This article was written by Chuck Reich, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor.
As far back as 1964 there were thrift shops in Orange County. Today just about every community has a thrift shop business. Operating a thrift shop whether for profit or non profit is similar to running a retail business. The poor can not help the poor; they too have to pay and need to make money to promote their organizations mission.
That brings us to the place where everyone seems to think that operating a Thrift Store Operation should be a piece of cake. I mean donations are free, aren’t they? You have volunteers that take the place of paid workers, don’t you?
At first blush you would think that in tough times the thrift stores would much better, I mean people are watching their dollars. They want to get the best buys for their money.
The truth is the Thrift Store Operation is just like any retail business. The merchandise is not free! Even dropped off donations can be expensive to handle. A good portion of the donation is junk, of no value to anyone. This costs to trash this stuff. Next a portion of the donation will be fair, you still have to process and that cost labor. Then what’s left should be very good merchandise (unless the donor held their own sale and the very good stuff is gone).
Some volunteers have their own addenda. The only reason they volunteer is to get the first look at the real goodies first. Don’t get me wrong there are some volunteers that are worth their weight in gold, you got to love them.
My suggestion for anyone thinking about getting into the Thrift Store business really think it through, and get some good advice from the counselors at SCORE114 Orange County.