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Thrift Store Staffing Models & Engagement

Thrift Store Staffing Models & Engagement 1200 628 Jill Pioter

By John Thelen, Mideast Region – Diocese of Lansing

Throughout the country, there are three SVdP Thrift Store Staffing Models. Stores are either staffed by paid employees, staffed by volunteers, or some combination of the two. Whichever staffing model is used, a key factor in a store’s success is staff engagement. If staff/volunteers are not invested in the work of our great mission, the store will not reach its full potential.

It is important for staff/volunteers to be aware of our mission. Why do we do what we do? Let us be honest, sorting socks and underwear is not a very glamorous job. However, when you know why you are doing what you are doing, it makes the most tedious jobs tolerable.

What might help keep your staff/volunteers engaged? Make sure they are aware of your store’s mission. What do you do with your store proceeds after expenses are paid? In addition to providing employment/volunteer opportunities, do you help our Neighbors in Need with clothing, furniture, and household items? Does your store have a food pantry or assist Neighbors with rent, utilities, prescriptions, car repairs, etc.? Make sure everyone is aware of the types of assistance your store provides.

Another way to increase engagement is regularly (monthly) sharing pertinent statistics that staff/volunteers might find interesting, including the total number of donations received, total number of requests for assistance, and gross sales for the month. Maybe list the statistics you would like to share by month, showing every month of the fiscal year for comparison purposes.

Celebrate your successes. You can always find a reason to provide some type of treat to your staff/volunteers.  If you hit a high month in donations or sales, put a sign in the break room and pick up Klondike Bars and tell staff/volunteers to help themselves from the freezer. Be sure to have enough to cover all shifts for a particular week. Maybe grill hot dogs/brats and provide chips when the weather is conducive to grilling. Most people like pizza — let staff know you will be providing pizza to say ‘Thank You’ for all they do to support our mission. Maybe have an annual Christmas Dinner after work and invite staff/volunteers and guests. Share a brief program letting everyone know the impact they are making to help our Neighbors in Need.

If your staffing model does not currently include volunteers, think about reaching out to your parish members to make them aware of volunteer opportunities. Personally invite parishioners to a group gathering at your store to let them know the types of volunteer activities you have available. If you are not sure who to ask, start the process by going through your parish pictorial directory. This will help recognize people that you think might be interested in supporting our SVdP mission. Another volunteer recruitment option is a short bulletin notice in neighboring parish bulletins. You might consider sending it to other denominations to collaborate with the churches in your community.

Volunteers are great advocates to tell our story in the community. If your volunteers feel engaged, they will tell/invite others to become involved. When they are engaged, they feel more committed to showing up for their shift(s). Make sure your volunteer shifts are manageable lengths of time and encourage your volunteers to take a break partway through their shift to converse and build relationships with other volunteers. Once they get to know one another, they look forward to coming in.

Provide snacks in the break room. Maybe offer individual bags of snacks, chips, crackers, fruit snacks, peanuts, pop, coffee & water.

If you have a large number of active/regular volunteers, make sure the volunteers know what they are scheduled to do when they arrive. Either post a schedule or have someone assigned to let them know what you would like them to do for their shift. To know who will be there on a particular day, create a schedule for the day/shift, so you are aware of your workforce for each shift. If volunteers know they will not be able to come on a particular shift, have a monthly wall calendar where they can note if they will not be coming for a particular shift.

Volunteers & staff can be great advocates to tell your story in the community.

Hopefully you or another SVdP Council/Conference/Store member will be attending the Mid-Year Meeting in St. Louis, MO in March. Please consider attending the Stores Meeting on Wednesday.  An agenda is included in this article. New this year will be a Stores Committee table in the Vendor area on Wednesday and Thursday. Please stop by to meet and talk with some of the Store Committee members.

If you have a topic that you would like addressed in a future Stores Corner article, please e-mail Jeff Beamguard, Director of Stores Support.

Pricing Strategies for SVdP Thrift Stores, Part 3

Pricing Strategies for SVdP Thrift Stores, Part 3 1500 1125 Jill Pioter

A Discussion by Dave Barringer
National Chief Executive Officer

Knowing What Actually Works
(catch up on Part One and Part Two)

How Do We Know What Works?

Which pricing strategies and tools work best for your store? Here is what you must do to get to this answer.

