When Cindy Cooper's kids needed swimsuits for their trip to the beach, spending big bucks at a department store was out of the question, especially when she's worrying about filling a Chevy Suburban with gas at near $4 a gallon and buying groceries that seem to cost more every day.
But there she was on a recent morning grabbing a handful of good-looking garments off the crowded racks.
Her bill for a half-dozen swimsuits? Less than $25.
Cooper is one of a growing number of shoppers turning to second-hand stores for clothes and other household items as the rising cost of living crimps budgets. It's hard to beat $4 swimsuits, $5 slacks and $10 dress suits.
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"I got young-uns, and I'm not paying $30 for one swimsuit at the mall just to toss it out when they grow out of them," Cooper said before she left Rock Hill's Goodwill thrift store on Albright Road. "You've gotta find ways to save."
As shoppers become more thrifty, giving mainstream retailers fits, Goodwill Industries of the Piedmont spokesman Bo Hussey said the charity is seeing sales gains. Since January, sales are up almost 8 percent at the Rock Hill store, a figure most retailers would envy even in a strong economy.
"With the cost of gas hitting everyone's pocket, people are looking at places to save," Hussey said. "People are finding Goodwill a good option for that."
Other thrift and resale stores are seeing the gains, too. Last week, the National Association of Resale and Thrift Stores released a survey that found 90 percent of resale shops surveyed had experienced the same or increasing sales this spring compared to last year. The average increase at those stores? Thirty percent.
However, Hussey said the slow economy can put a damper on the sales boom, because consumers are less likely to upgrade used merchandise and donate to charities. This spring, donations have declined slightly, he said.
Because Goodwill's profits go to support free programs that prepare people for the work force, Hussey hopes donations will pick up soon.
"It's important because store sales support our programs," he said. "We've been fortunate. I don't think there's too many stores seeing positive gains right now."