Value Village prices way too high, Winnipeg vintage retailer says

Winnipegger and "professional thrifter" Kali Martin is joining a chorus of complaints about high prices at for-profit retailer Value Village.

'It's used ... Someone else already owned it, put their germs all over it'

A Value Village employee sorts through sweaters at a store in Saskatoon, Sask. Winnipeg vintage store owner Kali Martin believes the for-profit store charges too much for used clothing and household items. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC)

Winnipegger Kali Martin is joining a chorus of complaints about high prices at for-profit retailer Value Village.

Martin, who owns the online store Atomic Age Vintage and describes herself as a "professional thrifter," said some prices at Value Village equal or even exceed what antique and speciality vintage stores charge.

When you look at the thrift store's prices for second-hand clothing, they're similar to what some fast fashion retailers charge, she said.

"You can see the same prices going [at] a full-price retail store. Value Village is the worst," Martin said.

One example: 1970s Chalet glass dishes. Years ago, Martin said she remembers seeing Value Village selling the retro colourful bowls for between $4.99 and $3.99. She collects them for her own retail business.

"[Now at Value Village] they're often $69.99, and antique stores aren't even selling them for that much," she said.

"That's extra-ridiculous," she continued, "when Value Village or any other thrift store is selling things for more … [than] another retail environment that's not proclaiming itself to be a thrift store."

Most second-hand clothing and household goods should sell for no more than 25 to 30 per cent of the original sale price, according to Martin.

"It's used. Even if it's not used and happens to be in good condition, someone else already owned it, put their germs all over it," she said. 

Value Village is for-profit, like Martin's own business — but the difference is how Value Village markets itself, she said. The chain states on its website that it's "affordable" and "quality items are value priced."

People living in poverty may not know how far their dollar could go in another thrift store, such as the Mennonite Central Committee thrift stores, or even in some new clothing stores, said Martin.

Value Village defends its thrifty image. The vast majority of goods sold at the chain store are sold for less than $10, said Sara Gaugl, director of communications for Value Village.

"Each store places up to 10,000 items on their sales floors daily, and each piece of merchandise is individually sorted and evaluated by our team members based on the condition and quality of the item, and then priced accordingly," Gaugl stated in an email.

"However, mistakes can happen."

Gaugl said Value Village shoppers who believe an item has been priced incorrectly should notify a store manager.


Full statement from Value Village's director of communications, Sara Gaugl:

It is our goal to provide great value and selection for our customers. Over 95 per cent of the items sold in Value Village stores are under $10 and less than one per cent are over $20. Each store places up to 10,000 items on their sales floors daily and each piece of merchandise is individually sorted and evaluated by our team members based on the condition and quality of the item, and then priced accordingly. However, mistakes can happen. We encourage our customers to bring any inadvertently mispriced item to the attention of our store managers so we can quickly address it.

It is also important to understand that we do not receive the goods we sell in our stores "for free." Value Village is a for-profit business that is proud to purchase clothing and household goods from community-based nonprofit organizations to stock our store shelves. This means that whenever members of the community drop off items they no longer need or want at Value Village stores, we pay the charitable organizations we partner with for those goods at a mutually agreed upon rate (including items not suitable for resale). Our company's payments to nonprofit organizations result in a steady revenue stream that supports their missions, totaling nearly $200 million last year alone.


With files from CBC's Kim Kaschor