In an interview with MTV News just after the song first became popular, Macklemore, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, said he never imagined that “Thrift Shop” would take off the way it has, especially given its counterculture message.
“Rappers talk about, ‘Oh, I buy this and I buy that,’ and ‘I spend this much money and I make it rain,’ … [but] this is the kind of record that's the exact opposite," Macklemore told MTV. "[This song is] the polar opposite of it. It's kind of standing for, like, ‘let's save some money, let's keep some money away, let's spend as little as possible and look as fresh as possible at the same time.’
“It's obviously against the status quo of what people normally rap about," he said. "This is a song that goes against all of that. [It’s about] how much can you save? How fresh can you look by not looking like anybody else?”
Macklemore bragged in another interview that he shops at thrift stores “probably five times a week.”
The song was released in October 2012, and it entered the top ten of Billboard’s Hot 100 charts on Dec.27, 2012. Sixteen weeks later, it knocked prolific chart-topper Bruno Mars off his perch at No. 1 on Feb. 2, 2013, and it remained at No. 1 since then on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for eight weeks.
It’s unclear, however, if real-life American thrift shops have seen any kind of uptick in donations or store sales in the wake of the song’s popularity.
However, one location where Macklemore and his team shot their video, the Fremont Vintage Mall, did see some “increased attention.”
“You definitely hear people talking about it,” said mall manager Kendrick Deaton.
However, talk doesn’t equal sales.
“Nope, no change,” Nicole Paul, Manager of Seattle’s Red Light Vintage and Costume, said in response to a question about whether her store had seen any added traffic in the past month. (Macklemore used Red Light’s location in Seattle’s Capitol Hill to film part of his music video.) “It’s been pretty steady,” she added.
Patrick McKeon, manager of Angel Street Thrift Shop in Chelsea, Manhattan, also reported no unusual changes in sales. “I don’t know if our customers are aware of [the song],” McKeon said. “I’m sure some of them are. It certainly raises consciousness about thrift shops.”
McKeon mentioned that the store was getting ready for several events, like the spring fashion preview. “We do have increased traffic because of events in the store. It generally starts to pick up at this time of year anyway,” he said. “But traffic is pretty much the same all the year round.”
A spokeswoman for Goodwill Industries, one of the biggest national thrift store chains, said she has “not seen an impact on a national level,” but she noted that every Goodwill store is an independent local operation. Data from the Goodwill’s Seattle branches, which Macklemore also used for filming, was not immediately available. “Goodwill sales are up but within what we are seeing as attributable to our normal growth curve,” the spokeswoman wrote.
The Salvation Army did not respond to a request for sales data, but a spokeswoman said in an email, “It's hard to pinpoint whether the song has had a direct impact on donations or sales, but we hope that people are inspired to donate to the Salvation Army when they hear it!” wrote Jennifer Byrd, a Salvation Army spokeswoman, in an email.
Buffalo Exchange, another nation-wide chain of resale outlets, also said it had experienced "regular seasonal growth" in the weeks after the song entered the charts. "We haven't seen any increases that we can relate to the song or the popularity of the song," said Kurtis Durfey, Buffalo Exchange’s marketing director.
Macklemore’s representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Watch Macklemore’s video below:
Watch some fantastic covers from rising a capella stars Pentatonix, and producer Scott Bradlee: