BILLINGS — As thrift-shopping popularity continues to rise nationwide, one Billings woman opened her own secondhand storefront with low prices and a welcoming space for all women.
Switch Society Clothing Swap, located at 2500 Grand Ave. suite N, is offering a new way to thrift clothing, shoes, jewelry and purses with purchases made from points.
"Eighty percent of the American closet hasn’t been worn in the last year. So, we want you to bring us all that 80% that you're not wearing, you don’t love, doesn’t fit. Whatever the reason and then we give you points for those items and then you get to shop our store with your points,” said the owner Emily Petroff on Tuesday.
Customers pay a monthly membership fee to gain access to unlimited swapping of clothes anytime the store is open. The memberships currently offered are $10 per month or a one-time payment of $99 for the year, or $25 per month or $250 annually.
Members earn points by bringing in donations. Each item is then rewarded points based on the store's ranking list of A, B or C items. Some items earn the most points, such as new clothing with tags. C items are damaged, stained, torn or any item the business will use for its upcycle program. C items earn one point and are often used to create a new item, such as taking a pair of damaged jeans and an old cushion cover and turning them into a large tote bag.
Petroff said many of the items available at her store average around six or seven points, and they are very generous with how many points they give to customers because they aim to be a sustainable, slow-fashion store.
“Our biggest mission is to keep items out of the landfill,” Petroff said. "With Switch, if you have a membership, you come, you find a dress you wear it one time and you bring it right back because we do not have a return policy. If you come to get an outfit to go out with friends and spill some wine on it, you can bring it back. We’re going to use the fabric to make something else.”
As much as she would like to, Petroff can't always control the sizes offered at the store because the inventory is all donation-based, but she always aims to have sizes from 00-5XL to include all women shopping at the store. Along with aiming to be a sustainable shop, she also wants all women to feel safe and accepted when shopping at Switch Society.
“Our youngest member is 13 and our oldest member is 82. So, we are serving women from a very diverse population,” she said.
One of her most loyal customers is Rachel Heveron. Heveron heard about the clothing swap shop from a friend and decided to check it out because she is always looking for a good deal.
“I typically go straight to clearance and then I tend to walk away if there’s nothing there,” Heveron said. “The thing that really drew me away from thrifting is that being someone who is size 14-18, it's really hard to find clothes (at thrift stores) that are that size, and half the time they’ve shrunk.”
But Heveron was immediately hooked the moment she went into Switch Society. She said the first day she went to the store, she bought the annual membership for $99 and left with two large garbage bags of clothes.
Heveron now also volunteers at the store. Every hour someone volunteers earns them 15 points.
“It's not only the clothes, but Emily’s personality really drives me to come here,” Heveron said.
Switch Society only offers women's clothing at their store, but they do still accept men's and children's clothing for donations that earn customers one point. The store keeps those items in a different location and then holds what Petroff calls a "family swap" where they have the men's and children's clothing available for free for anyone in need.