Thriving thrift: Tahoe nonprofit thrift store approaches record sales
May 21, 2013
What: Tahoe Family Solutions Thrift Store
Location: 797 Southwood Blvd., Incline Village
When Incline Village resident Dany Foster purchased office supplies early Tuesday afternoon at the Tahoe Family Solutions Thrift Store, she helped the store take another step toward reaching a revenue milestone.
This fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, the thrift shop has surpassed its budget goal of $160,000 in gross earnings, and is projecting to close up $200,000.
"That would be a record for us," said Robin Glasgow, executive director of Tahoe Family Solutions, the local nonprofit organization that operates the thrift store.
Over the past few years, the store has seen its gross earnings steadily increase. In 2010-11, the store made approximately $120,000, while in 2011-12 it made $158,000, Glasgow said.
“I’d rather give the money to something that goes toward helping people rather than going out and buying something brand new.”
Incline Village resident
Viki Boyes, thrift store manager, cites several reasons for why business is going so well — people are spending more carefully due to the economy, the number of donations the store is receiving is up and the stigma of shopping at a thrift shop is a thing of the past.
"The great thing is it's a melting pot," Glasgow said. "You have people coming here to shop, looking for a treasure (who) are living in a $5 million home, and you have people who come here looking for a $1 T-shirt, who are not in that (well-off income) situation.
Walking through the store, organized racks of clothing, children's toys, household furniture, kitchenware, books, movies, recreational equipment, office supplies, electronics and many more goods can be seen, ranging in price from 10 cents to $300.
"There's something for everybody here," said Incline Village resident Lisa Raihall, as she perused a rack of women's shirts.
Boyes said the store's merchandise, which is donated, is priced based on what it is and its quality or brand. Helping sort through the donations and tag the items are the store's volunteers.
"We couldn't bring all that money to the bottom line without them," Glasgow said.
In the processing room, at the west end of the 4,000-square-foot store, three volunteers were busy sorting through a pile of donated clothing Tuesday afternoon.
"People are so generous in this town," said volunteer Cindy McClelland. "It's amazing. We are so fortunate to have such great people who donate so many wonderful things. It just never ends."
For the greater good
As with any small business, the TFS thrift store has to use some of its revenue to pay for rent, utility bills and staff — in this case the store manager — but unlike other small businesses, leftover funds don't become profit. Instead, they're funneled back into the community, Glasgow said.
TFS, which seeks to strengthen the family fabric in the Tahoe Basin, offers three main programs: mental health services such as therapy and counseling, a summer camp for first- through fourth-graders, and a homework help club for first- through third-graders.
"The thrift shop is the hub for all of this," said Glasgow. "… (When) another couch goes out the door, somebody got a tremendous bargain on it, but how we look at it is, OK, there are two more kids at camp for a week."
Glasgow said he expects 50 percent to 55 percent of the thrift store's income will go back into TFS programs this year, using the money where it's most needed. Overall, the shop provides about 25 percent of the nonprofit's income, which has an annual budget of $380,000.
"I'd rather give the money to something that goes toward helping people rather than going out and buying something brand new," Foster said.
Regional thrift shops also are seeing sales trending upward.
"We're always busy," said Sherry Gray, who helps manage Incline Village's Presbyterian Women's Thrift Shop, also located in the Village Center.
She said the store's sales are up from last year, but declined to give exact numbers. As a for where that money goes — after expenses — its donated to several organizations: Care Corps International, Village Church Preschool and Young Life in Incline Village, among others.
The Tahoe Forest Hospital Hospice Thrift stores in Kings Beach and Truckee have seen an increase in shoppers since the economic recession hit, said Paige Thomason, director of marketing and communications for Tahoe Forest Hospital District.
In Tahoe City, Pass It On Thrift is also doing well, said store owner Heather Soloman.
On a national scale, resale continues to be one of the fastest growing segments in retail, according to NARTS: The Association of Resale Professionals. It's estimated that the U.S. resale industry generates approximately $13 billion in revenue, with Goodwill Industries generating $2.69 billion of that from more than 2,500 nonprofit resale stores in 2010.
The goal for the TFS Thrift Store is to generate $250,000 in revenue in the 2016-17 fiscal year and provide a third of all funding to TFS, Glasgow said.
"The thrift store industry is a little bit bullet proof," Glasgow said. "In a down economy, things are compressed, people need to have goods. In an up economy, there's still that treasure hunt — there's still that desire from anybody, from any income level to come in and find that perfect piece."