vintage store because I loved collecting vintage and exploring all the colours and patterns,” said Nelson, who is based in Windsor.
The shop carries styles and designs from the 1950s to the early 2000s. Shoppers can thrift from a range of graphic T-shirts, sweaters and even lingerie.
Nelson said the reason she finds vintage clothing so interesting is because the clothes often “have a story.”
Once Ladyhorse took off, Nelson said she realized customers needed an easier way to purchase the items and better access to the stock. In April 2021, she moved her business to an official website.
Now, she uses the Ladyhorse Instagram to promote her sales and new launches.
“I felt we had so much stock that an online store would be easier for people to explore and for us to keep track of what we have,” said Nelson. “Also, I would imagine messaging us every time you wanted to buy something could get annoying.”
However, the expansion to an online store did not come without its challenges.
“I think getting people to know we had an online store was difficult,” said Nelson. “Less interaction with us may deter people, but [they] can still message us any time.”
On the other hand, there are also benefits to the transition. Shoppers are able to scroll through items according to their era, allowing them to find pieces that fit their aesthetic.
“A huge hole in the market”
Other vintage stores choose to stay exclusively on Instagram for its ease when it comes to transactions and outreach.
Ottawa residents Aly Marcotte and Amy Dijkema are co-presidents of The Thrifted Mini, a kids’ clothing consignment store exclusive to Instagram.
“The nice thing about Instagram is that it’s an instant sale. You post it, people see it, they buy it, or they don’t buy it,” said Dijkema.
Marcotte and Dijkema first met in high school. Eighteen years later, both are now parents to four children under the age of eight. This allowed them to apply their own experience as baby clothing consumers to their business.
“With eight kids…between the two of us, we know about baby clothes. You learn so much from their clothing,” said Marcotte.
Dijkema added, “You learn how things fit, you learn what fits, you learn what is going to last and what doesn’t, just little tricks you get from having so many kids.”
Marcotte and Dijkema both had issues finding baby clothes for their children. This experience inspired them to take on the role of consigning children’s clothes for the thrifting community.
“There was a huge hole in the market. There wasn’t anything for kids and a need to start something,” said Dijkema.
The pair first launched the company in August 2020, where they both buy and sell children’s clothing. The clothes range from newborn sizes to items for five-year-olds, including products from popular children’s clothing brands such as Kyte Baby.
The Thrifted Mini has since grown its reach to buyers and sellers from all over North America.
The push for sustainability
As the account’s popularity grew, the business continued to attract more shoppers who had sustainability in mind.
“I think people’s ideas of what they want are changing,” said Marcotte. “People who didn’t come to us at first for sustainability, but because of the pandemic, have realized that there is value in sustainability.”
According to Marcotte and Dijkema, many customers are also consigning items back that they purchased from The Thrifted Mini, giving the items a third life.
The appeal of an environmentally friendly purchase is attracting more people to thrift shops. A recent report by Statista shows that 31 per cent of consumers purchase second-hand goods for their sustainability.
Marcotte and Dijkema said they believe that Instagram’s platform allows them to create a bond with their customers. They said it also helps form a community within their business.
“You are seeing into [your followers’ lives],” Dijkema said. “We’ve met a lot of great people through these clothes. Those names stick with you because there are pictures and comments associated with them. It’s really special.”
Nelson also said she shares this connection with her followers through Instagram.
“Instagram helped with creating a relationship with customers,” she said. “I would be able to easily follow up and talk with anyone interested in an item, and people respond to stories which creates conversation. It’s awesome.”