2nd Hand shopping, once stigmatized, is

2nd Hand shopping, once stigmatized, is going mainstream. ‘It’s better for the environment, my wallet and morals.’

When Julie Ghatan opened Dovetail in 2008, she could tell when customers entered her boutique in Chicago’s Noble Square neighborhood without realizing much of the clothing and accessories were vintage, not new merchandise.

“You could just see it click on their faces,” she said. They’d walk right back out.

That doesn’t happen anymore. Buying 2nd hand, once stigmatized, is going mainstream. And here’s how you can tell: Department stores want in on it.

Shoppers like the thrill of scoring a deal or one-of-a-kind find, or want to shop without worrying about the apparel industry’s environmental impact. Others are both buyers and sellers, knowing each bargain purchase can be resold to make space in their wallet and closet for something new.

“It’s better for the environment, my wallet and morals,” said Izzy Howard, 24, of Humboldt Park, shopping at Crossroads Trading in Wicker Park on Tuesday.

Attitudes toward secondhand shopping started shifting during the recession, when “it became chic to get a good deal,” said Oliver Chen, a retail analyst at Cowen & Co.

More than a decade later, it’s proving to be more than a passing trend. Over the past five years, stores selling used merchandise have grown faster than traditional apparel retailers, not counting discount and off-price chains, said David Weiss, a partner at Chicago-based consulting firm McMillanDoolittle. Even traditional retailers like J.C. Penney and Macy’s are experimenting with selling secondhand apparel.

“This isn’t a fad that’s going to disappear anytime soon. This is a generational shift,” Weiss said.

It may be multigenerational. When Linda Beckstrom, 64, of Bucktown, was younger, resale shopping meant trips to disorganized stores without fitting rooms that forced shoppers to try on clothes in the aisles. Today, she looks for bargains at stores like Buffalo Exchange, on a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park with several vintage and resale shops.

“When the clothes are expensive, you can’t have as much fun, and sometimes the clothes here are more interesting than the cookie-cutter stuff you see in Target,” she said.