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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Thrift stores thrive in recession

GoodwillIn an economy still recovering from the recession, many consumers looking for good values and less expensive items have turned to thrift stores to meet their needs.

Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops, a resale trade association, said 2009 third-quarter sales figures of 333 stores reported a 67.4 percent increase in sales from the same time in 2008.

The NARTS projects the thrift industry to continue to grow by 5 percent annually as more and more people turn to thrift to fit new budgets, she said.

“Many factors contribute to popularity of resale in this economic climate,” she said. “But one of the foremost reasons resale thrives in a slow economy is simple … People love a bargain.”

Stores like Goodwill, Savers and the Salvation Army rely on donations to meet their supply.

Cheryl Lightholder, Goodwill communications manager, said four to five new stores a year are typically opened in Southeast Wisconsin. The need is there because of an increase in both sales and donors.

“There are a lot of new faces and people we haven’t seen before,” she said. “People are finding value in shopping at Goodwill at a good price and continuing.”

Although the economy is one of the main factors to trigger the increase, she hopes the pace of sales continues when the economy recovers.

“Our hope is once it turns around, that customers see the value they’re getting now,” she said. “If you can get them in the door, they see the value.”

In 2009, its 90th anniversary year, Goodwill has seen fewer donations but a rise in the number of donors, Lightholder said. For instance, donors might bring two bags instead of three and keep more items because of the recession.

Lightholder attributed a lot of the growth to an increase in its marketing efforts over the last four years. She noted Goodwill’s logo on billboards, in TV ads and through its relationship with Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver.

Goodwill holds autograph sessions with Driver and rewarded a school that donated 25,000 items a visit from “Double-D” earlier this year, Lightholder said.

She said Goodwill differs from a store like Savers because 92 cents of every dollar goes back into programs and services, their mission statement as a nonprofit organization.

Savers, which also operates the Value Village brand, has also increased its business numbers this year. Savers spokeswoman Kaitlin Goodall said 17 new brand stores in the U.S. and Canada have opened this year.

Goodall said newer customers are working women in their 30s and 40s seeking professional attire, and teenagers and college students looking for good deals. She said customers will look at a variety of thrift stores, and that benefits all retailers in the long run.

“It’s similar to how people shop garage sales — most (garage sale patrons) go to more than one sale to find the best deals and widest selection,” she said. “If a person has never been to a Savers store before but it’s located next to another store they frequent, they are more likely to stop in.”

Goodall said Savers works differently in its relationship with the community. Savers is a for-profit company that partners with local nonprofits, and buys all items the nonprofit collects from the community as donations.

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