My friends and colleagues, the Deal Divas, always know how to help women with hot picks while shopping.
Well, this week, the Consumer's Edge turns Deal Dude, shopping at the Second Image thrift store in Pinellas Park. The shop — which relocated from a store front hidden next to a Staples off U.S. 19 to a strip a few blocks south — calls itself the "Bay Area's finest thrift store."
Here's what I found there:
• Giorgio Armani suit: $39.99;
• Perry Ellis shirt: $3.99;
• Silk tie: 99 cents.
My wife found some deals too: a leather coat made in Spain for $12.50.
Remember, it's a thrift store, so not everything is going to be a pristine Italian find. But in these tough economic times, these kinds of deals could have you looking like a million bucks on just pennies — men, women and children.
Not surprising, after the economy went sour, more households turned to thrift stores to meet their needs.
The National Association of Resale Professionals reported that in a survey of 333 of its member stores, two out of three experienced an average increase in sales of 35 percent over the same period in 2008.
And availability of products also increased, with inventories growing by almost 70 percent.
"Obviously this is one of the few segments of retailing that is thriving," said Adele R. Meyer, the association's executive director. "It's the fact that people love a bargain."
The new Second Image is a good deal not only for the finds, but also for its purpose. The Family Resources Foundation, the fundraising arm of Family Resources, bought the Pinellas Park store and the rights to the name. Another Second Image operates in Tampa, but it's not affiliated with Family Resources.
The new location at 9103 US Hwy 19 N opened Oct. 1.
Because the Family Resources Foundation is a nonprofit, donations, which largely come from people cleaning out closets and occasionally from unsold items at such places as Target, are tax deductible.
The Family Resources Council runs the Youth Arts Corps and provides various family services such as truancy intervention and support programs to strengthen marriage and family relationships.
"Everything the store raises beyond expenses goes to charity," said Pamela Miller, executive director of the Family Resources Foundation.
Just as with about a third of the stores surveyed by the resale association, Second Image increasingly receives high-quality items.
"We want to keep the quality excellent and the prices reasonable," Miller said.
"We want to be able to pass on to the community the ability to get an Armani suit for $30," she said with a smile, eyeing my purchase.
Walk into the shop and your first steps are into the store's boutique, where high-end items are sold, such as furs, gowns, name-brand dresses and shirts.
In addition to clothing, the shop sells furniture, household items, musical instruments and toys.
So here's the Edge, courtesy of the National Association of Resale Professionals:
• Look for quality of workmanship and materials. A quality item might cost more at resale than an inferior item does new, but the workmanship, style and value of any well-made item, from a sofa to a designer outfit, provides more value at resale.
• Know the retail prices of items you are shopping for to appreciate how much money you will save by shopping resale.
• Explore a variety of resale shops.
• Get to know the staff, sign their mailing list to receive sale notices and customer-only premiums.
• Check all items carefully and know the store's return policies before purchasing.
For other tips, visit www.narts.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3310.
Ivan Penn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2332. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Consumers_Edge and become a fan of Consumer's Edge on Facebook.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: The Consumer's Edge column on Dec. 19 published the old address of Second Image. The new address is 9103 US Hwy 19 N.