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Goodwill Goes Big With Marketing


Analysts obsess over the results of Target, Kohls and Nordstrom. Monthly same store sales figures are used to assess the company’s performance and to gauge the state of consumers’ behaviors. Price comparisons on identical grocery items between Walmart and Target make headlines.

Flying under the analyst’s radar are thrift stores. Resale is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. First Research estimates the resale industry in the U.S. to have annual revenues of approximately $13 billion. Goodwill Industries alone generated $2.69 billion in retail sales from more than 2,500 Not For Profit resale stores across America in 2010. That puts Goodwill in the top 100 retailers of the U.S.

Think resale or thrift shopping is for the down and out? Think again. According to America’s Research Group, a consumer research firm, about 16 – 18 percent of Americans will shop at a thrift store during a given year. For consignment/resale shops, it’s about 12 – 15 percent. To keep these figures in perspective, consider that during the same time frame; 11.4 percent of Americans shop in factory outlet malls, 19.6 percent in apparel stores and 21.3 percent in major department stores.

Goodwill or Old Navy?

As the numbers suggest resale stores are big business. To date, however, those running the operations have taken a”thrifty” approach to branding and marketing. There’s either been little or no branding, marketing or promoting or it’s been done poorly.

Goodwill seems to have snapped out of its marketing zombieness to produce a zippy little newspaper insert. The cover could be mistaken for a “women’s” magazine. Inside appears to have come from Old Navy concepts. While these are modest steps any form of competitive marketing will likely help Goodwill and other resale stores. Of course the randomness of product in the stores can make in-store merchandising spotty, but if Goodwill promotes “the thrill of the hunt” perspective on their eclectic merchandise, store appearance might be turned into an asset.

Perhaps the analysts need to consider evaluating resale and thrift stores for their sagely predictions. Even more importantly retailers like Target, Kohls, Walmart and ShopKo better add Goodwill to their list of competitors to monitor. Goodwill is on a roll.

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