As people start grappling with the recession, they look for means of saving money. This usually means cutting back on purchases and holding on to items a bit longer than maybe one would in more abundant times. As a result of this behavior, thrift stores in Calgary (and elsewhere) are feeling a pinch. Paraphrasing from an article in the Calgary Herald (March 1 2009):
Calgary’s social agencies are issuing calls for donations of household items as the recession begins to pinch city residents.
“We’ve noticed that people are not going out and buying new things; they’re hanging onto what they have,” said Sparrow. “We’re also seeing new faces in our stores.” At the same time, the agency has experienced a 20 per cent increase in demand for its Free Goods Referral program. Women in transition or coming out of a crisis are referred to the program by one of 60 community agencies and provided a voucher to obtain clothing and household items at a Women In Need thrift store. Sparrow’s organization especially needs dishes, pots and pans, linens, flatware, as well as clothing and accessories, she said. Its Dover-area store also takes furniture. “We’re hoping that when people start thinking about spring cleaning, they think about us and donate,” said Sparrow.
It’s an about-face from the boom, when thrift stores struggled to cope with a flood of donations. Some turned donors away and a few hired security guards to prevent people from dumping unwanted goods on their doorsteps.
Beth Heyd, operations manager of The Salvation Army’s Thrift Stores, estimates donations of household goods have dropped by half. Normally, there’d be a dozen sofas in the furniture section of the Salvation Army’s Horizon Heights stores at 36th Street and 32nd Avenue N. E., she said, but only one or two couches were available on Thursday. “My theory is that you’ll give second thought to buying that new sofa if you’re worried about getting laid off,” said Heyd. Donations of used clothing remain strong, but she’s noticed an increase in professionals, especially women, shopping for used business wear at the thrift stores.
Likewise, the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre put out a call for donations of linens for the 2,000 homeless people who pass through its doors every day. “We are in desperate need of towels and blankets,” said Louise Gallagher, director of public relations and volunteer services for the drop-in centre.
Personally, I get most of my gig clothes from thift stores. My wife and I did a big clean out of our closets today, taking several bags of clothing to a local thrift store. Next time you’re struggling to get through your closet, think about doing the same.