Spike in resale business creates need for stores

Posted on July 20, 2012

A Tuesday jobs fair by the Salvation Army Thrift Stores is a sign that Metro Detroiters’ love for a bargain is creating new stores and employment in the region’s emerging charitable resale industry.

Salvation Army Southeast Adult Rehabilitation Center, which oversees the Southeastern Michigan stores, is seeking to hire nearly 200 workers for its 33 shops and three warehouses through the two-day job fair, which started Tuesday and runs today from 9 a.m. to noon at ARC, 1627 W. Fort at 10thStreet in Detroit.

Positions include dock workers, merchandise processors, cashiers and sales clerks, truck drivers and store managers. Pay for full and part-time jobs is $8 to $10 an hour or, in the case of managerial jobs, commensurate with experience.

“We are trying to find energetic, qualified individuals who can help Southeastern Michigan Salvation Army to grow,” said Jacqulynn Idzior, director of operations for the Salvation Army ARC, who will be conducting some of the interviews.

The seven-hour event Tuesday drew more than 800 job applicants, according to a fair spokeswoman. They included James Countee of Detroit, who said he accepted help from the Salvation Army four years ago, formed a family and bought a house, but recently lost his job.

ARC’s revenues jumped to $42million in 2011 from $30 million in 2008, a 40 percent increase in three years. It is on track this year to hit $46.8 million, Idzior said.

The growth is being generated by opening more stores, including shops in Highland Township in Oakland County and Frenchtown Township in Monroe County. New locations in Taylor and Ypsilanti are scheduled for next year, each employing about 35 workers. This year, the New Baltimore store is moving to Chesterfield Township, and existing stores in Southfield and Livonia are expanding, Idzior said.

“The job fair is to fill existing openings, not for the future stores,” she said.

Similarly, Goodwill Industries of Detroit, a nonprofit that specializes in job training and placement, is reporting better-than-expected business since opening its first Michigan resale shop in December 2010 in retail-rich Canton Township.

A second store is to open in Dearborn in early September, with hopes of adding 18 more in the next 10 years, reflecting a charitable industry trend that extends beyond the Salvation Army.

“We were the only Goodwill chapter in the statenot tohave a Goodwill store, so we felt very strongly about having this for the community,” said Mark Lane, Goodwill’s director of public relations and special events.

More than 70,000 shoppers visited the Canton location in the first year, and it’s on target to be a $1 million store, Lane said. Goodwill Industries hopes to replicate those results at the Dearborn location, he said.

The charitable resale industry’s growth is a result of the troubled economy, said University of Michigan research specialist Donald Grimes, who follows labor and the economy.

“There are a lot of people who became poor with unemployment, then lost their house and other assets,” Grimes said. “This absence of income flow and wealth has created a customer base” for resale shops like those run by the Salvation Army, which sells clothing, furniture and other goods at discounted prices.

Customers who have returned to work likely have remained loyal shoppers, Idzior said.

“They keep shopping here because they’ve discovered we’re a good bargain,” she said, “and we’re filled with a lot of great finds.”

The green movement, with people vowing to reuse and recycle, means more green in the cash register, Idzior added.

Still, store donations are down for the year, she said.

“This winter, we really struggled,” Idzior said. People have hit “eBay, Craigslist and hosted their own garage sales to sell the items they once donated, or they are wearing the clothes longer.”

She hopes the job fair might remind people to donate, rather than sell. The ARC offers substance-abusing adults the opportunity to rebuild their lives through a voluntary, short-term residential program, which is completely financed from the revenue of the Salvation Army Thrift Stores.

“Donations are our lifeblood,” she said.

Hosting a job fair is a clever way to remind the public a company is out there, as well as way to attract good-quality people, Grimes said. It also speaks well of the economy.

“A job fair like this is going to be increasingly common in 2012,” Grimes said.

“The labor market is getting increasingly tight, so it’s going to be more necessary to improve the match between employers and employees.”
By: Rene Wisely, The Detroit News