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COVID-19 brings new business to Tucson discount and resale shops

COVID-19 brings new business to Tucson discount and resale shops

Lillien Flores checks out a blouse while shopping at Buffalo Exchange, 2001 E. Speedway. The U.S. resale market for clothing is expected to go from $7 billion this year to $36 billion by 2024, according to research firm GlobalData.

Arizonans who are financially strapped due to COVID-19 have increasingly turned to purchasing gently used clothing and seeking out deep deals on groceries and other household items.

The pandemic-related shift in consumer spending habits has greatly benefited discount and resale retailers.

Whether it’s food past a “sell-by” date, off-brand household products or used clothing, stores that offer deep discounts are keeping busy as traditional businesses struggle to get customers to return.

Melissa Haskin, a buyer, sorts through a selection of clothes brought in by a customer to sell at Buffalo Exchange, 2001 E. Speedway.

Longtime local resale shop Buffalo Exchange, opened in 1974, has long seen a bump in business during past economic downturns, said Kerstin Block, founder of the company.

The coronavirus has forced a change in how the business operates — there are no cash transactions, dressing rooms are closed, and there is a 24-hour quarantine policy for clothing dropped off to be sold — but that’s not stopping customers looking to off-load the fruits of their closet-cleaning labors or those seeking some retail therapy.

However, Block said the store, which was closed for two months, wants more inventory, especially men’s clothing, and will soon offer in-person selling appointments for customers.

Kerstin Block

founder of Buffalo Exchange

“We’d love to get more people to sell,” she said. “Women did more cleaning out during the lockdown than men.”

Business attire is not in demand right now so the shop is looking for casual clothing and draw-string pants, Block said with a laugh.

The U.S. resale market for clothing is expected to go from $7 billion this year to $36 billion by 2024, according to research firm GlobalData.

The economic downtimes have always produced more customers for Buffalo Exchange.

“When we opened up in 1974 it was recession, and we do well when times are hard,” Block said. “When things are good, everybody wants to buy Louis Vuitton.”

A pair of boots for sale sits among other footware at Buffalo Exchange, a resale store that has seen a bump in business during the economic downturn.


There have been dozens of Dollar General stores opened in the Tucson area over the past couple of years, and several discount and resale shops have reopened.

“Discount retailers … where people can shop without using public transport, a bonus during a pandemic, are booming as more Americans lose their jobs or fear they will do so,” according to business magazine The Economist.

Discount store Big Lots recently opened a new location on North Oracle Road, in the former Toys R Us building across from Tucson Mall.

The inventory at McGary’s Discount Grocery store consists of closeout brands and items past their “sell-by” dates that appeal to shoppers interested in saving money.

And local shops, such as McGary’s Discount Groceries — with dented cans and loaves of bread past sale dates — are enjoying business from shoppers interested in saving some money. The store recently opened at Grant and Oracle roads.

Another local retailer, Tomayo’s Discount Superstore, just leased more than 2,000 square feet on the southwest corner of Prince Road and Fairview Street for toys, tools, appliances and other miscellaneous products.

These shops are likely to benefit as consumers cut back on discretionary spending, according to retail analysts.

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at or

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