Goodwill, Savers Thrift Stores Find New Venues

by Robert Bell  on Monday, Aug. 9, 2010 12:00 am  

Brian Itzkowitz, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Arkansas, said the current retail climate has made large spaces more affordable for the nonprofit.

Back in the olden days, the local thrift shop was often housed in a rundown storefront in a strip center that was 15 years past its prime, locations that were acceptable to a mixed clientele of low-income households and intrepid bargain-hunters.

In recent years, however, thrift shopping has become socially acceptable and many thrift stores have gone pro - more like a T.J. Maxx than a musty-smelling church basement. Several have set up shop in Arkansas in the last couple of years in suburban power centers, empty big-box stores and other prime retail locations. 

In July, Goodwill Industries of Arkansas signed a lease for the former Circuit City building in west Little Rock. An opening date has not yet been announced, but when the store opens, it will have about 19,000 SF of retail space, said Brian Itzkowitz, president and CEO of Goodwill in Arkansas.

"We are looking for the same real estate and the same locations that your normal retailers are looking for," Itzkowitz said - namely, locations "that are convenient and in high-traffic areas. Especially if you're looking from a donor base, you want to be able to attract donors and make it very convenient for them to get in and get out."

Savers of Bellevue, Wash., a for-profit chain that partners with local nonprofits, recently opened two more stores in Arkansas. A 28,000-SF store opened in April at Bowman Station in west Little Rock in a former CompUSA. In July, a 33,000-SF Savers opened in what had been a Linens 'N Things on Rogers Avenue in Fort Smith.

"Due to the fallout of some of the big box guys - Circuit City, CompUSA, Linens - that's been an opportunity for us," said David Cree, director of real estate for Savers.

Resale is a multibillion-dollar business. According to the industry group NARTS: The Association of Resale Professionals, Goodwill had 2009 revenue of $2.8 billion, with the majority generated by its 2,324 thrift stores.

Adele Meyer, executive director of the group, said she had noticed some increase in the number of thrift stores opening in former big-box spaces.

"I know Goodwill and sometimes Salvation Army and Volunteers of America have been going into some bigger buildings that maybe Kmart or something else vacated that was large like that," she said. "There are a lot of those buildings empty now."

Meyer said that her organization hadn't seen a huge increase in the number of thrift stores opening in former big box locations, but it was happening.


Goodwill Growth



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