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Thrifty Holidays

Some thrift stores report better sales during bad economy

December 7, 2008
By RICHARD NILSEN /The Leader-Herald

With the economy in the doldrums, business in some thrift shops and second-hand stores is picking up or at least holding its own.

Deb Sauber at Panache in Gloversville said while her sales are steady, those bringing consignment clothing in for sale are definitely on the increase.

"Retail sales are consistent with last year," Sauber said Tuesday. "What has increased about 45 percent is consigners."

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Ralph L. Savage II, left, a volunteer at Helpers Community Services, Gloversville, folds a pair of slacks as owner Viola Vertucci bags other items at the register Thursday.

Sauber said she has been turning people away with clothing to consign for sale. She's at her limit.

"People are looking to thrift stores first," she said. "If they can't find it here, they go to the malls."

Sauber said her clothing is handled several times in cleaning and steaming to reveal any stains which would reject the clothing from sale.

Alfred Vanderbilt, a spokesman for Goodwill Stores in New York and New Jersey, said sales in those two states "are up 6.8 percent over the same 10-month period from January to November last year."

He said sales for October and November spiked.

"We had a record October, up 12 percent from last year, and November figures may be even higher," he said.

Vanderbilt said in a Goodwill store in Westchester County, he recently saw an Italian suit that retailed for $1,700 new, selling for $8.

"We are now seeing people deliberately shop for ensembles and winter clothes for their children where they would have gone to the mall previously," he said.

Vanderbilt said donations were up at Goodwill as well, but suspected as the recession deepened, that would fall off.

Goodwill has an Amsterdam store.

"We are up 10 percent in donations over last year," he said. "But as the bad economy hits us, it will go down, and that will negatively affect our programs for the disabled."

Goodwill representative Jose Medellin said of the 168 Goodwill stores in North America that he oversees, he is seeing about a 7.1 percent increase in sales in the first 10 months of the year as opposed to last year.

In comparison, figures for 2007 over 2006 were up about 5.2 percent in sales and 8.2 percent in donations.

At Helpers Community Store in Gloversville, volunteer Debbie Nevik said the store has been very busy. She said she has volunteered there for four years and had seen business spike recently.

"We have people coming in for children's toys and clothing who are amazed at our quality and quantity," she said. "We are seeing more and more younger people with babies coming here to shop."

She said in such hard economic times, people have to cut back on expenses somewhere.

"If they can get low-cost clothing, they can use that money to pay for heat," she said.

At Grumpy's Bargain Mart in Gloversville, Don Young said business is up this year.

"A lot of people went out to look but not buy on Black Friday," Young said. "But I'm up this year."

He said many people were looking for Christmas items and decorations at big discounts. Since he buys at auctions and buys over-runs and overstocked items below wholesale, Young said he can find many things far below what one would expect to pay.

At Double Eagle Coins in Gloversville, owner George Romeyn sells used DVDs and VHS tapes, besides coinage and collectibles.

He said business was brisk when gold and silver spiked to $1,000 and $22 per ounce earlier this year. Now that gold and silver have fallen to about $780 and $9 an ounce, respectively, sales as well as those seeking to sell their precious metals and coins are down.

Still, Romeyn said, business has picked up since Black Friday for holiday sales.

"Business has been steady on tapes and DVDs," he said Wednesday. "When [shoppers] can get a DVD for $2 here instead of $10 or $15 new, it's worth their while."

Romeyn said he has seen more people trying to sell used DVDs and VHS tapes, but he is careful about quality and sometimes sends them away.

Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at



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