Thrift stores have long been considered recession-proof. Since the Salvation Army launched its first “salvage brigade” in the basement of a men’s shelter in 1897, thrift stores have weathered two world wars, economic downturns and decades of fashion trends.
The United States is home to more than 25,000 resale, consignment, thrift and antique stores, according to the Association of Resale Professionals. Over the past five years, revenues in the thrift store industry have grown by 1.6 percent to $14 billion in 2018, according to an IBISWorld report. In the same time frame, the number of such businesses has grown by 0.4 percent and the number of employees has grown by 1.8 percent.
Besides being a morally responsible mode of shopping —these stores cut down on waste, and many provide community support and services for the unemployed, homeless and disabled — thrift stores offer the opportunity to find something new and different, especially for the price- and fashion-conscious consumer.
While the thrift-shop model won’t fall out of favor any time soon, owners of these businesses still need to find unique ways to attract customers who generate revenues.
Here are a few ways thrift stores can boost the bottom line:
Market Your Merchandise
Tactics that work for department stores can also work for thrift stores. To create a pleasant shopping experience, display products in an attractive and logical manner.
Elizabeth Beasley, a former volunteer with the Junior League of Atlanta, recommends separating designer dresses, pants, blouses and other high-end items to create a boutique wrack that will bring in more money.
“We kept the display updated as new designer merchandise came in and added additional inventory like handbags, shoes and accessories,” she says. “By doing that, we were catering to customers looking for expensive items to quickly find them and make the sale.”
Diversify Your Products
Adding variety to what you sell is a great way to entice new customers into your store. In addition to clothing and accessories, many buyers seek furniture and household goods.
Make sure to constantly update the merchandise you carry with new items so established customers will have a reason to return and search for new treasures. If the thrift is tied to a nonprofit organization, Beasley says that staggering donations throughout the year can help keep your merchandise fresh.
“Junior League members were required to donate $40 worth of goods each and were asked to donate at certain times of the year based on the first letter of your last name,” Beasley says. “This ensured that we were constantly turning over new product.”
Host Seasonal And Theme Sales
There is always an occasion to promote your inventory. Throughout the year, you can base your special sales around holidays and themes. The Houston Chronicle advises that you “hold a holiday sale showcasing merchandise related to that holiday.” You can also promote the store as a place to purchase holiday-related gifts, decorations and outfits, the Chronicle says.
For example, have an ugly Christmas sweater sale, or a costume sale a month before Halloween. Or, make Feb. 14 the day where all red items are 30 percent off. Similarly, you can hold a back-to-school sale with a section full of clothes that meet the requirements of local school uniform policies.
Bring more people into the store by offering coupons or special sale offers. Bizfluent recommends half-off sales or offering a percentage off to buyers who make a total purchase that exceeds a certain dollar amount.
“A customer that finds two great items instead of just one because of a ‘buy one, get one free‘ sale is twice as likely to return to your thrift store,” Bizfluent says.
Court Corporate Charitable Giving Programs
If you operate a nonprofit thrift store, charitable programs can help increase your donations. Major retailers donate a variety of new items to nonprofits through partnerships with philanthropic organizations like Good360. Donations range from clothing, furniture, bedding, makeup and household items. In addition to distributing donations to qualified nonprofits, Good360 also has an online catalog where registered users can browse and buy featured goods.
Several corporations offer their employees a 1:1 ratio match on all donations. For example, Bank of America encourages their employees to contribute to qualifying organizations and they will match donations up to $5,000 per person each calendar year.
Bargain For Your Bottom Line
If you don’t run a nonprofit thrift store, getting your merchandise for the lowest price possible is the goal. You want to pay the least amount possible for an item in order to sell it at a profit. Make sure you have established amounts for what you’re willing to pay for something and buy items that you know will constantly be in demand.
Visit auctions for particular items that your customer base desires. Attend estate sales for unique pieces that not only fit the type of merchandise customers want, but also offer a bit of personality and exclusivity to set your store apart from the competition. For profit thrifts can also accept donations from the local community but remember that your business may not qualify for tax-exempt status even if you’re donating some of the proceeds to charity.
Offer More Ways To Pay
To save on overhead costs, thrift stores traditionally only accepted cash. But in our modern society, offering different ways to pay is an important strategy to serve existing customers better and to garner new shoppers.
Many people avoid carrying cash, and paying with a credit card is a secure, safe and convenient alternative. Connect with Talus Pay to see how we can provide you with a simple and cost-effective way to process credit and gift card purchases, so your customers have the best experience.