In today’s tough economy, marketing your thrift store means finding unique ways to stand out from the crowd of competitors all vying for the same dollar. That’s where a solid marketing plan comes into play by looking at your customers and finding ways to tell them about your store’s unique shopping experience. While it might take some time to develop a plan, you’ll find it becomes an invaluable tool to keep traffic coming through the doors.

Target Market

A solid marketing plan starts with identifying the demographics of your target market. Look for similarities such as age group, income level and other information about their buying habits. What ZIP codes do most of your customers live in? What are their needs when it comes to shopping for clothing, household furnishings, toys and the other items your store plans to carry? Do they shop locally, online or further away? Take a look at the media your target market pays attention to – do they read the local papers, read fashion magazines, visit particular websites or listen to certain radio programs? Once you determine the specific characteristics of your perfect customer, you’ll start to get ideas on how to effectively advertise to them.


Most thrift stores have direct competition from other thrift or consignment stores, as well as from department stores and other retailers that sell new goods. Take a careful look at all of the competitors in your area to determine the characteristics of their target market and what they sell. Your competitors' marketing materials and Internet strategies also provide significant clues as to how they attract buyers.


Once you get a firm idea of your competitors' marketing tactics, it’s time to create your own unique marketing messages. Focus on a few key messages that help your target market understand exactly what you do and the benefit for them. These key messages should also give you a niche in the local market, so people start to remember your store when they think of buying used items. Your messages might focus on the primary items you sell, such as children’s apparel, designer goods or home furnishings. You might want to mention pricing, quality, cleanliness or new items arriving daily as part of your message. If you offer services in addition to used goods, mention them.


A grand opening with a large banner and plenty of signage builds excitement about your business. Even if you’ve been in business for awhile, hold an open house to alert the local community about your store. Send press releases about the event to the local media. As for advertising, consider print or radio ads, or look for ad space in homeowner and condo association newsletters or college campus newspapers as these are often cheaper than more commercial ads. Put Internet social media to work, using Facebook and Twitter to let people know about new arrivals, special events and to help more people learn about your store.