Goodwill adds new stores in weak economy
For some shoppers, the thrift stores are an inexpensive way to replenish their wardrobes amid rising joblessness and tight credit
Seattle Times business reporters
These days, it's good to be Goodwill.
A new Goodwill store in Des Moines made more than 800 sales within an hour of opening Thursday morning as recession-wary shoppers stocked up on everything from used toddler toys for $2 to women's Levis for $6.
"My fiancée got laid off, so we found a way to make ends meet," said Christan Vanslyke, of Kent, who loaded her cart with toys and clothes for her 2-year-old daughter, Zoe. "I'm not too proud for hand-me-downs — not at all."
The Des Moines store is Goodwill's 23rd in a 15-county region and one of three the Tacoma chapter plans to open by year's end.
Goodwill's Seattle chapter, which covers the north Puget Sound region, recently opened a store in Silverdale and will soon add an outlet in Everett, giving it 19 retail locations.
Goodwill's local expansion is in sharp contrast with the overall retail sector. A new report by New York-based lender CIT Group shows that in the past year, nearly half of medium-sized retailers halted expansion plans and nearly a quarter closed stores.
The report, partly based on a recent survey of 110 retail executives and financial decision makers, also found that 45 percent believe it'll be 2011 or 2012 before consumer spending returns to 2007 levels.
Tacoma Goodwill expects to end fiscal 2009 with $41 million in sales, up 14 percent from $36 million in fiscal 2008.
For some shoppers, Goodwill represents an inexpensive way to replenish their wardrobes amid rising joblessness and tight credit, said retail analyst Kat Fay, who follows the apparel industry for research firm Mintel.
"People are going to thrift stores out of necessity, and some may actually stick around" in better economic times, Fay said.
Before the recession, secondhand stores were gaining popularity among young people who wanted to combine their desire for unique clothes with a concern for the environment, said consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, co-author of "Gen BuY: How Tweens, Teens and Twenty-Somethings are Revolutionizing Retail."
"One of the things I heard over and over is, 'It just feels good to not be adding new stuff to the world,' " she said.
Now, older generations are rediscovering secondhand shopping — and not only because it's less expensive than a spending spree at the mall, Yarrow said. "Finding bargains is cool in a way that having the latest designer handbag was cool five years ago," she said. "It doesn't feel good to be gluttonous."
Jean Schneider, of Federal Way, said she used to shop at Goodwill once a year. Not so, anymore.
"I've been to Goodwill four or five times in the past year," said Schneider, who picked up a winter coat for $15 at the Des Moines store Thursday. With two children in college and widespread economic uncertainty, she said, "I'm just being careful and thinking twice about my purchases."
Vanslyke, the Kent mom, said that although her fiancee found a job, she'll continue shopping at Goodwill.
"You get hooked," she said, holding a Little Mermaid jewelry box that she came across for her daughter. "It's only $2, but she's going to love it, and she'll probably have it until she goes off to college."
Looking ahead, the Tacoma chapter plans to open a new store in Puyallup in November, followed by another in Bonney Lake in December. Three or four additional stores are planned for 2010, said Dan Palmer, director of retail operations.
It's not as if the nonprofit is immune to the recession's downside, though. More people are turning to Goodwill for job placement and training services as unemployment nears double-digits, said spokesman Matthew Erlich. (About 91 cents of every dollar that Tacoma Goodwill makes goes toward its mission to put disabled or disadvantaged people to work, Erlich said.)
"As successful as our retail stores are, the demand for our services is even greater," he said. "Last year, we served about 5,200 people. This year, we will have served more than 6,000."
Sandra Collins, 38, of Tacoma, had never held a steady job when, in 2007, she decided to get sober after a 17-year drug addiction. She worked her way up from cashier to supervisor at Goodwill's outlet store in Tacoma, and today makes $11.20 an hour overseeing the Des Moines store's sorting and pricing operations.
"I feel tremendously lucky, coming from my past," Collins said. "For them to give me this opportunity is just awesome."
— Amy MartinezTidbits
Vulcan's 2200 development in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle announces a new retail tenant: Be Luminous Yoga Studio will open in mid-November near the Pan Pacific Hotel. Owners Michel Eubank Spruance and Scott Francis have been teaching yoga locally for more than five years. "Yoga is an antidote to the stress, anxiety and fear that people are feeling right now," Spruance said of the weak economy. "So in some ways there's no better time to do this." — AM
Coupons for a few Washington farmers markets will be available over the next couple of months as part of an effort by the Cascade Harvest Coalition to boost the markets' base of loyal customers. People who redeem the $2 coupons at the Phinney Farmers Market and at markets in Anacortes and Shelton will be asked questions about their shopping patterns. If the "Fresh Bucks" program goes well, Cascade will broaden it to other markets. The Seattle nonprofit, which helps Washington farmers market their products, received a $29,500 grant from the state department of agriculture to research and test new promotions. Another $30,250 was available through cash and in-kind contributions from Cascade and its partners. The coupons are being distributed through retailers and other businesses that have relationships with the markets, said Cascade executive director Mary Embleton. — MA
Outerwear retailer Eddie Bauer has introduced a new apparel line called the Heritage Collection as part of its turnaround efforts. The collection, which includes hunting coats, rugged chaps and fly-fishing vests, follows a new mountaineering line called First Ascent. It's sold on Eddie Bauer's Web site and will arrive in some stores, including the University Village location, later this month. — AM
BMW Seattle has moved to a new location near Qwest Field at 1002 Airport Way S. Sid DeBoer, chairman and CEO of Lithia Motors, said the dealership outgrew its longtime Capitol Hill location, which was about a tenth the size of its new, 300,000-square-foot store and service center. — AM
QFC opened its first store in two years this week at 4550 42nd Ave. S.W. in West Seattle. It employs 110 people, including 50 who came from other QFC stores. It's the anchor tenant for Capco Plaza's mixed-use development. — MA
Retail Report appears Fridays. Melissa Allison covers the food and beverage industry. She can be reached at 206-464-3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Martinez covers goods, services and online retail. She can be reached at 206-464-2923 or email@example.com
About Retail Report
Retail Report is a look at the trends, issues and people who makeup the dynamic and versatile retail sector throughout the Puget Sound region. Every Friday with Melissa Allison and Amy Martinez. Send tips or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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