What’s the Difference Between a Thrift Shop and a Consignment Store?

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If you’re like a lot of people who have been impacted by COVID and you’re looking to clean out your closet, make extra cash, and buy new clothing at a fraction of its original price, you’ve probably started looking into thrifting or consignment. But what’s the difference—and which is right for you?

Although we sometimes use the terms interchangeably, there are a few key differences between a thrift shop and a consignment store. A lot of people assume the difference is just that a thrift store is non-profit or charity-based and a consignment store is for-profit, but the differences are more complex than that. Both selling to and buying from a consignment store is a much different process than that of a thrift shop, so I'm here to clarify which is which to help you choose the right path for selling your preloved items and buying new goodies for your closet.

What’s the difference between a thrift shop and a consignment store?

The core difference between a thrift shop and a consignment store is that, in general, thrift shops are donation-based for a charity or non-profit, while consignment stores are for-profits that operate for financial gain.

If you have an article of clothing you no longer want, but you don’t want to throw it out and contribute to textile waste, you can either donate it to a thrift store or sell it to a consignment shop.

If you donate the item to a thrift store, you will not receive any money or a cut of the profits in return if the item is sold. Rather, the store will likely give you a receipt for your donation, which you can use for personal tax deductions. Then, volunteers or paid employees will sort the donations and send them out to “the floor” to be purchased by other customers, and these profits are typically used for some charitable purpose. The items sold in a thrift store are typically sold in the same condition in which they were donated, which means the quality might be much lower than a consignment store. Goodwill and Salvation Army are common examples of thrift stores that have a social mission behind the sales of their donated items.

Consignment stores are not donation-based. If you no longer want something, the consignment store will pay you for your goods once the item sells. They will offer you a percentage of the total sale price the item sells for. Let’s say you bring a shirt to a consignment store. Most consignment stores offer 30%-50% of the final sale price. This financially benefits the owner as well as the shop since both are hoping to sell the goods and make money together.

Consignment stores typically have buyers on staff who will sort through preloved goods to see if they’ll sell well in-store. This makes consignment stores more selective than thrift stores (who essentially only decide if an item is in decent enough condition to sell). Consignment stores will usually only resell those items that they believe their target audience would want. This means that the condition of the resold items in a consignment store is usually higher quality than those you’d find in a thrift store.

Read: 11 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Consignment Stores

I’ll delve deeper into the benefits of selling and shopping consignment stores below.

What are the similarities between a thrift shop and a consignment store?

  • Both types of stores give renewed life to items that are still usable. This, in turn, helps to minimize the waste of goods, especially textile waste.

  • Sellers/donators can clean out their closets without throwing out their old pieces. This is much better for the environment by reducing waste and keeping fashion cyclical. Plus, if you’re sentimental, you know your pieces will be getting a second chance with a new home.

  • Buyers can find cool, unique pieces at a fraction of their original price.

  • Buyers get to go on a “treasure hunt” for the perfect item, searching for something unique that speaks to your soul.

Although there are similarities between the two stores, there tend to be a lot more benefits of buying and selling through consignment stores as opposed to thrift stores.

What are the benefits of selling consignment?

The biggest benefit of selling your used clothing and accessories to a consignment store is that you can make money! With a thrift store, you won’t receive any compensation for your donation (only a receipt for a possible tax deduction worth a few cents or a couple of dollars). Consignment stores will hand you cash in exchange for your items. You can then use that cash to pay rent, go out with friends, buy new-to-you clothes, or anything else your heart desires.

Selling consignment can also be a lot more fun than donating clothes to a thrift store. Donations tend to happen quickly—you drop off a bag and leave. With consignment stores, you can build a relationship with the buyer and establish a sense of community around the fashion. Your items are treated with the utmost care, and they’re given the love and respect they deserve after having already lived a full life with you. If you have any sort of sentimentality or attachment to your items, you’ll appreciate the care with which consignment stores like Current Boutique look after your preloved pieces.

Learn more about the benefits of selling with Current Boutique here!

What are the benefits of shopping consignment?

For buyers, there’s a major difference between “thrifting” and consignment shopping. Thrifting is more about finding inexpensive, unusual finds that you can clean and repurpose yourself. It’s an awesome hobby—and even a side hustle— for a lot of people! Gen-Z has even turned thrifting into a lifestyle.

Buying from consignment stores offers that same sort of fun “treasure hunt” sort of process that thrift shops do. You can find super unique pieces that are curated specifically to your personal sense of style. You’re not bombarded with fast fashion trends in the big box stores. Instead, you’re finding timeless, gorgeous pieces that have already proven that they can withstand the test of time.

However, the purchasing process at a consignment store tends to be more upscale than at a thrift store. The condition of the items is typically higher quality at a consignment store because they have to go through a rigorous and selective process in order to be put on the shelves. These pieces have been hand-selected for style, quality, and timelessness. They are then thoroughly cleaned and cared for, so they’re just like new! Buying from a consignment store feels like buying new clothing from a boutique—but it’s even better because you’re actually buying preloved clothing.

Although consignment stores are more expensive than thrift stores, they still offer high-end designer goods at a fraction of their original ticket price. In fact, a lot of consignment stores like Current Boutique may offer anywhere from 30% to 75% (or higher!) off the original price. This includes even those designers that rarely go on sale, like Chanel, making it one of the only times you can get certain designer pieces at a reduced price.

Check out these 10 smart reasons to shop secondhand.

Shop Current Boutique

Current Boutique takes additional measures beyond even the standard of consignment stores to provide the highest quality pieces on our shelves. We are ultra-selective about the pieces we accept, and we thoroughly vet, clean, and repair each item to make it as good as new. We want our shoppers to feel like walking into Current Boutique has the same level of excitement and indulgence as walking into a luxury designer store.

Why not see for yourself what makes shopping for preloved gems at Current Boutique so unique? Whether you’re browsing our hidden gems on our website or you get the chance to stop into one of our store locations, we guarantee a wonderful experience that sends you home with good memories and clothing pieces you’ll adore for years to come. 

Carmen Lopez, President & CEO www.currentboutique.com


Hello Fashion Lovers! I've been in the fashion industry for over 15 years. I started Current Boutique with the desire to recycle amazing pre-loved designer gems for others to enjoy! I value quality, unique craftsmanship, sustainability & saving money. I am a fashion lover who is energized by the challenges and rewards of being an entrepreneur. I'm here to share tips on fashion, style, bargain shopping and business. I hope you enjoy!
XOXO, Carmen