Greeks Turn to Thrift Shop Bargains, Buying Second-Hand Clothes

September 12, 2022

ATHENS – Memories of diving in dumpsters for food and scrounging to survive during an eight-year-long economic and austerity crisis as part of international bailouts that ended in August, 2018 haven’t been forgotten in Greece.

In the waning COVID-19 pandemic, with record inflation, and soaring energy prices that doubled electric bills and a 24 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on food, more households are buying second-hand clothes and vintage goods.

That had long been shunned, said the Chinese news agency Xinhua in a feature on the habits of Greeks and their shopping styles, reporting that experts and retailers are seeing a rise in the practice.

The thrift stores popped up like crocuses in the spring when the first wave of austerity hit in 2010 and lasted another eight years, bringing big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings, and they’ve hung on.

Speaking to the news agency they said that the pandemic pushed more people toward online shopping but the economic hurt on many families has them rummaging through second-hand clothes again for bargains.

It will take more than two years for the economy to get better, said the 67.3 percent of respondents in the latest survey of Vendora.gr, a classifieds platform linking second–hand buyers and sellers in Greece in the past five years.

“One out of three respondents stated that selling things they don’t need anymore to make some extra money actually is a good way to tackle the inflation,” Kimon Tousmanof, Head of Marketing at Vendora.gr, said.

“Greeks not only start seeing that buying and selling second–hand has financial benefits, but they also see the environmental benefits of the whole thing,” Tousmanof said.

The survey of more than 800 people found that 49 percent of people in Greece turn to the second-hand market to save money, 15 percent for variety and uniqueness and 10 percent out of concern for the environment.

“We’ve been seeing a trend going on these past years in Greece that Greeks are embracing more and more second-hand buying and selling. And it’s estimated that until 2025 the market, the industry of second-hand buying and selling will double in size (compared to pre-pandemic levels),” Tousmanof said.

Some 80 percent of Greeks are looking for bargains and half have purchased one second-hand item within three months, showed another survey conducted by local polling firm Focus Bari earlier this year among over 6,000 people.

Vendora.gr registered a 40-45 percent increase in traffic during the pandemic. And the market is also growing offline.

Tatyana Todorova, a Bulgarian who moved to Greece in 2007, has owned a second-hand/vintage store in central Athens since 2015, her family having operated them in their homeland for almost 30 years.

While the Greek economy is on a path to grow more than 5 percent and jobs going begging in many sectors, she said that the most vulnerable in society still can’t make ends meet and more thrift shops are opening in Athens.

‘More and more people realize we shouldn’t constantly buy new clothes. Not only for financial reasons but also for quality and environmental protection,” Todorova said.’

“Among my customers are people who are wealthy and interested in the quality of garments. Many of them are seeking vintage clothing from the 70s-90s”” she told Xinhua of a trendy idea that’s caught on.

Eleni Gerontak, one of them, said she doesn’t like current fashions for their quality and lack of natural fibers and can find what she wants in vintage stores that have cotton and wool.

‘I never buy synthetic clothes. Always made of cotton or viscose, good quality fabric, and I find it here. Do you know how many beautiful items I discovered? Fine products and very affordable,” she said.


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