Archive for Sunday, February 28, 2010

As economy shrinks, market grows for secondhand stores

Salvation Army to open center on 23rd Street

Kelly Owen, 25, Lawrence, looks over a used dress Friday at the Lawrence Antique Mall, 830 Mass. More people are buying used clothing and home items due to the recession.

Kelly Owen, 25, Lawrence, looks over a used dress Friday at the Lawrence Antique Mall, 830 Mass. More people are buying used clothing and home items due to the recession.

February 28, 2010, 12:00 a.m. Updated March 1, 2010, 5:58 p.m.


On one side of the aisle is an old Bob Marley T-shirt. On the other side of the aisle is a VHS tape of “The Adventures of Timothy the Tooth.”

Leaning in the corner is a little 6-foot bathroom door still with the towel bar screwed to its back.

“What is this,” said an intrigued Lisa Ehinger, “a hobbit door?”

Better yet, what is this place?

Answer: A booming business.

Sales at Lawrence Antique Mall, 830 Mass., were up nearly 30 percent in 2009, said owner Larry Billings. Thus far, 2010 sales are topping 2009’s totals.

“I think people are definitely taking a second look at buying used,” Billings said. “But they’re not buying the old traditional antiques. The entire industry is moving away from that. It is going toward people buying old, usable things.”

Salvation Army store

The market has taken notice. By early April, The Salvation Army plans to open an 18,000-square-foot “Family Super Store” along West 23rd Street in the shopping center that houses the Perkins restaurant.

The store will deal in used merchandise ranging from furniture, electronics, household goods and books, said Capt. Troy Barker, who will oversee the Lawrence store along with The Salvation Army’s stores in Kansas City.

“I can tell you that the thrift store business is booming,” Barker said. “I would say across the board that business is up 10 to 15 percent. We have one store where sales are up close to 40 percent.”

Like many thrift shops — although not like antique malls — The Salvation Army will stock its store with items donated to the organization. The Salvation Army previously had a store near 19th and Massachusetts until 2005, when the property was redeveloped into a video rental store.

Unlike at that location, Barker said the new store will rely solely on Lawrence donations, and items donated at the Lawrence store won’t be shipped back to Kansas City. The new store — which will have 13 full-time employees — also will be about twice as large as the previous store.

Profits from the store will go to support The Salvation Army’s homeless shelter operations in Kansas City, Mo., and its drug and alcohol treatment programs.

“We have always thought the Lawrence market had a lot to offer, being a major college town,” Barker said. “We have looked at two or three other places in Lawrence in the past but never felt good about reopening until this location came along.”

On the hunt

Kendra Davis, assistant manager of the Social Service League Thrift Store, 905 R.I., said she thought the town likely would be able to absorb the new store.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of people come in, and from a more diverse background,” Davis said. “It is not just low-income people anymore.”

The reason is obvious. As one retailer might say: Every day low prices.

Davis said dresses often are sold anywhere from $2 to $8. Coats can be had for less than $20 in some stores. If used clothing isn’t your thing, the businesses are beginning to sell more durable items, too.

A Stanley hammer for $4.25. An off-brand, but fairly modern, set of golf clubs and bag for $15. A nearly new children’s bike for $35. And if you need something to help you take the edge off a sputtering economy: A solid wood bar, complete with bar stools, a six-disc CD changer and a bar fridge for $265. If you want the Stroh’s electric fireplace, that will be another $79.

“There are a lot of savings to be had,” Barker said. “I would say the average family of four is spending $2,000 to $2,400 per year on clothing. We can probably reduce that by 80 to 90 percent.”

But it requires a different type of shopping. Items often aren’t categorized well, and veterans say shoppers should be prepared to hunt.

Ehinger, who made the trip in from Overland Park to shop at the Antique Mall, said that’s fine because she thinks many people are ready for a new type of mindset.

“I think people really are trying to be frugal today,” Ehinger said. “They’ve lived a life full of disposable items for so long that maybe now they are realizing they aren’t so disposable.

“Plus, it is just fun. You can come to a place like this and walk by something and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I used to have that.’”

