Thrift-Store Sales Rise, But Donations Fall
"We need to get the word out that the Salvation Army is helping people in need," Marks said.
When donations go down, outreach operations must accelerate.
And it's even tougher when families choose to resell rather than donate their stuff. Sometimes items go to for-profit stores where parents can sell one set of kid clothes to offset the cost of the next.
"We have seen an increase" in inventory, said Susan Baustian, director for the national used-goods chain Once Upon a Child.
The economy is one reason, she said. "Everybody wants to stretch their dollar a little more."
The same is true for adult clothing.
"In December and January especially, there was an influx of people coming in and selling their stuff," said Maggie Andrade of Vintage YSJ in downtown Sacramento. "They'd rather get a few bucks for it than give it away."
Donors may choose to sell to boutiques, but shoppers still go to the thrift stores.
"I wouldn't go pay full price for this stuff," said Christina Pate, an art graduate student shopping for art supplies at a Sacramento Salvation Army store.
Money is not the only motivation for shoppers.
A few years ago, Shelley Biermann made a vow to stop buying new clothing.
"I've always been a recycler," Biermann said, explaining that it was a way to cut down on consumption. "It's not so much the price."
Recycling is even used to market used clothing.
The Crossroads Trading Co. chain of stores had online contests under the banner "Green and Gorgeous" to promote the idea of secondhand sexiness.
Whatever the motivation, shoppers like Biermann have made some terrific buys.
And, she admits, she just likes shopping.
"Shopping appeals to my hunter-gatherer primal instinct," Biermann said. "I need to do it."
True, said Vintage YSJ's Andrade. "We [women] buy clothes just to buy clothes."