Most people assume that buying items fresh off the rack is always the better option because things are usually in good condition. But is shopping for something pre-loved a bad idea? Can the adventures of second-hand shopping equate to the thrill of buying brand new items?

For regular second-hand shopper Corinne Jansz, buying pre-loved goods can be more rewarding than buying retail.

“Nothing beats the thrill and satisfaction of rummaging through an assortment of items and finding something unique. You never know what interesting things you might find,” says Jansz during an interview in Petaling Jaya, Selangor recently.

Don’t these three-tiered shelves look beautiful and sturdy? Who would have imagined they were picked up at a second-hand store.

Buying pre-loved goods may be all the rage now but it is far from being a new trend. The sale of second-hand items have been around for decades, commonly at charity outlets, pawn shops, car boot sales and flea markets.

Back then, shopping for used items was associated with being poor as most items would be sold at only a fraction of the original price. However, times have changed.

These days, many savvy shoppers are more keen on getting some of their goods at thrift shops and “bundle” outlets (usually places where clothes are sold per bundle or package, rather than per piece).

“People are beginning to realise not all second-hand items are old or unwanted. Some items are up for sale as the person or organisation selling them could have an excess of these things,” says Jansz, an administrator at a telecommunications company.

In fact, some clothing items at thrift shops are still in mint condition as they are factory overruns or products that have failed the factory quality test.

If you search through the shelves or bins well enough, you could even find a branded handbag that a donor wants to sell off!

Some shops are charity-driven, where proceeds are channelled towards helping underprivileged students, for example, or given to orphanages and orang asli settlements.

Value for money

Given the country’s economic climate today, consumers are constantly finding other alternatives to stretch their ringgit further. Like many pre-loved shoppers, Jansz is receptive towards the idea of buying second-hand items as it allows her to maximise better returns on her income.

“With the same amount of money spent on a new item, consumers can purchase more things at a lower price at pre-loved stores.

“Psychologically, when we buy things at a fraction of the cost, we feel we are getting our money’s worth,” Janz says. She adds that brand new items that are still in their original packaging can sometimes be found at thrift shops, too.

Shopping for pre-loved items is a social trend today because of the easy accessibility of online shopping. You can just log on to local buy-and-sell platforms like Carousell, Lelong and e-bay Malaysia to search for bargains. Or, head to Facebook and Instagram to search for groups or businesses that sell pre-loved items.

With only a few clicks of the mouse, anyone could easily buy – and sell – a range of used goods like apparel, electronic items and cars.

Baby items like strollers, toys and playpens are some of the sought-after items at pre-loved shops.

Asha Rose, administrator of PreLoved Baby Goods Malaysia, a buy-and-sell page on Facebook, gets positive response for pre-loved items. These include infant wear (between the ages of six and 12 months), strollers and car seats.

“Pre-loved sellers are usually couples with children who are well versed in trading second-hand goods online. Buyers, on the other hand, are usually young couples or those from the middle income bracket. The buyers opt for second hand items as they think it is wasteful to spend an arm and a leg on a new item, only to use it for a short period of time (before discarding it),” says Rose, who has over 4,000 people following her page.

Pre-loved is the new black

Jansz’s home is a tiny paradise for all things pre-loved. In the porch, there are rattan chairs, and a teak bench where the family gathers for coffee or to read the papers. In the kitchen, there are three carved wooden shelves placed on the wall.

Jansz holding up a pre-loved chopstick holder, which she now uses to rest a pen or paintbrush.

As most of the items are in good condition, it is hard to believe they were purchased at second-hand shops.

The mother-of-three is drawn to second-hand products as they offer flexibility at a bargain, as some items need not be used for their intended purposes.

It is a form of recycling and upcycling (transforming used items into something completely different) items, she says.

“For example, plates, saucers and serving platters are used for daily dining and special occasions. Some saucers are transformed into flower pot holders – or holders for jewellery pieces like rings and earrings. A vintage wooden mail sorter now stores washi tapes,” she reveals.

She adds that buying pre-loved things allows her to explore her creativity while being kind to the environment.

“The culture of upcycling is popular in Western countries. Charity stores and second-hand shops thrive as the community is comfortable to shop at such stores.

“Buying pre-loved also helps support local business communities while helping to minimise wastage at landfills,” notes Jansz, 45.

But Jansz’ purchases are limited to household items, specifically furniture and kitchenware.

“I prefer household things as I find these items more appealing and unique. Some items come in individual pieces, unlike clothes which are often massed-produced,” says Jansz, who blogs about her second-hand purchases on

Her favourite hangout is Kedai Kaki Lelong in Petaling Jaya, a warehouse that sells second-hand furniture from hotels and offices. She visits the outlet every three months.

“These items can be used on a daily basis and is everlasting. I do not shop for clothes online as I prefer to try out clothing before buying them,” she shares.

Vintage treats

Mohd Shafeq Yafizam, 30, welcomes the rising trend of buying at thrift shops with open arms. It provides him with an opportunity to pick up quality items that are one-of-a-kind.

“Bargain hunting isn’t for everyone. Thrift shoppers know how to sniff out items of good quality. Plus, we have no qualms buying used goods,” explains Mohd Shafeq, from Shah Alam, Selangor.

Couple Siti Zarina Moksin and Mohd Shafeq Yafiyzam say pre-loved items are unique and helps them to stretch their ringgit further. Photo: The Star/Sheela Chandran

On some weekends, he and his wife Siti Zarina Moksin, 33, visit various pre-loved shops and flea markets around the Klang Valley. What he likes best is scouting around for hidden treasures.

“There are so many gems in these places. I have picked up a range of treasures like antique items, collectible toys and memorabilia,” he says.

Siti Zarina, who is eight months pregnant, has also picked up a few pieces of maternity wear at second-hand stores.

“It’s value for money. Such clothing is worn for a short duration. It is wiser to spend the extra cash on other necessities instead of maternity wear,” says Siti Zarina, who has purchased toys and clothing from bundle shops for her two daughters.

The couple spend anything between two and three hours at thrift shops. It takes time to sieve through garments, especially to determine the quality and ensure the cut fits perfectly.

“Sure, it takes time, but we do it at a leisurely pace. Not all items are in perfect condition, so it’s up to consumers to check thoroughly and find something suited to their liking and budget.

“It really depends on how much one is willing to fork out for used goods,” explains Mohd Shafeq, who disagrees with the opinion that second-hand items are usually in poor condition.

The businessman says it is important for pre-loved stores to improve itself and neatly display its goods.

“By improving the way they display items, it can change the consumers’ perception and mentality about buying second-hand goods.”