The Truth Behind Rapidly Rising Prices at Corporate Thrift Stores across America
A lot of people think that the main goal of thrift stores is to give their customers the cheapest possible products. I’m telling you guys right now, that’s not the case at all.
For the majority of thrift stores I go to—at least the corporate ones—their number one goal is to get as much money as possible for their items to donate to their charities, to raise money, to raise funds, and to generate income for the charities of their choice.
If you’re only source of getting inventory for your business is thrift stores, you’ve got to realize prices are going to continue to go up. It’s just the way it is. They’re going to push it as much as they possibly can. They’re going to continue to raise the prices and charge more until their inventory stops moving out the store. It’s the bottom line.
The Future of Thrifting
Many people don’t realize it, but Goodwill is like a real estate empire. They have so much real estate all over the country in prime locations. I really believe that they’re going to go more toward the retail business model, bringing in many more private label items and wholesale items.
You’re already noticing it with Savers. For all the different holidays—Halloween, Christmas—they’re bringing in all this private label and wholesale inventory from China.
But even the thrift stores that are expensive are much cheaper than even Marshalls or other discounted retail stores. A lot of times they are only a little cheaper than eBay. But people are willing to pay these prices. I think most people are just trying to save some money. Even if they’re saving 15 or 20 percent, they’re happy.
Are Thrift Stores Still Worth It?
Now let’s take a step back. Can you still find items at thrift stores to make money? Yes. Do I find items pretty much every day when I go thrifting? Yes. Is there still a ton of money? Can you make a full-time income buying items from thrift stores? Yes.
I was talking to a friend yesterday, and he was ranting, “How dare thrift stores charge $20 for this? How dare thrift stores sell untested items at eBay prices?”
I said, “Listen, they’re not in business to give you items as cheaply as possible. Goodwill, Savers, Salvation Army—they don’t care about me or you. It doesn’t matter if Reseller Johnny walks into the store and wants to buy a shirt for two dollars. They don’t care about Johnny. All they want to do is raise as much money as possible for their foundations, bottom line.”
Now, depending on where you live, if you live in a lower-income area, the prices are going to stay lower because it’s really supply and demand. They could raise the prices from five bucks an item to $20, but it’s going to sit. These thrift stores have so much stuff coming in. America is just an abundance of stuff that people don’t care about. They’re donating a lot of stuff. So the thrift stores do want to keep items moving and will price accordingly.
The Goals of the Thrift Store
I hear people all the time complaining about prices. “Why are the thrift store prices going up? Why are they not testing their items?”
These thrift stores aren’t out there for your best interest. Their goal, of course, is to raise as much money as possible for their foundations. And a lot of this revenue is going to really good foundations. Goodwill, in my area, helps people find jobs. There are a lot of good programs out there.
The takeaway here is that if the only way you’re getting inventory is from thrift stores, diversify. Go to garage sales on the weekends. Go to estate sales. There’s craigslist. There’s OfferUp. There’s private label. There’s wholesale. There’s creating your own products. There are so many different ways to source products. There’s liquidation. There’s buyouts and clearance and retail arbitrage. The list goes on and on.
But the thrift stores are not here to help you out. I’m not saying they’re bad people. I’m not saying it’s unethical. I’m not saying any of that.
The thrift stores do help the community, but in a different way. They’re not here to help the community by selling someone an item worth $50 for a quarter. They are helping the community by selling someone an item worth $50 for $25 and spending the extra $25 on a community program.
Prices Will Go Up
I’m not bashing opportunities with thrift stores—there are still tons of them. But the prices are going to continue to rise. It’s going to be harder and harder to find items from the thrift store.
I think a lot of these thrift stores are going to start putting their items online more and more. If they don’t, they’re not smart, and I think they are smart. I think they’re going to figure it out eventually.
You just need to stay one step ahead of the game.
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