As inflation continues to eat away at budgets, more shoppers are turning to salvage stores, which sell damaged, discounted, and otherwise unwanted goods for cheap. In the first part of 2022, some salvage store managers even saw double-digit sales growth, with an average increase of 8 percent in sales, according to Retail Wire.
These discount stores (Grocery Outlet, for example) existed long before the current wave of inflation, catering to thrifty consumers and families on tight budgets. But grocery prices are so high — up 13 percent from last year — that they are beginning to enter the mainstream.
Maggie Kilpatrick, who spoke to the New York Times, said that she first heard about her local salvage store in a gluten-free Facebook group.
“I was shocked,” she said. “There was lots of gluten-free, organic, high-quality stuff you never thought you would find in this dumpy little store in Fridley, Minnesota.”
Lynne Ziobro has had a hand in popularizing salvage stores online with her website Buy Salvage Food, which she launched two years ago. The site helps consumers find nearby salvage stores, educates visitors about food waste, and connects shoppers with nonprofits and companies like Misfits Markets and Imperfect Foods.
Since salvage grocery stores sell “unsellable” goods that would’ve gone in the dumpster, they're also appealing to environmentally conscious consumers.
“Most people visiting my site are looking for ways to save money on groceries, and I hope I’m able to raise their awareness of food waste while they’re there,” Ziobro told the Times.
The salvage grocery store trend has even made it to TikTok, where content creators share their affordable hauls, which include produce and plenty of mainstream name-brand products.
In a popular video with more than 100,000 views, TikTokker @jillian_rn4 purchases a bevy of premium groceries for herself and her girlfriend, including Beyond Meat sausages, Starbucks cold brew, and Planet Oat milk. The bill? Just $41.