Pawnshops Rise Above Reputation

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 12:00 am  

Customers looking for curbside appeal might be surprised to find that Braswell & Sons, a shop on Markham Street in Little Rock, isn't a jewelry store.

That's certainly the vibe the store gives off, as shoppers are treated to bright lights and suited employees polishing glass display cases. But the LCD televisions and DVDs against one wall reveal the shop's true identity.

Douglas Braswell joined his family's business in 1993 after deciding against a career as an accountant. He now has two shops in Little Rock, one in Conway and another opening in Bryant. He's made it one of his goals to create inviting environments.

"We try to have a clean, inviting place," he said. "It's what you wouldn't anticipate; it's a place you wouldn't call a 'pawnshop.' We try to expand our market by surprising people. They come in, they're treated nicely, and hey, they're going to come back."


Corporate Pawnshops

Shops like Pacer Ltd. and Braswell & Sons are typical of the pawnbroker world, where businesses tend to stay local and family owned. "Our business is largely about relationships," Braswell said. "We're taking care of people."

"The majority of pawnshops across the country are mom-and-pop shops," said Collier. "According to the National Pawnbrokers Association, pawn customers tend to do business within a 20-mile radius of their homes."

During the Christmas season, pawnshops find themselves in competition with big retail.

"We try to compete on a level like some of the big-box stores do," said Stan Thomas, proprietor of Big Brothers Pawn, which has four locations in northwest Arkansas. "We have the right type of merchandise displays, they're clean and orderly, and we're customer friendly."

Thomas said he considers his 5,000- to 8,000-SF shops "upscale," intentionally selecting premium locations to foster that impression.

Environment makes a big difference, said Collier. "It's hard to get that warm, fuzzy feeling if you're walking into a big Wal-Mart superstore," he said.



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