Thrift stores thriving in challenging economic times

Daily Gazette pageBy Tatiana Zarnowski, Gazette Reporter

CAPITAL REGION — Thrift stores, and their shoppers, have been winners in the economic recession that made many of us feel like losers. 

Sales are up slightly at area thrift stores because of consumers who like their low prices, quality merchandise and the idea of reusing instead of throwing away and buying new. 

Lisa Squires likes to find antique furniture or pick up decorative things she collects that other people have given away. 

“Sometimes they get tired of their style, and it might happen to be my style right then,” the Schenectady woman said. “I like antiques, and you never know what people will throw away.” 

Squires, 44, checked out the City Mission Thrift Store in Glenville on Wednesday, looking for furniture for her new home in Rotterdam, where she’ll move in a couple of weeks. 

City Mission Thrift Stores in Schenectady and Glenville saw a 5 percent increase in sales from January 2008 to the end of 2009, said Tim Castle, director of operations for the City Mission of Schenectady. 

So far this year, sales are up again. January sales increased more than 6 percent compared to last January, Castle said. 

Local stores report higher sales of furniture, appliances and clothing. 

Appliance sales have increased at the City Mission Thrift Store on Route 50 in Glenville, said manager Rev. Tom LeGodais. 

“They’re doing way better,” LeGodais said of the toasters, sandwich makers, toaster ovens and microwaves that get donated and snapped up by eager buyers. 

“Crock Pots go as soon as I put them out,” he said. 

Peddler’s Wagon in Scotia takes consignments and donations, and employee Dean Finn said furniture sales have shot up since the recession. 

People are selling their extra furniture to make money, Finn said, and there is a ready market of collectors and people furnishing their homes who are ready to grab the new inventory. 

Not only is the used furniture cheaper, but many times it’s also higher quality than new furniture, he said. 

“It’s always mass-produced, so you don’t have the same craftsmanship as you would [in] something that’s made 50 years ago.” 

Peddler’s Wagon sells antiques and more modern furniture, Finn said. 

Since the City Mission takes only donations and not consignments, its furniture sales haven’t done well during the recession because most people who want to get rid of furniture are selling, rather than donating, it, LeGodais said. 

“Nobody’s donating anything really nice now.” 

LeGodais has seen a new clientele in the store that used to cater almost exclusively to an older crowd — younger women. 

“We’ve added a whole section” for under-40 women, he said. 

Used clothing may be appealing for younger people because it’s in fashion now, Castle said. 

“A lot of manufacturers are going to a lot of trouble to make garments look used, right off the rack,” Castle said. “We offer what we call ‘genuinely used jeans.’?” 

Environmental and charitable concerns also spur people to buy more from thrift stores, Castle said. 

Reusing items keeps them from going into landfills and saves the energy it takes to create something new. 

Also, most thrift stores, including the City Mission ones, use their proceeds to help less fortunate people. 

“We’re a ministry to people first, so we’re not driven by profits like a typical retailer would be. We set our prices so people who would not otherwise be able to shop can shop at our stores,” Castle said. (See Daily Gazette for more)

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