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In Bad Economy, Thrift Shop Sales Up

La Opinion, News Report, Ruben Moreno, Translated by Suzanne Manneh Posted: Nov 27, 2008

LOS ANGELES--Shoes, shirts and pants of all styles and colors for just five dollars, brand name coffee makers for 15 dollars, microwaves for 25 dollars, or novels, including best sellers, for the modest price of 99 cents. What can cost large sums of money in department stores, one can find for far less in the local second hand stores.

Organizations such as The Salvation Army, Goodwill and Out of the Closet have increased their sales by becoming more than ever a relief to thousands of families hit by the economic crisis who do not mind purchasing used items as long as they are cheaper.

"There is no money, and in these places one can find everything and save a lot," said Ana Pedro, who has become a regular customer of second-hand stores, and helped her mother look for some jeans yesterday.

"Faced with the crisis, people are increasingly looking for ways to stretch their money," said Jonathan Kreuyer, general manager of Out of the Closet, who operates 18 locations14 of them are in Los Angeles County and have an estimated one million customers a year.

To date, Out of The Closet, which makes $9 million annually, has seen sales increase by 9% from last year, partly thanks to the purchases from new customers that weve never seen before, he said.

And according Kreuyer, " they come by bicycle, [cars] a Jaguar, whether they are lawyers or nurses."

Second-hand store savings can make, in many cases, between a 50% and 90% savings on the price of the same item brand new.

Marta Gonzlez paid $15.98 for two shirts and a pair of leather shoes which she thinks, "would have cost at least $45 in any other store."

"Weve found very good things at a very good price that we would otherwise not be able to buy because of the economic situation," said the homemaker as she paid the local Goodwill on Sixth Street in Los Angeles. The items she bought were sent to her brother-in-law in Honduras, as a Christmas gift.

Christmas is what brought customers like Karina Garcia to thrift shops, where she found gifts she could afford.

"This is our salvation," said Karina, who yesterday spent 50 dollars and took home several trousers, blouses, shoes and bags. "In a regular store, for the same amount I would have only taken two shirts, at most."

Some locations are planning a black Friday after Thanksgiving.

"We will have between 150 and 200 free items throughout the store, along with other special offers," said Oscar Davila, assistant manager of the Goodwill store.

In this type of shop, the customers benefit by not paying not paying taxes on their purchases and also by contributing to a good cause. For every dollar, Out of the Closet donates 96 cents to treat patients with HIV. The Salvation Army gives 85% of their profits to treatment programs for alcohol and drug addicts. Goodwill donates 93 cents of every dollar to training courses for job seekers, including people with disabilities.

Goodwill has seen its revenue increase nationally at 6.2% over the last year.

One persons trash can be anothers treasure," said Davila, who also noted that in recent months hes seen more customers from the middle class. "Everything that we put on sale we make sure is in good condition or may be used, to the point where we dont have to compete with large department companies."

In recent months, many stores have experienced a considerable drop in donation items they receive to sell

"Since people are not buying new things, we are no longer receiving as many donations as before. Now people are trying to hang onto their belongings instead of donating them," said Aldo Accinelli, who manages the office of The Salvation Army in Anaheim.

"The stores are now at half their capacity," he added. "Before we were collecting donations on an average of 300 per day throughout Orange County. Now, we are between 200 and 250. The odd thing is to see that sales are rising when the donations are going down."

And because of that, those who determine the prices need to clearly think about the value of the items, but also how much we would be willing to charge the customer knowing that it is used," said Leonardo Valdes, manager of the store Out of the Closet in Hollywood.

"The important thing in the end is that it is in good condition," said Guadalupe Mares, another regular customer at second-hand stores.

An item shouldnt be ruled out because it has been used. She continued. "Too many times when new items that are opened at home are defective."

Photo by Ciro Cesar/La Opinin)

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