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Thrift vs Vintage: Everything you need to know about the difference between thrifting and vintage shopping

It feels like “thrifting” is thrown around as a blanket term to describe all secondhand clothing shopping. While we can admit we’ve been guilty of this, thrifting is not vintage shopping and here’s why.


Thrifting generally means to be economical when purchasing something. Someone who is thrifty is someone who spends money carefully or who saves when making a purchase. Thrift stores generally have second hand low price merchandise that is acquired through donations. Typically stores are rather unorganized and have a variety of brands, conditions, sizes, decades, quality, etc of clothing. Nothing is particularly curated and the selection for making it into the store is very broad, if any. Thrift stores often have vintage clothing in them (clothing that is 20 yrs or older) in it. 

Thrift stores can be small businesses but a lot of them are national corporations. They can be non-profits (sometimes called charity shops) or they can operate as for-profit organizations.

Both thrift store types rely on donated goods from people to fill their stores so that they can sell them for profit. What they do with the money they make is where the difference comes in.

For-profit organizations sell something with the intention of making money from it. Certain thrift stores that operate for-profit may have charities in which they donate to or support however they are not required or obligated to do so.

Nonprofits sell with the intention of giving back to an organization or to the community with no intention of making a profit. Money made from sales goes directly to causes in which they support. Here’s some examples of common thrift stores and their profit status.

  • Goodwill: Non-Profit
  • Salvation Army: Non- Profit
  • Deseret Industries: Non-Profit
  • ReStore: Non-Profit
  • St. Vincent de Paul: Non-Profit
  • Savers/Value Village/2nd Avenue/My Unique: For-Profit
  • Red White and Blue: For-Profit
  • America's Thrift Store: For-Profit

*List from


Vintage stores are highly curated shops that have strictly vintage clothing in them. Vintage shops are small businesses, the owners are usually the ones who do the sourcing, cleaning, marketing, merchandising, selling, etc.

In the fashion world, clothing that is 20 years or older is considered vintage, clothing older than 50 yrs is considered true vintage. In addition to only having items of a certain age, vintage stores can also have additional criteria or personal style standards that they adhere to when choosing the clothing that goes into them. The typical vintage shop business model works by  purchasing clothing and reselling as opposed to being donated like it is a thrift store. Items are priced competitively to reflect the scarcity, time and care that goes into finding items and therefore are often more expensive.

Check out our blog on how to identify vintage clothing, here!

Click here to read our favorite women owned vintage shops in NYC!

Other types of secondhand shops that aren't thrift or vintage stores: 

Buy & Sell

A buy & sell store, sometimes called a pawn shop or resale shop, is a store where you sell their used items directly to the store for cash or store credit. The store then resells these items to other customers at a markup.


A consignment store is a retail space where individuals can sell their pre-owned items through a consignment agreement with the store owner. The store then sells these items on behalf of the owner, who receives a percentage of the sale price once the item is sold.

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