Americans are searching for bargains.

Frugal shoppers have long known that quality merchandise can be purchased at considerably reduced prices at thrift stores and consignment shops.

Now, resale shopping is attracting consumers from all economic levels, reports the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops (NARTS). Shrewd shoppers can find bargains on apparel, furniture and other consumer goods.

The resale industry is one of the few recession-resistant segments of retailing, according to the trade association website.

According to Britt Beemer, founder of America's Research Group, 16 percent of American consumers are shopping at thrift stores. Goodwill saw retail sales increase 9 percent from June 2009 to June 2010.

Kurt Morris, owner of Plato's Closet, a local consignment store that buys and sells gently used brand-name clothing and accessories, said the economy has had a definite effect on his store.

"When customers come in, we give cash on the spot," he said. "We take the risk of whether or not it will sell."

Sales have been up in recent years, he said.

If you go

What: Just Between Friends Winter/Holiday sale.

Where: Camp Jordan Arena, 323 Camp Jordan Parkway, East Ridge.

When: Noon-7 p.m. today, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

Admission: Free.

Contact:, 423-364-6097.

Shopping Tips: Make a list; leave your coat in the car; wear comfortable shoes; be prepared for a long line at check-out (which can be very tiring for young children); and bring a laundry basket if you plan to buy bigger items (such as toys).

"I've seen a definite increase in customers, especially in parents shopping here," Morris said. "We're primarily a store that sells casualwear for teens, so we have a ton of parents who shop here because their kids grow a size a year."

Ringgold, Ga., resident Stacy Ervin said she has seen a dramatic increase in consignors and shoppers at the Just Between Friends sales in Chattanooga. Ervin, who owns the Just Between Friends Chattanooga franchise, holds the weeklong sales three times a year at Camp Jordan Arena in East Ridge.

Just Between Friends allows consignors to bring their new and gently used children's and maternity merchandise to sell, said the website. Shoppers can purchase these items at great savings, usually far below retail prices.

Ervin's winter sale begins today at Camp Jordan.

"In the last couple years, I've heard women talk about their husbands being laid off and how they're trying to just make it with the money they earn selling things at the consignment sale," she said. "I've also heard customers say that their clothing budget for their children has been cut in half because of the economy."

Ervin credited the economy for the record number of consignors at this week's sale. The average consignor nets between $250 and $350 per sale, she said. "I had to cut it off at 1,000 consignors. The arena is 28,000 square feet, and every available space will be filled."

So you're shopping on Black Friday, or more precisely, you're bobbing around in a mob, trying to shop.

No reason fellow shoppers should suffer the same fate, right?

Do local bargain hunters a favor, go to the Times Free Press' Facebook page, become a fan and tell others what's going on, good or bad.

If you find a great bargain, let others know. If traffic is a hassle or lines are long, tell us. It's one for all and all for a great deal.

Participate! Go to

Ervin said in addition to a down economy, Just Between Friends sales are successful because of the massive volume of merchandise.

"We're not a store," she said. "You would never find this amount of children's merchandise in a thrift or consignment shop."

When Ervin purchased the franchise three years ago, she said the economy had just started its downward turn.

"I knew it would be a good investment because I knew there would always be young mothers needing clothes, toys and equipment. And with a down economy, these mothers would need these things at reasonable prices."

Additionally, customers who haven't been negatively affected by the economy are also shopping for bargains, she said.

"People today love to score a good deal," Ervin said. "There are frugal shoppers, rich and poor, who won't buy anything if it's not on sale."

Chattanoogan Kristi Strode, 43, said she likes shopping at upscale consignment stores.

"I have no problem buying and wearing clothes from nice consignment shops like Encore (in Riverview)," she said. "The high quality of the merchandise is great. Many times the original tags are on the clothes meaning they have never been worn."