WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) – As people pinch pennies, many local consignment and thrift shops are seeing a spike in business.

Selma Frohn, owner of Quality Consignment Shop in Middlebury, has seen an increasing number of new faces at her shop against the backdrop of high gasoline prices, heating bills on the horizon and the plunging stock market.

“I think everybody is involved with all these things and they are very concerned,” she said. “But at the same time, they still want to look good.”

Frohn believes it is this balance that is driving people to consignment and thrift stores across Connecticut.

At Goddess Plus Size Consignment on Wolcott Street in Waterbury, a tight economy has brought in new faces, more clothes and more telephone calls. Owner Patricia Porcaro said sales are 6 percent higher than last year’s.

“Nobody can afford anything at the mall anymore,” she said. “There’s people who never really had to save money that are now feeling the pinch.”

Porcaro, whose shop specializes in plus sizes for women, said she has received calls asking if she takes baby carriages or shopping goods.

“Everybody wants to consign,” she said. “They want the cash.”

Hartford’s Salvation Army has also been hit.

Stephen Arnold, administrator of the Salvation Army’s adult rehabilitation center in Hartford, said they are consolidating and cutting costs where they can. Instead of using diesel trucks to pick up donations from people’s houses, the organization is setting up collection centers. They are also combining routes.

At the same time, he said the Salvation Army has seen a slight increase in new faces at their thrift stores. He attributes it not only to the economy but to “going green.”

Children’s clothing demand has gone up, and the organization has also seen a spike in request for men’s clothing.

“We are seeing people who just to help conserve are going outside the box for clothing,” he said.

Debra Kenny has owned Kidz Konsignment and a paperback book exchange store on Wolcott Street in Waterbury for 14 years. She said her business is steady but has not increased as it did in previous economic downturns. She sees more people trying to sell books and children’s clothing than buy them.

“I think people are scared right now to spend any money at all,” she said.

Still, a number of people, like Joyce Lassy from Southington, continue to browse consignment shops for the joy of the treasure hunt.

Looking through clothes at Goddess Plus Size Consignment on recent day, Lassy said the shop had saved her pocketbook countless times. The truth, however, was that she came for the excitement of a good buy.

“I love this store,” she said. “It’s just me. I love the thrill of the hunt.”


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