Recession brings more customers into thrift stores
For small business owners, predictions of a recession mean one thing: Tough times.
With less disposable income, the number of shoppers tends to dwindle, while those who do shop make fewer purchases. For store owners, it means it is hard making ends meet.
For Linda Maher, though, the recent talk of a recession has translated into an increase in business.
The manager of the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Framingham, Maher said she has seen more shoppers than ever before as more and more people come looking for bargains.
"I don't know the exact number, but we're seeing a lot more people coming in," she said. "We're seeing people with families, with young kids, they're coming in and buying kids' clothes.
"It's a pretty mixed variety of people. People that are donating will come in because they need to get a tax receipt, and they start looking and they say, 'Oh, wow!' We have people who come here every day."
At the Bethany House Hope Chest in Millis, business has been so good the store several months ago expanded, adding the Bethany House Threads of Hope clothing store next to its original location.
"I would say (we're seeing) more people," the manager, Ruth Raichle, said yesterday. "As more and more people get to know us we're getting more people coming in. It's a fun place to shop. We have really good deals for little money."
Not every thrift store in the region, though, is seeing benefits from the economic downturn.
"What's happening is people are not donating because they're using clothing longer, and they're obviously not buying as much," said Mark Pochesci, general manager of Global Thrift Store in Waltham.
With fewer items being donated, Pochesci said, fewer customers are coming into the store.
"The best years we've experienced are usually during years when the stock market has done well," he said.
As their stock of items dwindles, the store has even had trouble meeting the demand of providing items to local homeless shelters, he said.
"There's a huge outcry for clothing there," Pochesci said. "But if we don't get the clothing, then we have a difficult time even fulfilling that need."
While she has seen a spike in the number of shoppers, Elaine Schwartz, manager of the Salvation Army store in Hudson, said many people are buying less, meaning the organization has not seen a similar increase in profits.
"They're really watching what they're buying," she said.
More than 150 customers came into the store this past Saturday, Schwartz said, a 50 percent increase from the 100 they would normally see on a weekend.
Many shoppers, though, seemed to be only browsing, with plans to return on Wednesday when items typically go on sale.
"We're seeing a lot of young people coming in," she said. "They're looking for brand names. Parents can't afford it anymore, so they come down here."
Peter Reuell can be reached at 508-626-4428, or at email@example.com.
MetroWest Daily News