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Kate Smith was never one to rifle through the racks at thrift stores. But when she saw almost new high-end kids’ clothes selling at steep discounts on online resale shop ThredUp, the mom of two felt she’d made a real back-to-school shopping find.

“I get their school shoes there, their winter coats, their boots,” Smith, a real estate agent who lives in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, said of her 8-year-old son, Jack, and 6-year-old daughter, Emma.

“It saves on time and arguments” – and, of course, money, Smith said. She estimates that buying resale has cut her yearly spending on children’s clothes in half, to $500 to $750 from $1,000 to $1,500. In one particularly proud purchase, she bought her son two Columbia winter jackets in perfect condition for a total of $20. She uses the savings to fund her kids’ after-school activities, like swimming and snowboarding lessons.

Thrift and consignment stores were among the rare winners during the recession, as shoppers pinched pennies, but even as the economy improves, the value-conscious mindset persists, business owners and industry watchers say.

That continued bargain-mindedness, along with the growing acceptance of sharing goods through services like home rental site Airbnb and peer car service Lyft, plus the upgrading of resale to a like-new experience, helps buying used lose its stigma as a last resort to become a mainstream alternative.

“Under normal circumstances, you would say that an increase of consumer confidence in the economy would decrease the amount of shopping done here, but at the same time, there’s been a shift in the consumer’s way of thinking,” said Ted Vaughan, a Dallas-based partner in the retail and consumer products practice group at accounting firm BDO. “If they’ve already made their first buy and are comfortable with the process and the quality of clothing, it starts to take hold, and it’s not just a last option.”

For back-to-school and back-to-college shoppers, who expect to spend $75 billion this year, resale is among several ways they are striving to get the most bang for their buck.

K-12 parents polled in the National Retail Federation’s annual back-to-school survey said they expect to spend about 5 percent more this year than last, for an average of $670 per household. They also plan to do more comparison shopping online and on their smart-phones, buy more generic and store-brand products and wait until the last week or two before school starts for last-minute deals, the survey said.

Source:; August 14, 2014.