In the past five years, more than 87,000 Quad-City residents have joined the area’s largest Facebook swap site — using the page to sell unwanted items or find bargains without having to leave home.
Similar to Craigslist, the Quad-City Buy and Sell page has taken off, according to page administrator Blake Selby, as it offers a localized alternative to eBay and brick-and-mortar resale shopping. And it’s not the only one. Thousands of members have joined alternative swap sites, vehicle or instrument exchanges and other local resale sites in the past decade.
“I’ve been an admin for a couple of years and we’ve seen a huge influx of new membership,” said Selby, a landlord who mostly uses the site to post property listings. “I think it’s really grown in number and popularity. It’s quicker, like faster gratification. You can immediately find somebody who may want your product within a few minutes, rather than putting something at a consignment store and waiting for someone to find it.”
For Selby, his main job is keeping the site clean, or free of spam, and making sure posts stay relevant. And while he sees membership continue to grow, as more sellers look to “cut out a middle man,” he argued swap sites have only “carved out one piece of the pie.”
“This is a nice alternative for people, but I don’t know that traditional shopping methods will ever go away completely,” he said.
And that's what local resale, thrift and consignment shops are relying on, according to Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Reseller and Thrift Stores.
"Brick-and-mortar is not going to disappear," said Meyer, who's overseen the organization for two decades. "Don't forget most retail is done brick-and-mortar. As big as online sounds, it's only a small portion of sales in retailing. And people love a bargain. People want value for their money. They're spending money on consumer goods, retirement, college education and vacation. So many things are pulling at people's money but resale is one way to save."
The resale market is the strongest during economic downturns, she said, citing a spike in resale during the 2008 recession. But now, with a new generation of shoppers, bringing a new generation of shopping habits, she said resale continues to grow.
Online reseller ThredUp, which releases an annual market report based on data from outside firms, forecasts a $41 billion resale market in stores and online by 2022. The report states 44 million women shopped secondhand last year, compared to 35 million in 2016. Millennials, ages 18 to 24, say they are more environmentally conscious, and shopped resale more than any other group under 45, according to the report.
"It's really mainstream now, particularly with teens," Meyer said. "Teens love to be unique and love to find something no one else will have."
For Quad-City thrift and consignment shops, owners are hoping to take advantage of resale being more accepted in mainstream culture, while also battling competition online and on swap sites.
One of a kind
Sherry Hopkins, who has owned Ritzi Reruns on Locust Street in Davenport for 19 years, has seen a lot change in the local resale market.
Owner of one of the longest-lasting consignment shops, she said the Quad-Cities has lost several of its resale stores. Some have been replaced by chains, like Goodwill or Plato's Closet, but the market "isn't what it once was."
"People are saying the retail apocalypse is going on," Hopkins said. "People don't want to deal with the middle man. They want to sell it themselves. But then they realize, 'oh, this is a lot more work than I thought.'"
She's also noticed a change in the habits of some of her frequent consigners.
"I've noticed some of them come in here and buy a lot and then turn around and sell it on the swap," she said. "Which is fine; I don't care what they do with it. But they're putting it on the swap and wanting more than we do for stuff sometimes. And they're not paying taxes or overhead. It's definitely hurt us."
But in recent years, she's found new interest in her store. She said more teens and millennials have been treasure hunting through her racks of used brand-name apparel.
"I think it's more of an event now, like, 'hey, let's go thrifting,'" she said. "My granddaughter and people her age come in here more. When my daughter was 19, she went to the mall and bought a pair of jeans for $60. A few days later she came in here, found the same exact jeans in the same size and took the others back. That's happened more than once."
Michelle Stroehle, co-owner of Riverbend Retro, which relocated to Davenport in 2016, said her store is also mostly visited by young shoppers, mostly those in their 20s and 30s. And for her and her husband, they bank on curating an experience.
Walking into the vintage store feels like walking onto a "Mad Men" set, as it's filled with mid-century furniture, decor, clothing and records.
"It's people that didn't grow up with this stuff and it's new to them," she said. "They see the kind of design qualities and also just the quality of construction, which is a lot nicer than stuff today. They appreciate that."
While swap sites and online resale have taken a bite out of business, she said customers can tell a difference between scrolling through Facebook or Instagram and walking inside Riverbend Retro.
"They see how much work we put into finding the really nice stuff," she said.
But while she focuses on offering an in-store experience, Stroehle said she makes a large amount of sales by posting items on Facebook and Instagram. She said getting creative with using social media to market what's in-store keeps customers coming in the door.
"Our members that are doing well are active on social media and educate themselves," Meyer said of national resale stores. "They do Facebook Live shows. And now a lot are getting back to email if they left it before for other social media."
Kathryn Hasakis, owner of Revolution in the Village of East Davenport, said even Facebook is old school for some of her shoppers. The store, which sells new and used apparel and accessories, is focusing most marketing efforts on Instagram this fall, she said.
"I think it's a great trend, and I hate to use the term millennials, but I think they have it right. They're finding fabulous new and mid-century pieces that stand out," she said. "More people want that great quality and fun and unique pieces, rather than just grabbing something off the rack. And it's economical. Resale is the ultimate recycle. It's the best use of things in this world today where everybody throws everything out."
Rather than Facebook being the final stop, she said marketing on social media can create customers who are "destination-bound." The store offers items that sell for $1 and are one-of-a-kind pieces that cost up to $3,000. She wants to make resale shopping an upscale, but accessible experience, while catering to a more environmentally conscious generation of shoppers.