The Sylvan Glen neighborhood in Troy hosted its annual subdivision sale May 13-15. Last year,  the event was postponed  because of COVID-19.

The Sylvan Glen neighborhood in Troy hosted its annual subdivision sale May 13-15. Last year, the event was postponed because of COVID-19.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Secondhand shines during pandemic

Shoppers have turned to resale during shaky COVID-19 economy

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Metro | Published May 26, 2021

 Raymond Taylor, of Troy, made around $10,000 during the pandemic by selling off portions of his massive  Lego collection online.

Raymond Taylor, of Troy, made around $10,000 during the pandemic by selling off portions of his massive Lego collection online.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


METRO DETROIT — If you haven’t wanted to do any secondhand shopping for the past year, who could blame you? Folks have been doing their best to keep their hands to themselves and stop the spread of germs for fear of contracting COVID-19.

But you’d be in the minority.

Resale, consignment, marketplace trades and garage sales are hotter than ever, according to professional retailers and private sellers alike.

The company thredUP, an online consignment store, saw a major jump in sales, even as users around the world faced the uncertainty of finances and socialization. In fact, May 2020 was a record-breaking month for new visitors to the site, and sales increased 31%.

According to GlobalData Market Sizing and Growth Estimates, the secondhand market is expected to be the fastest-growing sector of the fashion industry, expanding five-fold over the next five years. Meanwhile, retail — including fast fashion, department stores, luxury brands and even Amazon fashion sales — are expected to take a dip of as much as 15%.

The same goes for eBay, which saw a 22% jump in gross sales globally in 2020, equating to more than $37 billion. About 75% of those sales were from sellers new to the secondhand market, and about 14% were specifically sellers who had lost employment and turned to “recommerce” as a way to supplement their income.

Locally, the statewide shutdown of most retail businesses hit consigners hard. Lisa Powley, the owner of Deja Vu upscale designer resale in downtown Franklin, said she had to switch gears to accommodate what her customers needed most: a no-contact shopping option, and lifestyle items to fit our new normal.

“People did not stop shopping online, and it did save my boutique,” she explained. “(That said) today, and for the last several months, trust is back and the passion for shopping is back. People love to touch and feel and try on clothing, and those are the services that we give them.”

Since there weren’t many parties or conference room meetings to dress up for, Powley said activewear was a major focus of her marketing during the pandemic. Neighborhood walking became all the rage around this time last year while Michiganders were encouraged to stay home.

Business attire has been selling, too, but mostly just pieces from the belt up.

“The Zoom calls put blazers back on the map again for professional people,” she said.

Powley said she certainly hasn’t run out of inventory, either. All this time at home has given people the chance to clean out their closets and bring items they don’t wear to Deja Vu.

That’s exactly what Troy resident Raymond Taylor did last weekend when he cleared out his house for his neighborhood’s annual subdivision sale. He’s moving away from the Sylvan Glen community to rural Trinity, North Carolina, so he priced his stuff to move.

“The attitude at that point was, ‘Please take it.’ But we did well. It was a good crowd,” Taylor said.

Last spring, the annual subdivision sale was postponed until the fall to accommodate the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order. But when Taylor and his neighbors finally did open their garages for business, they were pleasantly surprised.

“People were itching to get back to some level of normal, so we did good last fall. It was very well attended, and this past weekend was the same. Lots of people, lots of traffic,” he said.

Things started slowly on Thursday, May 13, with customers doing some strategic shopping, Taylor explained.

“They’re looking for specific items: bikes, gold watches, costume jewelry, guns, coins,” he said. “Then on Fridays, you get people looking for furniture. Then on Saturday, you get more families who just come to check it out. Business usually picks up late in the day, but it’s because they were headed out somewhere, maybe to take junior to soccer practice, and they saw the sign for the sale and stopped on their way home.”

The main difference, Taylor noted, was that during last year’s sale, customers all wore masks and avidly took advantage of the hand sanitizer station he created. Last week, there were fewer masks and no one took advantage of the sanitizer. People seem to be more comfortable interacting and shopping second hand.

You can count Martine Prasnjak in that lot. The St. Clair Shores resident didn’t hit any garage sales last summer, or even the popular M-25 Yard Sale Trail. This year, he might explore a few smaller events.

“I think as cases go down in Michigan and as more people get vaccinated, I would probably feel more comfortable going to local garage sales this year,” he explained, adding that he probably won’t hit up the Sale Trail, but that’s mostly because of traffic concerns.

“I continue to follow safety protocols even though I’ve been vaccinated,” he said. “It’s just that we’re not out of this pandemic yet, so I don’t feel comfortable throwing all caution to the wind.”

Throughout the pandemic, Prasnjak admits, he did take advantage of offers available locally via Facebook Marketplace. But he kept the hand-offs hands off.

“I’ve recently started using their shipping options, too. That’s really worked well and helped me to sell, too,” he said.

Taylor himself has had success with online sales. For years, he has been a fanatic collector of Lego sets, and each year during the big subdivision sale, he attracts big crowds, from serious collectors to curious kiddos who’ve never heard of the toy.

“Just like classic car (parts), the pandemic made the demand for Legos go up hugely. I’ve done close to $10,000 in online sales, and I exceeded that at (the last) garage sale,” he said. “I’d say this weekend about 45% of my sets sold. But I’m not in it for the money. I want to see the smiles and the happy.”