Goodwill stores see business grow

July 23, 2008|By Jasmine Jernberg and Karen Shih | Jasmine Jernberg and Karen Shih,Sun Reporters

Ann Thompson, assistant manager of the Goodwill store in Lake Shore, is used to seeing an eclectic mix of customers bargain-hunting among the racks of clothes. The clientele has been growing in her year there, but even she has been surprised to see doctors and lawyers showing up to shop.

"I see the economy has a large play in it," she said. "I was really shocked when I saw doctors coming in here."

With the economy faltering and prices of goods increasing rapidly, Goodwill is seeing a booming business and opening its fourth store in the county today in Jumpers Junction in Pasadena. "I think people can get a heck of a buy from Goodwill," said Doug Hiob, senior vice president of retail operations. "We are getting more customers because of the economy. ... With us, you can probably get three, four, five pairs" of jeans, for the price at other stores.

Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake served 1.1 million customers last year and this year has served nearly 700,000, putting it on track to surpass its 2007 total.

The stores in Lake Shore, Millersville and Annapolis are among 23 in the Baltimore region, which includes the Eastern Shore. The new location shares a strip mall with several small businesses, including an ALDI discount grocery store.

Aleithea Williams of Pasadena said that although she has shopped at Goodwill stores in the past, she has been going "more recently, more often."

"I've noticed that people are giving up stuff," she said. Shopping for housewares at Goodwill "makes more sense. There's perfectly good stuff here."

But more customers means fewer goods available, said customer Scott Netro of Baltimore, who works in Annapolis. "A year ago, you could have gotten a lot more better-quality stuff without having to look as hard."

Overall donations are down since mid-April, Hiob said.

"I think we'll be fine," he said, though he anticipates increased demand in coming months, with the organization's busiest season, the fall, just around the corner. Regional Goodwill organizations can trade with others if one has a surplus of certain goods, such as clothes or housewares, and different regions have surpluses in different products, he said.

"If the economy does not turn around ... more and more people are going to start discovering us," Hiob said.

The new store at 8124 Ritchie Highway will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9 a.m. today and throughout the day will raffle off prizes, including a flat-screen television and gift certificates to Goodwill. Customers will get extra discounts, including coupons for 20 percent off.

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