Ruby Durney will buy all of her Christmas presents this year at thrift shops for the first time to cut her holiday spending by more than $500.
Durney, 53, has been out of work for nearly two years and her unemployment checks have run out. But she still wants to have presents for her 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
"If you take time, you find some good bargains," she said, as she loaded up on stuffed animals priced between 50 cents and $3 from a bin at the new Goodwill store in Lexington.
More people are scrambling for deals from thrift stores, consignment shops and pawn shops as the nation tries to recover from a brutal two-year recession that has left South Carolina with the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the nation.
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Some Midlands-area pawn and consignment shops reported record-breaking sales on Black Friday, when shoppers traditionally fight crowds for deals at retail stores.
Nearly 80 percent of thrift-store owners responding to a recent survey said they have seen sales increase this year by an average of 35 percent, according to the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops.
Traditional retail sales have been relatively flat this year and are expected to drop 1 percent this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation.
As the stigma sometimes associated with thrift-store shopping eases, more people are seeing the benefits, said Denver-based Amy Hardin Turosak, who writes The Thrifty Chicks blog.
"I think people are really rethinking it," said Turosak, who recently snagged a brand-new $99.99 Banana Republic jacket with the tags still on it for $4.99 from Goodwill. "It just opens up new possibilities."
The bulk of the donations at Goodwill in the Midlands are clothes, but they also get books, toys and some furniture.
A little-known secret is that the store takes computers - whether they are working or not - reconditions them and sells them for $150 each, said Tony Liller, a vice president for Goodwill Industries of the Upstate and Midlands.
But it's not just thrift shops that are benefiting as people look to spend less.
Angela Brown, owner of West Columbia Pawn and Jewelry, said she was swamped on Black Friday as people looked outside of the traditional retail stores for deals, mostly on electronics.
"We probably didn't even notice that it was Black Friday in the pawn shop five years ago," she said. Now, "everybody's looking for a better deal."
Shoppers can save an estimated 60 percent to 70 percent compared to what they would spend at a traditional store by buying used items, Brown said.
A $1,000 laptop computer can go for $400, she said. "I had laptop shoppers all day" on Black Friday, Brown said.
And for those who struggle to pay even the reduced prices at a pawn shop, Brown offers a layaway program. She said sales are up at her store about 40 percent this season.
At Revente - a women's consignment shop in Five Points - manager Heather Craig said she had record Black Friday sales.
"We tripled what we did last year," she said.
Shoppers can save anywhere from a quarter to half of the original price of an item, Craig said.
As consignment and thrift shopping has gotten more exposure on national television programs this year, Craig expects sales to be up all season.
"We have people now that shop consignment that never have before," she said. "They don't have as much money to spend. Even if they do, a lot of people are watching what they're spending now."
The trend is likely to last well past the holiday season as people see how much they can save, Turosak said.
"It just makes so much more sense. Why go to the mall and walk around looking all day for a pair of jeans and end up spending $80 to $100 when you can go to Goodwill?" she said.
"You look at the rack and there's like 50 pair of jeans in your size and you pay 5 bucks for them."