The players in resale are also changing. For years, the industry has been dominated by a mixture of mom and pop thrift stores and large nonprofit organizations such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill. The main thing these stores sold was women's and children's clothing.
Today, women's and children's clothing are still staples. But the variety of products sold in resale stores is expanding in all directions.
"Furniture right now is really hot," says Whittaker. "Right on its heels are computers, compact discs and sporting goods."
A new level of sophistication and size is hitting the industry. Grow Biz International Inc., a Minneapolis secondhand store franchisor, opened its 1,000th store in April. The company offers five concepts: Play It Again Sports, Once Upon A Child, Computer Renaissance, Music Go Round and Disc Go Round stores.
Like many resale retailers, Grow Biz franchisees buy and sell used goods and sell items on consignment. Consignment--where retailers merchandise others' secondhand goods in return for a percentage of the sale price--is becoming the dominant form of secondhand retail.