At first glance old clothes and new technology may not seem to go together. But you can now use your smartphone to troll for Goodwill thrift shop merchandise. Last month, the Washington branch of the charity introduced a free shopping app for iPhone and iPad, the first of its kind in the country.
When I heard this, it raised in my mind a question I’ve had since I was a secondhand- clothes-wearing college student: Are thrift stores for poor people in need of cheap stuff, or are they for hipsters who like funky bargains?
It’s more the latter than the former, said Brendan Hurley, chief marketing officer for Goodwill of Greater Washington. “If we could mark things up to $100 a unit, we’d do so,” he said. “The goal is not to sell low-cost goods to the poor. The goal is to fund job training. We recognize that the merchandise is pre-owned, so, obviously, we have to mark the prices appropriately. . . . The reason we’re now branching out and selling more online is because we can get a higher price point because there’s greater demand online.”
Goodwill is all over the interwebs these days. Nearly 3,700 people have downloaded the shopping app. It takes users to the local charity’s Amazon site for used books and to eBay for CDs and DVDs. Goodwill gets thousands of books and discs, much more than it has room to sell in its 13 area stores.
The app also has a button for “Great Finds” that takes users to an eBay-like site called shopgoodwill.com. “Great Finds” are the cream of the crop. Last I checked, there were four items, including a Bridal Originals wedding dress (size 18W) priced at $25 with no bids and a David Yurman pavédiamond ring priced at $350.
“It enhances our reach,” Brendan said. “People shopping brick-and-mortar don’t drive 50 miles to a store, but I can sell merchandise online to anyone in the world.”
Goodwill has two fashion blogs, one in English by Lisa Rowan and one in Spanish by Yvette Castro. Every Tuesday, Lisa highlights something she found on the thrift store racks: Look like Betty Draper! Score a vintage T-shirt!
Goodwill and other charities are facing more competition these days. The women in my life are addicted to Unique Thrift, a for-profit chain with locations in our area. Brendan said a for-profit chain called Savers is also on the way.
Goodwill stands ready.
“A few years ago, people used to brag about how much they spend on merchandise,” Brendan said. “Today, they brag about how little they spend. We’re glad we are leaders in that space.”
View the original article at washingtonpost.com.
Article from May 7, 2012, by John Kelly, Columnist.
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