East-York thrifters thrive on cusp of sweater weather

Consumer behaviour shows increase in thrift shopping during fall season while offering style at a discount.

Storefront of Stretch Thrift Store on Pape Avenue
Storefront of Stretch Thrift Store at 974 Pape Avenue (Andrew Stuetz/Toronto Observer) 

With Halloween in the rear-view mirror and cooler temperatures coming, thrift shopping for a cosy sweater is an increasingly popular trend this time of year, one that has gained popularity since the early 2000s.

The phrase “sweater weather” is best described as the colder-yet-tolerable temperatures that are —you guessed it — perfect for wearing sweaters, and dates back as early as 1927, when it appeared in an issue of The New Yorker.

Amid this fall-fashion love affair are Toronto’s east-end thrift shops, both storefront and online, that encourage consumers to consider thrifting as their preferred sweater-shopping method.

Claudia Tse, founder and owner of Lil Cubs – an online thrift store operating in Riverside since Oct. 2021 – expressed her love for this time of year while reminding shoppers of other benefits from thrifting.

“Besides sustainability, there are many other reasons to thrift,” Tse said. “Most obvious would be the financial savings, but also helping the environment, and the thrill of the find – being able to have something unique that is not in stores.”

A bar graph with blue bars that represent the types of items purchased from thrift stores by consumers in Canada as of April 2020
Types of items purchased from thrift stores by consumers in Canada as of April 2020 (Swagbucks/Statista 2022)

Thrift and used merchandise stores across Canada are continuing to see business boom despite looming incoming hikes to groceries and other basic household items.

Although Canada’s inflation rate has dropped to 6.9 per-cent as of Oct. 19, the number of used merchandise stores in Canada continues to grow, with Ontario having more than 450 stores as of June 2021.

A bar graph with blue bars that represent the Number of used merchandise stores in Canada as of June 2021, by province.
Number of used merchandise stores in Canada as of June 2021, by province (StatCan Canada/Statista 2022)

Thrifting for Sweaters for all ages

As the trend continues to surge with changes to style trends happening rapidly, social media continues to help consumers thrive in their thrifting desires, with Pinterest boardsTikTok, and Instagram being major influencers.

Screenshot of website for Lil Cubs, an online thrift retailer of baby and kids clothing. A brown onesie is featured above white shoes and beside white and brown blankets.
Lil Cubs website homepage (Lil Cubs official website/Toronto Observer)

Stores like Tse’s Lil Cubs, or other online Toronto-based companies like rinse + repeat kids are alternatives to in-store thrift shopping that allow parents an opportunity to get involved, with both stores offering a selection of gently used baby and children’s clothing.

“Young or old, thrifting is for everyone,” Tse said. “Even adding a few thrifted items to your kid’s wardrobe is a start (ie. outerwear), and not everything has to be thrifted. A few items here and there really make a difference in prolonging an item’s life before it hits the landfills.”

Offering everything from footless jumpsuits to Peruvian sweaters, online thrift stores offer a selection that is sometimes greater than storefronts.

Decisions, decisions

There are a handful of storefront options for thrifters in Toronto’s east end, from big-name discount shops like Value Village and the Salvation Army to more neighbourhood-friendly options like Double Take Thrift Store at 310 Gerrard Street E. or Stretch Thrift Store at 974 Pape Avenue.

Sweater options include hoodies, crew necks, oversized, and cardigans, so consumers have a few options when selecting their preferred comfort clothing.

While personal preference typically triumphs in searching for that illustrious cosy sweater, having an intention or idea before starting your shopping to avoid getting overwhelmed is an encouraged tip for first-time sweater-weather shoppers.

Frequent east-end thrifter and active sweater-weather participant, Dee Renne, offered insight they use while searching for sweaters for their own collection.

“It’s about expressing yourself and having fun,” Renne said. “You can find something in almost any shop you go into, so if you struggle with impulse buying, maybe go in with a budget.”

Preparation for an ugly Christmas

After sweater weather comes and goes, the first inevitable snowfall follows.

Sweater weather has recently started creeping into the holiday season, with trends like “ugly Christmas sweater” themed parties becoming an increasingly popular tradition over the last 10 years.

A green sweater with Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer printed on the front, on a rack of various sweaters outside a thrift store
A green Rudolph sweater looks to be part of an upcoming ugly Christmas sweater party (Andrew Stuetz/Toronto Observer)

No matter the occasion or the location, the sweater-weather craze appears here to stay, so shoppers and thrifters alike should look to throw on their favourite comfy sweater and get cosy.

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Posted: Nov 13 2022 9:00 am
Filed under: News