A peek into second hand retail in southern Germany

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My mother has been the owner of a secand hand store for the past 12 years. The store is located in a city in a more rural area of southwestern Germany in a city of about 35 000 inhabitants. The region had long been a thriving center for the German fashion industry, although today this is not the case anymore, given much of the production has been outsourced into developing countries. However, there is still a certain level of wealth and consciousness of qualitative good clothes which leads to a situation where many very expensive and high quality clothes are given to my mother's store for resale.

My mother has never studied at university and the only link she had to the fashion industry before opening her store was working at her sister's second hand shop. My mother is the only employee at her shop (although there is work for more than one employee) and works with a pen-and-paper administration (due to limited pc skills).

General questions:

  • In how far do people working with second hand clothing have an educational backghround in fashion?
  • What are the organizational structures of second hand shops? Are they mostly "one-(wo)man shows"? Is there a difference in the organizational structures of secand hand shops depending on the size of the city they are located in?
  • Does the educational background (fashion vs. not fashion) determine the organizational structure of the company dealing with second hand clothing?


  • Distribution channels for high quality second hand clothing: in the store are many beautiful, expensive pieces of clothing, but the clientele buying in the shop do not necessarily look for these fancy pieces of apparel. How can these articels still be sold?
  • Online vs. "city" retail: throughout the last years, my mother has seen a decline in sales, probably due to the increase of online fashion retail. How can second hand clothing and particularly those shops in small towns compete with online fashion sales?


  • Assistance through volunteering design students: in second hand shops with only one or very few employees, fashion students could volunteer in order to gain a new perspective on entrepreneurship and second hand apparel
  • Digital systems for administering second hand shops: development of user-friendly software for administering second hand shops without barcode scanning systems than can adapt to various selling scenarios (i. e. price reductions, return to customer or charity organisation, etc.)

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