Nova Scotia

Price hikes at thrift stores hurting those who need low-cost options most

Poverty researcher says more people shopping second-hand and price hikes have an 'unequivocal impact' on low-income shoppers.

Shoppers’ dollars aren't going as far as they used to at second-hand shops

Pants on display at a thrift store in Calgary. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Shoppers at thrift stores may have noticed an increase in prices as retailers in Nova Scotia try to keep up with the rising cost of staying open. 

Nicole MacLean is the community and family service program supervisor at Salvation Army. She said prices at their not-for-profit thrift stores have increased upward of a dollar.

Jeans that were ticketed at $5 last year would now be sold for $6, or a blouse would cost 50 cents more. 

"It's a small increase just to try to offset the rise in minimum wage and the rise in utilities," MacLean said. "Because we're not here to get rich. We want to be there for people who are in emergency situations."

That's a mandate MacLean said the stores try to fulfil by offering emergency clothing vouchers for those in need.

"It's not just a store. It's an outreach in our community," she said. 

Cape Breton Salvation Army thrift stores have increased their prices by 50 cents to a dollar. (Submitted by Nicole MacLean)

Small increases make shopping more difficult for people with limited funds.

This is something that JoAnna LaTulippe-Rochon, executive director of the Cape Breton Family Resource Centre, has seen first-hand as families struggle with the rising prices of food, gas and heat.

"These are very difficult times for those with least access to financial resources," she said. 

She said prices at thrift stores have been increasing over many months, if not years. 

"Participants who use these resources find it more difficult to obtain what they need for the funds they have available," LaTulippe-Rochon said. 

Every dollar counts

Price increases of a dollar or so have an impact, according to Rita Yembilah, a poverty researcher at the Canadian Poverty Institute in Calgary. Yembilah said even marginal increases add up and eat into other bills, like groceries.

"By glancing at the prices in the thrift store, one might not notice what's happening. But for a person that is shopping on a limited budget, they would notice," Yembilah said.

"That price increase could really make a huge difference in somebody buying broccoli or just getting chips at a grocery store."

She said price increases could be attributed to a rise in bargain hunters who are not necessarily on fixed incomes, but make a choice to go "thrifting" for unique items, or eco-minded shoppers trying to reduce their environmental impact.

Yembilah said more people buying second-hand has an "unequivocal impact" on low-income shoppers. 

"The dollar that they would spend in the thrift store would not go as far anymore," she said.