Well, maybe not the Stroh’s fireplace.


Jean1183 7 years, 12 months ago

I'm totally in to re-use/recycle. I almost never buy new anymore. Glad to see the Salvation Army Store coming.

LogicMan 7 years, 12 months ago

Perkins: "1711 W 23rd Street", so actually W 23rd?

And is this in the space on the south side (behind the Aaron Rents and King Buffet) where there was another secondhand store in the past? If so, it's back to the future! and still good news.

Bladerunner 7 years, 12 months ago

I wish there was a place that refurbished old treadmills. Ihave seen 4 or 5 out at the curb in the last few weeks.

mae 7 years, 12 months ago

treadmills are a super easy fix, there's just no money in it. it takes 2 to load in the truck, then if the motor's out you're looking at putting at least $150 into making it saleable. not many people would buy them at $200 used.

workinghard 7 years, 12 months ago

Good, stop putting things in Planet Aid boxes, they are a total scam. LJW did a great article on them years back. There is also a ton of information about their scam on the web. Only 10 percent of the money they make goes to underprivileged people, the rest goes to the organizer's pockets.

rbwaa 7 years, 12 months ago

my sentiments exactly -- they only take donations from lawrence but send the money they make to kcmo...

headdoctor 7 years, 12 months ago

beobachter (anonymous) says... So tell me why I should support Salvation Army store? All the profits go to KC , Mo. Why not Lawrence programs?

That isn't all against them. When they were here before they had a pretty twisted lottery of which families in need that they would work with on cheaper goods. If they get the same collectors working there again or those just like them it wont help. Nothing like the staff stealing the better quality donations for themselves or getting them purchased at below garage sale prices before it is even put out in the store for sale.

Kendall Simmons 7 years, 12 months ago

In regards to the new Salvation Army thift shop scheduled to open in April, Capt. Troy Barker (the KCMO Salvation Army administrator) tells us that items donated in Lawrence will stay in Lawrence this time around, unlike their being shipped to KCMO as in the past.

That probably sounds good to some of you...except that I hope you also realize that the "profits from the [Lawrence] store will go to support The Salvation Army's homeless shelter operation in Kansas City, Mo., and its drug and alcohol treatment programs."

This is the same Salvation Army that, last year, closed down their homeless shelter here in Lawrence and put the burden entirely on the Community Shelter. And now we're encouraged to donate to and buy from the SA to support an out-of-state shelter??? Gimme a break.

Granted, some of you might be impressed by the proposed 13 full time jobs. But ask the SA how much those jobs will pay. And how long they'll last in the same poor location as the previous thrift shop there.

So our donated stuff won't be leaving Lawrence for KCMO. And our homeless won't be leaving for KCMO, either. But our money sure as heck will be heading over to Missouri.

To heck with the Social Service League!!

workinghard 7 years, 12 months ago

I wasn't sure on the wording of the article. I thought it meant the money would go towards the homeless shelter in KC and in addition their drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs everywhere including here. I could be reading it wrong though. It is still better than Planet Aid. Now I'm not sure if Goodwill supports any programs in Lawrence, anyone know? I do know some local places will stop taking donations if they get too many. Usually anything I set outside with a free sign disappears quickly.

May Soo 7 years, 11 months ago

Profits from the store will go to support The Salvation Army’s homeless shelter operations in Kansas City, Mo., and its drug and alcohol treatment programs.

Guess I will never donate to them again.

riverdrifter 7 years, 11 months ago

You want quality second-hand clothes on the cheap? It's called Ebay. Over the past few years I've bought lots of high-end stuff for nickles and dimes on the dollar. Many are NWT.

headdoctor 7 years, 11 months ago

beobachter (anonymous) says... Next year when the bell ringers show up everywhere my response will be. Screw you, my money stays in Lawrence, I don't live in KC. Salvation Army will never get one more cent of my money.

I have been ignoring the bell ringers for almost as many years as I have been ignoring United Way. Same for a lot of the money grubbing preachers with their hands out. If I want my donations to go somewhere else I would donate elsewhere. I don't need them to decide where it is going for me.

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