As Retail Struggles, Plato’s Closet Thrives

Today’s trend in retail expansion is all about budget stores. While traditional retailers such as Sears and Macy’s are closing stores, the various dollar store chains are expanding rapidly. And so are the chain stores that sell thrifted clothing.

Rompers

The largest clothing resale chain, Winmark, franchises the store brands Clothes Mentor, Style Encore, Once Upon a Child, Play it Again Sports and Plato’s Closet. We caught up with a Plato’s Closet branch in Albany, NY, to see what’s causing resale clothing stores to succeed when other brick and mortar stores are closing.

green sign

Plato’s Closet began 20 years ago in Columbus, Ohio, with four stores. There are now more than 470 locations of the franchise, with more than 135 of the stores opening in the last five years.

Exterior

The Albany store is located in a strip mall, which is typical of the lower-rent options resale chains choose. The store carries both women’s and men’s clothing and is open until 8 p.m., well past many thrift store hours. Items also may be returned within 14 days, with tags on, for store credit.

Plato’s Closet embraces technology. Customers can search for items on the store’s Instagram page, see what they want online, put a hold on it and pick it up at the store. It also accepts Apple Pay.

instagram

The brand is aimed at young adults and teens, buying labels such as Jessica Simpson, Mossimo and Topsider. Shoes are arranged by size atop the clothing racks, which are well organized with large plastic dividers that let you know at a glance where your size is. We found a pair of gray Mossimo nubuck flats in the clearance area for $6.

Size tags

This is a place to buy purses, with a collection so large there’s an entire section of Vera Bradley print bags, from $7 to $22.

Overall, prices in chain resale stores are higher—in the $12 to $18 range—than their nonprofit counterparts.

Due to its location, this upstate New York store has an abundance of outerwear, hats, gloves and boots. The resale jewelry section is small and is supplemented by new, inexpensive, on-trend pieces bought from a wholesaler.

Those selling clothes to the shop need no appointment. Sellers bring their goods to the “We Buy It Here” counter, which gives cash on the spot and operates during store hours (but closes at 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and at 3 p.m. on Sunday). The store’s website lists the labels it is most interested in buying. Sellers typically receive one-third of the expected selling price, which is itself one-third of the original retail price.

Buy it here

We endorse the sentiment we found on a poster near the store’s dressing rooms. It tells customers, “Own your closet. Don’t let it own you.”

Own Your Closet

Sage advice for thrifters and key to the new attitude of buying, wearing and recycling clothes.

Plato’s Closet, 818 Central Ave., Albany, NY 12206. 518-459-3104.www.platosclosetalbany

Open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday noon to 6 p.m.

Small sign

 

 

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