Buying your Halloween costume at a thrift store has always been a great value, but this year, there are more reasons to try a thrift store first before looking elsewhere.
Thrift stores are facing challenges due to a drop in value for textiles sold as scrap, increased labor costs, rising fuel costs, online competition and a decrease in the percentage of clothing designed for durability.
One measure of the difficulties faced by thrift stores can be seen from the Salvation Army’s discontinuation of mobile collections throughout California. Fortunately, Ventura County has many smaller thrift stores and some, such as the Rescue Mission Alliance and the Coalition Thrift Store — formerly the Coalition for Battered Women — still provide collection service to parts of Ventura County.
Until last year, the Canine Adoption and Rescue League, or CARL, boutique and thrift store, which is based in Ventura and benefits a no-kill dog shelter in Santa Paula, also offered mobile collection of donated items. However, following a truck crash and insufficient insurance coverage for a replacement vehicle, the store now accepts only dropped-off items.
Goodwill, the largest local thrift store, does not provide collection service, but has drop-off sites throughout the county and has remained “financially healthy,” according to Spencer Cabral, Goodwill’s director of community development for Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Cabral credits smart business planning for his nonprofit’s financial success. Some of these intelligent practices can be seen in the local stores.
For example, Goodwill has an outlet for items not sold quickly enough in regular stores. A Goodwill outlet on Rice Avenue, in Oxnard, offers bigger bargains on these items. Bulk buyers stock up there for resale at swap meets or online. Buyers especially seek items, such as sports jerseys for teams in distant locations, which can be better sold online, and an occasional missed treasure can be sold through thrift stores’ high-end online competitors, Poshmark and ThredUp.
In another intelligent business practice, the local Goodwill organization sent two key employees, along with the vice president of operations, to a major Halloween trade show earlier this year, where they purchased a wide variety of new items for distribution to all the local stores. Purchasing decisions were made based on data from careful tracking of which items sold best in stores last year.
Buying new items is not typically a practice of thrift stores, but carrying some new items, still in packages, can enhance the image of a thrift store. More importantly, many of the items purchased for retail sale were accessories, helping thrift store customers envision uses for donated items the stores also sell.
The Ventura-based CARL boutique and thrift store can’t purchase new items because the organization commits all funds from the store to rescuing and finding homes for dogs. Staff members, however, have a different way to raise extra money, according to Joseph Cox, store manager.
At a care center off Briggs Road in Santa Paula, Cox said, “we board, care and wash dogs when their humans go on vacation.”
He noted the CARL store currently has a Scooby-Doo costume, a pirate costume and a prisoner onesie. But the nonprofit sells “great items in the thrift store, including full Halloween costumes, for just $5, so we need additional sources of funds,” Cox said.
While CARL’s efficient use of shelter space funds adoption of dogs, Goodwill’s good business practices have enabled Goodwill to fund job training and placement service centers in Oxnard and Simi Valley. Goodwill serves people facing “barriers to employment,” said Cabral. This client group ranges from youth to veterans.
Most thrift stores are either operated by charities or provide funding to charities, so donations of items in “resale ready” condition are generally tax deductible, according to Cox.
But some items donated are a disposal burden rather than a revenue benefit, so it is important to also support local thrift stores through buying. Halloween costume shopping is a great way to start.
David Goldstein, an environmental resource analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, can be reached at 805-658-4312 or email@example.com.
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