Case Study: Thrift spotting

Thrift spotting is a company started by a couple, Norman and Teagan Humphreys, in Prince Edward Island in 2016. Their operation was simple: they would act as a hub to spot quality items on sale in thrift shops, and link potential consumers to the deals they found. After a short while, they began purchasing thrifted items themselves, improving them, and selling them online as upgraded thrifted items.

For the first quarter of 2016, when linking customers to products was the business’ only role, Thriftspotting grew modestly with a small but passionate local following. In the second quarter, the company was featured on the national news, and interest began to grow. Groups similar to Thriftspotting began to pop up across Canada, and the company knew it would have to move quickly to distinguish itself from competitors. To that end, the Humphreys began to establish themselves on social media.

In order to track potential thrift finds, the Humphreys turned to those burgeoning social media accounts, and also tracked customers purchases in order to gauge the most highly valued items. Work on customization was outsourced to small seaming companies, while the original designs were still produced by the Humphreys.

The Humphreys moved to get feedback from customers by offering surveys to gauge their satisfaction with the company, and invited feedback through social media. The hashtag #MyThriftCreation began to trend, and the company quickly seized on it, encouraging customers to share their finds and their own designs when they customized or upgraded their thrifted clothing. However, as Teagan pointed out, #MyThriftCreation was taking from a core component of their business, and encouraging the customers to do it for free.

In order to keep pace, the Humphreys conceived of a few different solutions. They could focus on their original role as spotting thrift deals, which was becoming increasing difficult as they scaled to different locales and thrift chains across Canada. They could monetize custom creation, selling thrift ideas as part of a crowdfunded initiative through books and e-mail how-to packets, to support the DIY aspect of their business. Alternatively, they could accept one of several offers from major thrift store chains like Value Village, who have plans to incorporate the thriftspotting approach while tying it to a singular brand.


  1. How can Thriftspotting use social media to increase the scope of its business and the satisfaction of its customers?
  2. What data is Thriftspotting collecting, and what data should they collect? Why? Consider how it could translate to information, knowledge and business intelligence.
  3. Assume you are the CEO of Thriftspotting when it becomes an overnight success. What steps do you take to establish, improve or simplify workflow?
  4. What metrics can be implemented to measure the success of the company? Consider going beyond customer satisfaction and examining how and why these customers will be satisfied.
  5. What potential pitfalls and benefits exist with the three options the Humphreys are considering for the future of their business? Is one option the best, or is there another approach they have not yet considered?
  6. How does Thriftspotting leverage the web to support its business? How could they further take advantage of their role as an e-business?
  7. Is Thriftspotting a disruptive or sustaining technology? Can it evolve from one to the other? Explain.

Sample Solution