Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Contrary to popular belief, not all thrift stores are charitable  non-profits.  Usually, a non-profit thrift store is one that accepts donated new or used goods which are then offered for sale in a retail setting to the public.  The proceeds of those sales benefit a charitable cause or program.

The stores are commonly owned by a charity or non-profit ministry but run as an independent business under contract; that is, the stores are licensed by the charity, which provides the goods for sale, and benefits by the sale of these goods directly to the contractor who operates the shop.

The store is staffed either by volunteers with a paid manager, or paid staff who may be involved in one or more of the charitable programs.  Because the items for sale are donated, and there is no cost of goods, the items sold tend to be priced very low.  Sometimes items are even offered free to qualified economically-challenged people with approved vouchers.

A for-profit thrift store generally buys its merchandise from charities in bulk to be sold for a profit to the public, again, in a retail setting, but the goods can also come from other sources like manufacturers and department stores with overstocked goods.  Clearly a win-win situation, the charities that wholesale their goods to for-profits are able to further fund their programs from the proceeds, in addition to the goods sold at their own stores at retail.

Do you ever wonder what happens to all those donations that don't sell?  Almost all non-profit thrift stores sell their unsold textiles (unfashionable styles, stained or damaged fabric) to textile processors, who in turn, ship the processed goods mostly to Third World countries.  In fact, almost half the garments donated to stores like The Salvation Army and Goodwill eventually end up in overseas markets as resale clothing or industrial fiber, according to a Seattle Times' story, "Old Clothes Go Global" (2/25/07).

Besides the low prices, the recycling of goods at thrift stores attracts many shoppers who like to "go green", considering themselves environmentally and globally-conscious.  With the amount of jobs created through the recycling of donations nationally and abroad, you can understand the appeal.

A resale store is one that simply buys, sells or trades new or used merchandise and offers it for sale.  If the store buys outright, they may offer the option to the seller of a higher price if they accept a store credit versus a lower price if they want cash.  These are very popular with young people in particular as a way to recycle their clothes while expanding and updating their wardrobes for very little money.

Bargain and deal are used interchangeably to describe merchandise that is offered at a favorable price for sale.  It is also a perception because what is a bargain to one person may be only a slight blip on the markdown screen to a seasoned bargainista.

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