In Ailing Economy, America Gets Thrifty

Out of the recent economic chaos, a quiet virtue is taking shape - thrift.

As the old saying goes, one person's trash is another's treasure. These days, there are more treasure hunters than ever before. As the economy tumbles, Americans are looking for ways to cut costs - and thrift stores fit the bill, reports CBS News correspondent Priya David.

"During this past year, the numbers have increased by 330,000," said Major Dennis Gensler of the Salvation Army. "That's a significant increase in the number of customers that are actually in our stores."

Maria Aiello is one of those thrift shoppers.

"I find all the bargains I can - second-hand clothes, second-hand anything," she said.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans now find themselves needing to live frugally. Here in the northeast, bargain hunters can pick up a garment at the Salvation Army for an average cost of $2.58.

The Salvation Army told CBS News that in many stores, sales have increased up to 20 percent in the past year.

And Winmark Corporation, the parent company to four thrift franchises including clothing store Plato's Closet, reported a jump in income of almost 50 percent.

At Manhattan's Memorial Sloane Kettering Thrift Ship in New York City, which caters to a well-heeled clientele. They've got thousand-dollar Chanel suits on sale, so business is brisk.

"This year has actually been excellent," said Anita Askienazy. "One of the better years since I've been here."

These earnings come in stark contrast to national retail sales, which were down 1.4 percent in September compared to last year as consumers shunned the malls.

One thrift shopper told CBS News she doesn't miss retail shopping.

"I bought a David Meister dress here that was from this year and it was $398 online and I got it for $8 and I wore it to a wedding on Sunday," she said.

But even busy thrift stores are finding it tough to stay in the black.

"Like everyone else, we're feeling the pinch of the economy," said Gensler. "Wages are continuing to rise and we try to be fair with our people and benefits costs are going up. So our expenses are actually growing faster than our store sales income."

"The donation flow becomes a barometer for tough economic times and what we're experiencing now is sales are up, donations are down," said Jim Gibbons, the CEO of Goodwill Industry International.

The trickle down effect - bad times, second hand.
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