Shopping at Thrift Stores – The Low Down:

Behind a Thrift Store’s Walls

 What is the difference between non-profit and for-profit thrift stores?

  • A non-profit thrift store generally doesn’t have to make a large profit to remain open. Their main goal is to raise money for the organization they are attached to or support. A for-profit thrift store usually has the goal in mind of making a profit and expanding.

 A non-profit thrift store sells used goods and donations to raise money for the non-profit they are attached to.

  • They have little to no rent cost and typically a small operating budget, which could include a truck and small staff.
  • These thrift stores are often their own entity, but a supporting organization of a non-profit.
  • To keep costs down, they are mostly run by volunteers.
  • This type of thrift store might have limited hours that differ from larger department stores and thrift stores, because of fewer resources.
  • The shelf life of products might be longer because of a smaller staff.
  • They will often offer discounts and promotions on items.
  • The prices this type of a Thrift Store sets are based on the overall costs of running the store. For example the less overhead, the less the prices are. You might get the best deal at these shops because training to price an item that was donated, with no background knowledge, can be difficult.

A thrift store that is for-profit has an overall goal of making money.

  • They might pay for their inventory, which can come from excess inventory at an estate sale or at a storage auction.
  • These stores have a boutique atmosphere as well as boutique prices. They sell antiques at their full value with the goal of making a profit.
  • Prices are set depending on:

o   Cost that went into obtaining the inventory.

o   The area of town the store is located in, and their target customers.

o   Level of training for employees or volunteers.

o   The specific store’s price and conditions standards.

Questions to ask yourself when you are deciding which thrift store to donate to:

  • What is the mission of the thrift store and the organization they are supporting?
  • Do they offer pick-ups for furniture or larger items?
  • Do they support a charity?
  • Do they provide job training or any other services?

Reasons I like small thrift stores:

When I visit my parents’ home in small town Paso Robles, California, there are few options when it’s time to donate and shop at a thrift store. I often help clean house when I visit my parents, creating the need to donate items. My thrift store of choice is a small mom and pop store called Village Thrift, which has been around since I can remember. I often shopped there in high school, getting my favorite sneakers that I sported for years – for just $1.75! Not only does Village Thrift support the cause, but it also provides jobs and housing for mentally handicapped individuals. Their profits, inventory and my donations stay directly in the community of Paso Robles. Donations help teach an individual a job skill, making me feel proud to both donate and shop at Village Thrift.

 

By Sarah Morrison, Founder of Maggie’s Thrift

 

3 Tips for Starting a Job Training Program

Sarah and I have spent the last couple of braving the August heat and traveling across the city in search of job training partnerships.  We saw sights of Phoenix we didn’t even know existed.  Along the way we’ve talked to a former job trainer from Goodwill, Fresh Start, AWEE, WHEAT and Good Prospects.

Guess what?  Starting a job training program can be intimidating!  Thankfully, the experts were overflowing with ideas and excitement for our social enterprise project.  We picked up a few nuggets of knowledge along the way that we wanted to pass along.

  1. DON’T TRY AND REINVENT THE WHEEL

    We are not in this fight alone!  There are organizations in Phoenix that have been putting people to work for over thirty years.  While Maggie’s Place does an excellent job at providing dignified housing to our guests, we are not experts in the Arizona job market.  An employee at Good Prospects bluntly said,  “Think what you can do that is close to your mission and let us do this for you.”You don’t have to tell us twice!  We will gladly utilize the job training resources we have around The Valley.  Arizona is blessed to have such a spirit of collaboration within its non-profit world.

  2. REMEMBER THAT WE “AIM FOR CONSTANT IMPROVEMENT”

    The wife of a Maggie’s Place board member who is a former trainer for Goodwill gave us this advice.  Basically, it’s a good way of admitting that we’re not going to get everything right, and we’re going to constantly reevaluate and adapt.  Sarah and I will cling to this positive phrase as we plunge headfirst into the unknown.

  3. NO MORE MISTER NICE GUY

    As I expressed doubts to the job trainers along the lines of “is this too much to ask of our moms?” we got a consistent answer: no.  The best thing we can do in this professional setting is to hold the Maggie’s Thrift workers to the same standards that their future employers will.  The relationships between volunteers and moms in the store will be much different that at the houses, but it will be for the benefit of the moms and the future of their newborns.

 

Thanks for supporting us on our new adventure.  If you have any tips you would like to add, please feel free to comment.

-Richelle