Thrift shops report sales have increased
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In October, unemployment was 6.7 percent in Allegheny County and 6.8 percent in neighboring Washington County - both lower than the statewide unemployment average of 8.1 percent that month.
According to recent figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, 13,500 jobs were added in Allegheny County in the year preceding October, but 44,600 people remained unemployed in the county that month.
As the slow economic recovery continues, sales are up at local Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul and Salvation Army resale stores.
At the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store on Library Road in Castle Shannon, assistant manager Laurie Heisler has seen an increase in sales over the past two years.
"Women's clothing is most popular, and miscellaneous ... knicknacks, toasters, mixers, that sort of thing," she said.
At Goodwill, sales have increased by almost 50 percent since summer 2009, said David Tobiczyk, vice president of marketing for Goodwill Industries International Inc. of Pittsburgh.
Since then, Goodwill has added stores in Robinson, Lawrenceville, Gibsonia, Murrysville and Natrona Heights, partly in response to increased demand but also to bring in additional revenue to provide job training for those with physical or intellectual disabilities and for those who have been incarcerated, he said.
In 2011, Goodwill provided skill testing, education, job training and placement services to more than 61,000 people, he said.
Women's clothing continues to be the biggest seller at Goodwill stores, Mr. Tobiczyk said. Toys and stuffed animals also are popular, he said.
Goodwill's ComputerWorks store inside the charity's retail shop at 125 51st St., Lawrenceville, is doing very well, he said. The nonprofit once again is offering its "Good to Go" refurbished computer systems at other Goodwill locations this holiday season.
The "Good to Go," boxed computer systems include a desktop computer, Windows 7 operating system, CD burner and DVD player, monitor and cables for $199.99, he said.
At the Goodwill Outlet store near Route 30 in North Versailles, customers can buy clothing and other items that haven't sold at other Goodwill stores for a discounted price per pound, he said.
The price at the outlet store is about 99 cents per pound for the first 49 pounds of merchandise purchased, then 59 cents per pound for 50 pounds of items or more. The store serves the McKeesport area and areas south as well as the eastern suburbs.
On Monday night, customers sorted through bright blue bins at the outlet, some with two or three shopping carts piled high.
Krista Carrillo of McKeesport, there with her son Kris, said she shops at the outlet four or five times per week for "everything," including women's clothes and toys. She said her best find on Monday was a pair of women's suede boots.
John Simpson of Monroeville said Target and other retailers donate new clothing to Goodwill that still has tags on it. He was at the store Monday examining two of his purchases, a hand vacuum and a Dirt Devil electric broom.
Pauline Pickett of Penn Hills was buying Christmas decorations, which she said she will re-donate after the holidays rather than store them. She also was looking at women's clothing.
Martina O'Leary, administrator for business for the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Centers, who is responsible for the charity's thrift stores, said the organization's resale stores have seen increased sales over the past year.
"Nationally, we've noted an increase in sales over the last several years as many Americans discover the joy of thrifting and others simply try to stretch dollars in their family's budget," she wrote in an email.
Holiday sales figures for this year are not yet available.
Clothing makes up about 60 percent of the Salvation Army stores' inventory, according to Ms. O'Leary, with women's clothing the store's No. 1 seller, making up about half of clothing sales.
Men's and children's clothes make up about one-quarter each of all clothing sales.
Furniture accounts for about 6 percent of Salvation Army store sales, and the rest is bric-a-brac, electronics, housewares and other miscellaneous items and accessories, she added.
The Salvation Army hasn't opened any new stores locally since 2008 but is looking for property that fits the criteria for the charity's new family stores, which are larger and have better lighting and wider aisles than traditional thrift stores, according to Ms. O'Leary.
She said the proceeds from donated items at Salvation Army stores fund the nonprofit's Adult Rehabilitation Centers for men and women who have lost everything because of drug or alcohol addiction and who are dealing with homelessness.
The Salvation Army has more than 100 of the centers nationwide, including on South Ninth Street in Pittsburgh, she said.
First Published December 13, 2012 5:04 am