The pandemic has affected many businesses and second-hand stores are not exempt.
However, one innovative thrift store owner has found a way to beat the odds.
Bobbie Kennedy, the founder of The Clothing Exchange has found a chance to grow thanks to social media, even with the challenges brought on by the pandemic.
“The pandemic has affected me by the fact there have been closures, we’ve been going through a lockdown, I can’t be open. It has also affected the number of people I could have in the store,” Kennedy says.
The Clothing Exchange is a Kitchener-based second-hand store that opened for business last March, just when the pandemic began in Canada and lockdowns started to be enforced. But for Kennedy, as much as COVID-19 has brought challenges, it has also given her a window for new chances.
“The pandemic is affecting everybody in different ways, but I built a business a year ago, and I’m fortunate that I kind of build it during COVID, so I knew how to keep the business surviving and alive during COVID,” she says. “As much it is affecting me, I’ve also been very successful that I pivoted through the pandemic, I keep growing and keep people engage and buying products from me.”
During the first lockdown, Kennedy says she learned very quickly how to get into social media. She created content for her growing online platform.
“I did IG stories, IG posts, so I could sell to my audience and I could sell to a bigger audience as well,” she says.
Kennedy says she has been in the business field for around 13 to 14 years now. “I’ve been in women’s fashion for a long time, I’ve always known how to adapt to what’s going on in the industry,” she says.
As much as the fashion industry is evolving and younger generations are more aware of what fast fashion and what benefits thrifting has brought, Kennedy says she knew she had to get to a younger audience.
“The industry is always changing; businesses and people’s shopping patterns are always changing,” she says.
That’s why she knew she had to get on board with the most popular social media platform at the moment, TikTok. “Ok, so this where everyone is going,” she says. “Everyone wants to watch TikToks or want to watch Instagram reels, so then I started doing them, they are all over my page.”
With an Instagram account of more than 3000 followers, her business slogan titled Making Second Hand Look Gucci, Kennedy keeps on thriving amid the challenges and keeps positive her new business will find its way in the social world.
She has done fashion shows, live virtual talk shows, and constantly doing different measures to evolve her business. “I’m always growing, I think, COVID-19 or non-COVID-19, businesses will going to have to evolve and always going to have to change towards the market or what people are wanting or how they’d like to see and view the product,” Kennedy says.
Ontario declared a state of emergency on March 17, 2020, and businesses had to close down to follow proper safety guidelines. This harmed small business owners because several had to go out of business.
“I don’t ever want to be in the position to make these decisions, but as a small-business owner, I do think these lockdowns are being hard on us. I can have people in my store safely, socially distanced, with their masks, not being cramped, so I don’t understand why we aren’t allowed to stay open during the lockdowns when bigger stores can have 500 people there.”
What do thrift shoppers think?
Ambar Volpe is a fashion influencer and thrift shop lover based in Alicante, Spain. She has a blog page where she posts fashion tips to her audience and uses her Instagram account to promote second-hand products.
“Right now, it’s a little bit chaotic because of all of the restrictions, but I like how now I see more younger people interested in shopping at thrift stores,” Volpe says
Volpe says it is important the social media presence for any small business, however, for thrift stores, she does not share that idea.
“I think it’s not very important to me because I like to go to the shop and see the clothes, feel the fabric,” Volpe says.
However, Maria Ferrer, small business owner of Maria Ferrer Collection and fashion enthusiast based in Miami, Fla. does not share Volpe’s view and thinks social media works well.
“For me, it is really important, because you can get more variety than in the store, you can buy faster, see what items you like the most easily rather than going to the store and search for a longer time,” Ferrer says.
Ferrer says she believes an online store is important because “you can know easily if they carry your size, it gives more access to people, not everybody likes to be out.”
For Kennedy, the challenges of the pandemic made her realize she had to find new ways to adapt to the market, and going online gave her that chance.
“If I didn’t have social media, I wouldn’t have a business, let’s put it that way,” Kennedy says.