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Archive for Saturday, June 7, 2003

Pawn, loan business brisk in state

June 7, 2003

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— In a down economy, business is booming at Kansas pawn shops. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're making much money.

"When the economy is down, our economy is down, too," said Dick Erskin, owner of Garden City's Wooden Nickel pawn shop.

Erskin said more people are bringing in collateral, but fewer are buying items. During hard times, he said, pawn shops build inventory and sell it during the good times.

Jessica Gillen, 20, of Hutchinson, was in Sunset Pawn in Hutchinson recently trading in 12 movies. She felt guilty, she said, pawning them for money, but she is unemployed and times are tough.

It's not much better for the pawn shops, Erskin said.

"Consequently, when you aren't selling anything, money's going out and things are tight for you, too," he said.

John Renn, owner of JR's Pawn Shop in Pittsburg, agreed. In a down economy, he said, "people haven't got as much money to spend. They pawn a little more, then have a hard time getting it back."

According to the National Pawnbrokers Assn., 75 million Americans do not have a bank account or credit cards. So when they need loans, they look to pawnbrokers and payday lenders to help make ends meet.

Bob Benedict, executive director of the National Pawnbrokers Assn., said about 75 percent of pawn loan customers buy their collateral back.

"You have to be careful in a down economy," he said. "You have to be careful what you are going to take to pawn. You have to be thinking, 'Can I sell this if people don't come back?"'

Cara Tripp at KC Pawn Shop in Kansas City, Kan., said the store can be more picky about what it takes as collateral, but that's one of the few bright spots when the economy is down. Pawn loans are up, but the number of people who come back in to claim their goods has declined, she said.

"I don't think it's a good thing," Tripp said. "It makes us put more money on the street."

She said the store wasn't as stringent as others that strictly enforced the contract dates on loans it gave.

"We want customers to pick stuff up," Tripp said. "We don't want to keep it. We don't want to sell it. We want them to come back and get it."

In hard times, pawn loans and payday loans are the only way some people can pay their bills. While pawn shops might not make much money in a bad economy, payday lenders are raking it in.

"We've put out more new loans in the last two or three months than I've ever had to put out," said Dee Freer, office manager at Payless Payday Loan in Hutchinson.

Times seem to be a bit more steady in Topeka, where Mr. Money manager Mark Goodenow said if business was fluctuating at all, it was more seasonal than economic

"In this market here in Topeka, things are pretty stable as far as employment goes," he said. "We haven't seen that big of an influence from the economy as other places have."

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