Lindsay Plumb shows off the Italian leather couch she purchased on Used.ca. Plumb is a long-time participant in the second-hand economy.

Victorians contributing to booming second-hand economy

A new report by Vancity Credit Union shows B.C.'s second-hand economy generates more than $1 billion in sales annually.

A new report by Vancity Credit Union shows B.C.’s second-hand economy generates more than $1 billion in sales annually and is becoming an increasing trend in today’s economic reality.

The report examined the driving forces behind B.C.’s second-hand economy and found economic pressures and ease of access to be primary causes for the increase. The report showed 97 per cent of all British Columbians actively engage in buying, selling and donating used goods.

It’s a finding Lacey Sheardown, director of marketing for Used.ca, known locally as Used Victoria, has known intuitively for several years.

“We’ve been very strong since back in 2007 so it’s no surprise to us that people have increasingly chosen to go the second-hand route. There have always been things like yard sales and ads in newspapers selling used items, and certainly thrift stores have been around forever where people can donate their items for sale,” said Sheardown.

She said Used.ca and other services like it have brought the activity into the 21st century by providing a much broader, Internet-based platform for individuals who are purchasing, selling or donating everything from furniture to child care.

“I know there are a lot of people who, before they ever set foot in the retail environment, will check out our site to see if they can get a better value for their money” said Sheardown.

Lindsay Plumb is one of those consumers. She has been a client of Used.ca since its beginning in 2006 and recalls the early days when signs advertising the service were posted on utility poles around Victoria.

“I started using them back then and have never stopped. I’ve found everything from furniture to child care…advertised for employees for my business…everything you can imagine, all through the Used.ca and other sites like it,” said Plumb.

Her biggest bargain was an Italian leather couch and chair.

“It was less than a year old…still on warranty…and the seller had the receipt for $5,500. I bought it for $1,100 and he even delivered it to my home,” she said.

Her dealings in the second-hand economy have been so successful it’s led to starting a financial coaching and advising business where, amongst other strategies, Plumb works with people to downsize their possessions through second-hand sales. She then has them apply the money they make to high interest debt.

In other cases she helps individuals who are re-locating to see how selling their possessions in one location and re-buying in the used market in their new location can save them thousands of dollars in shipping costs.

“When you work it all out, and if you aren’t in love with the things you have, it can save you money and give you a fresh start in your new home,” Plumb said.

But online commerce is not without its dangers, warned Sheardown.

“There are some scam artists out there and you have to be careful,” she said, adding Used.ca has a team of moderators who constantly scan the site for suspicious offers or requests. She said warning signs like out of country IP addresses, poorly written ads or inaccurate photos can be tip-offs to bogus ads.

“In general, the best rule is always to be cautious about offers that seem too good to be true. They often are,” she said.