Online firm Thriftify cracks second-hand clothes market

‘The stats are mind-blowing ... there are 250m unique garments selling in Ireland alone’

A check shirt from Defacto selling in a St Vincent de Paul shop in Drogheda for a fiver, a pair of brown Levi cords found in the East Galway and Midlands Cancer Support Shop with a price tag of €18 and a pair of Ted Baker shoes in the Dundalk Simon Community shop for €20 and Pricewatch has managed to dress itself not too shabbily for €43.

We are heading into winter of course so we add another €12 for a padded jacket from Dunnes, found in the Jack and Jill Foundation shop, and we are ready to face the world in an entirely new outfit for €55.

Not only that, we have managed to find all the items, in shops all over the country in less than five minutes and dress ourselves in a way that does not wreak further havoc on the planet.

In the past, to pull off such a fashion coup we would have had to travel all over the country and visit at least four different shops. But now there is an app for that thanks to a relatively new online platform by the name of Thriftify.


Charity shops

It is the brainchild of Rónán Ó Dálaigh. He tells Pricewatch he is a fan of second-hand fashion and is quite happy to devote a lot of time rummaging through racks in search of bargains. But he also acknowledges that most of us don’t have time for that and most charity shops don’t have the time or the resources to make the most of the stock they have at their disposal.

Every year in the UK and Ireland, 150 billion items are donated to 15,000 charity shops with the list including books, clothes, furniture, electronics, jewellery, games, DVD s and a whole lot more besides.

Ó Dálaigh identified a problem with the sector and with Thriftify he solved it.

The volume is so high, and professionalism across a largely volunteer sector can be lacking, charity shops are unable to effectively value donations they get. They can only sell items in-store which in the world we live in is limiting and that means they often end up disposing of valuable donations simply because they have no way of selling them.

With Thriftify’s mobile app or desktop platform, a charity shop can scan any barcoded donation. Thriftify’s algorithm values the donation. Donations that can earn more online than in-store are listed as “Gems”. The shop shelves the Gem in a numbered box, away from walk-in customers. The item is placed on multiple e-commerce sites including its own platform and once a Gem is sold, the charity shop gets a notification to pick and pack the Gem for courier collection.

According to some estimates, we are living in the time of second hand and by 2022 more money will be spent on used clothes than on luxury fashion, with sustainability and impact becoming as important as price and convenience

Ó Dálaigh is hoping to catch the wave. He compares his Thriftify platform to the likes of Uber, Deliveroo and others that have moved industries that were once entirely physical into the virtual space.

“The volume of stuff in second-hand shops in Ireland is huge and there is stuff out there made by the brands you love in your size but you are never going to spend a weekend driving around the country visiting different charity shops and this is where we come in. You could be buying from four or five different charities and we charge a small commission,” he says.

He says almost all his clothes are second hand. “As a broke student I fell in love with them, particularly furniture shops, and our big driver is changing how and why people shop. How people shop is incredibly damaging to the planet, the industry is destryong the planet and if 60 per cent of clothes are thrown out then we are not shopping for the right reason so we want to give people a genuine alternative, to change the way they shop.”

Fast-fashion brands

His business has been operating for four years and while he struggled to bring people on board the last year has meant a sea change.

“We have tried to listen to the sector, which is a more slower moving sector than tech maybe but I think they are really starting to switch on to the opportunies and the stats are mind-blowing when you think there are 250 million unique garments selling in Ireland alone. The door is open, the challenge is to really inspire the sector and engaging the consumer. We want it to be as accessible as the fast-fashion brands.”

In addition to selling clothes, he is also planning to help people donate their unwanted clothes.

The idea he has in the pipeline would allow people donating clothes to select the charity to which they want to give via the app. Then for every item that sells, people would get a voucher they could redeem against their next second-hand purchase.

“The idea is that people would continuously buy and donate, again I think that is the future.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast