Thrift stores, resale shops see increase in sales
(The Olathe News (Olathe, KS) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Dec. 9--Area thrift stores report increased sales and higher customer traffic as the worsening economy convinces consumers to find creative ways to stretch their dollars.
At the Salvation Army thrift store at Santa Fe and Ridgeview Road in Olathe, the consumer count has increased around 5 percent, showing the economy is affecting people more each day, even in affluent Johnson County, Director of Store Operations Anthony Cottrell said.
"We've seen an increase as economic times affect those who may not shop here (normally)," Cottrell said. "Sometimes these are the people who have donated their nicer stuff to the store. You can find the better quality stuff these people had in their home at fair prices.
"We're seeing sales increasing because the economy is hitting everyone harder. They find themselves coming here and taking advantage of the prices."
The Salvation Army has 10 thrift store locations throughout the metro area. The stores are the sole supporters of the Adult Rehabilitation Center at 1351 E. 10th St., Kansas City, Mo.
It costs between $2 million and $6 million annually to operate the center, Cottrell said. The center is free and provides adult men the opportunity to re-enter the work force through training in obtaining employment or pursuing higher education.
"We're getting you prepared to back into the neighborhoods," Cottrell said. "Men go to class, have work therapy. It's a strong spiritual-based program."
All stores have similar prices, sales and items, Cottrell said. The locations attract those looking for one-of-a-kind items and name-brand clothing for cheap.
"Everything is supplied by donations," Cottrell said. "We get anything from kid's clothes to old furniture, TVs, bicycles and dishes. Maybe you're looking for that one antique salt shaker you can't find. You may come in (one of our stores) and find it.
"We try not to sell anything that's damaged, but we do have an as-is policy. We let you know if things don't work and you have the choice of buying. It may seem like everyone wants everything brand-new, but we still have a section of society that likes to search for antique items."
Despite the poor economy, donations to Olathe's Salvation Army thrift store have remained steady, Cottrell said. He expects an increase in the coming weeks as people gear up for tax season.
"We provide tax receipts for all donations," he said. "Donations will pick up significantly with people looking to get in just before the Jan. 1 deadline. We have plenty of stuff to put in our store."
Cottrell also said that donations can sometimes include brand-new or like-new items.
"A lot of people think we're getting the leftover stuff, but we have new stuff all the time," he said. "Clothing with tags still on it, musical instruments. I just took in a silver tea set to one of our locations.
"If you need to stretch your dollar, you can get in stretched here, depending on your needs and what you're looking for. The bargains are here and this is the place to come."
Salvation Army thrift stores are not the only charity-based stores doing well in the recession. Nationally, Goodwill stores are reporting retail sales up 7 percent over last year, though not all stores are experiencing similar increases.
Goodwill has three stores in Johnson County, including one in Olathe at 16630 W. 135th St. Goodwill communications manager Amy Randolph said consumers looking for bargains and quality can find those at Goodwill stores.
"We've always seen a variety of shoppers at Goodwill stores, from the green shopper who wants to buy recycled goods to fashion mavens who know they can find status brands at affordable prices -- as well as those who simply want to make their dollar go further," Randolph said. "At Goodwill, people can find the items they need and stay within their budget in this tough economic time." Goodwill Industries is a nonprofit organization that helps people achieve self-sufficiency. Eighty-four percent of revenues at Goodwill stores help fund job-training programs and other support services for those looking for work, including people with disabilities, people with lack of education or job experience and people facing economic challenges.
Last year, 1 million people benefited from Goodwill's career services. Goodwill places someone in employment every 53 seconds of every business day, according to www.mokangoodwill.org.
Like the Salvation Army, items in Goodwill stores are entirely from donations and can vary between store locations. Most stores have reported an increase in donations over 2007, Randolph said.
"Thus far, the economy hasn't had a negative impact on donation drop-offs," she said. "... The economy itself may impact future donation quality and quantity; however, it is too soon to tell."
While most retailers expect shopping this holiday season to be among the lowest in recent times, a recent survey shows that along with thrift stores, another segment of the industry is also thriving: resale.
A survey by the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops shows that 75 percent of its members reported higher sales in September and October by an average of 35 percent.
Resale shops attract bargain-conscious shoppers as well as those looking to sell secondhand items for store credit or cash, like at Children's Orchard, an "upscale-resale" store in Olathe specializing in children's clothes, toys and furniture.
Children's Orchard differs from a thrift store in that it selects each piece of merchandise for sale, rather than accepting any and all donations, said store owner Ann Guccioni.
"Our merchandise is in excellent condition," Guccioni said. "Most people are shocked when they get through the door at how well-organized and clean our store is. We are not the average thrift store. Our motto is 'find a treasure, save a fortune.'"
Children's Orchard buys and sells name-brand and designer clothing, toys and accessories for children at discounted prices, typically for half or less of the regular retail price.
Guccioni said the the economy has contributed to a slight increase in sales.
"A lot of people are coming into our store for the first time who have never considered buying resale," she said. "Resale children's clothing is a much easier market, since typically a child will outgrow their shoe or their clothing before they're able to wear it out."
Guccioni has seen not only an increase in sales, but an increase in customers looking to sell their secondhand items. She has booked selling appointments into January.
"We buy items between 25 and 50 percent of what we'll sell it for, based on brand and condition," she said. "All of our pricing is set by our franchise. We have a buying computer that gives us the price, it's not really up to us. People who have not sold to us before are looking to sell their stuff for store credit or cash."
The goal at Children's Orchard is to allow consumers to clothe a child for an entire season, including shoes and accessories, for less than $100, Guccioni said.
Children's Orchard has five locations throughout the metro area.
Resale stores provide answers for consumers looking to live environmentally friendly, but as the economy worsens, expect shoppers to buy less new items and instead make due with what they have or buy secondhand.
"I think the economy, of course, plays a huge factor in all businesses," Guccioni said. "Resale clothing, consignment furniture stores around town -- people are looking to mechanics to fix their cars instead of buying new cars. Consumers are looking to make the most of what they have.
"I think we've definitely seen more consignment and resale shops for just about everything."
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