  1. Know the store’s mission. Some thrift stores are designed to make the most money possible and then use the profits to fund other SVDP programs that have no funding on their own. Other stores are designed with a specific charitable intent to give away a lot of goods, but they still need to make some profit to pay the bills and stay in business. Both are fine, but you can’t do both at the same time! Your Board of Directors and leadership need to know clearly how stores fit into the overall SVDP program. Pricing strategy follows.
  2. Know our customers. In part due to the above, everything from your store location to pricing needs to be based on your anticipated customers. If you are giving away so much, maybe your store is in a poor area of the city and prices need to be lower. Usually, however, our best customers are middle-income shoppers who have many choices where to spend their retail dollars. The store therefore needs to be where these shoppers live and shop other retailers, and prices can be set higher and still be affordable. A common, historical, view of thrift stores is that these are stores where poor people shop. Most current thrift stores are designed for middle-income people both to donate and shop, with profits going to assist the poor.
  3. Test, test, test! The beauty of pricing is that you can change it. Consider a new pricing strategy in just one of our multiple stores, or in just one department if you have only one store. Check staff and customer observations and reactions. Certainly, check the differences in sales and profits. You will likely need at least one month, maybe several for some ideas, to see if a new program is working effectively.
  4. Pro testing tip: Test only one thing at a time. For example, don’t run a new advertising campaign at the same time as new price points. Which one brought more people to the store? Which one created more sales? It can be hard to tell. The more you isolate any factor, the easier it is to measure. By the way, advertising brings people to the store, while pricing, customer service and enough goods on the shelves create more sales. Advertising often gets too much credit for sales, when it should only be measured for store traffic. But that’s another article…
  5. Use the POS! A Point of Sale (POS) system is a tremendous resource in evaluating pricing strategies. Using categories, price points, units sold vs. processed etc., gives you a great deal of useful information that can help you evaluate pricing change effectiveness over time and department/category. Sometimes what feels like success, such as increased store activity, is disproven by cold, hard facts when it comes to profitability.


Effective thrift store pricing can be designed to create shopper excitement, drive additional sales, and maintain needed profits. It must be designed with the end in mind – your goals for the store program amidst the rest of the Society’s goals. Pricing must be considered in the context of the neighborhood economy, the competition, and the availability of continuous product flow. Finally, pricing strategy and execution can be, and must be evaluated to ensure that “you get what others are paying for” in funds for the Society’s mission and activities. In the end, we are not retailers. We are used goods collectors and resellers working to advance our mission. Effective pricing leaves no potential dollars on the table that we could be using to serve people in need. Please do not be afraid to raise prices. After all, your costs probably have risen, and you need to cover these costs just as any other retailer. However, please do be somewhat afraid to lower your prices. The first cents taken off are always your profit!

If you have a topic that you would like addressed in a future Stores Corner article, please e-mail Jeff Beamguard, National Director of Stores Support.

Stores Corner: Redeeming Vouchers Can Be an Emotional Journey

Stores Corner: Redeeming Vouchers Can Be an Emotional Journey 1200 628 Jill Pioter

By Mike McClanahan, Council of Phoenix, AZ

Redeeming vouchers at SVdP stores is an important way that stores support Vincentians in their vocation of helping those in need, and every Council has different ways of doing this. Here’s one way they do it in Phoenix.

“Bringing Hope Home” helps homeless families that get a new place to live with furnishings. Donors sponsor these families, and those funds are used to purchase an SVdP care cards. The care cards are then given to the families, and they shop the Phoenix stores to buy what they need and want. The transportation team will then pick up the items selected by the families and deliver those to their homes.

Please see this flyer for more on the “Bringing Hope Home” program in Phoenix, AZ.

Please contact your local National Store’s Committee representative for examples of successful centralized processing retail operations. More detailed information and tours can be arranged.

Connect with a Region Rep to learn more about what they are doing in your area – list of committee members can be found under the Resources drop down at https://www.svdpusa-thriftstore.org/.

Stores Board Looking for Volunteer Treasurer

Stores Board Looking for Volunteer Treasurer 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

The National SVdP Stores Board of Directors is searching for a Volunteer Treasurer.

Role and Responsibilities of the Volunteer Treasurer

The Treasurer shall be responsible for overseeing the corporate funds and maintenance of full and accurate accounts of receipts and disbursements in books (official records) belonging to the corporation and the deposit of all monies and to the credit of the corporation in such depositories for the local bookkeeper at the National Store as designated by the Store Support Director. The Treasurer shall be a liaison between the bookkeeper and the COO/CFO for the National Council of the U.S., Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Inc.

Store Support Director shall approve all expenses and go over the monthly QuickBooks reports before going to the Treasurer.

The Treasurer shall be a member of the Board of Directors (BOD) and attend meetings on a bimonthly schedule. The Treasurer informs BOD members of the Store’s financial position and approval of the monthly reports by submitting a written statement at every meeting. The Treasurer approves a budget for the Store, which shall be approved annually.

The Treasurer should have supervisory accounting experience that can review the current accounting processes and procedures, implementing improvements where necessary and can serve as the “eyes and ears” for the BOD.

To apply, contact Jeff Beamguard at jbeamguard@svdpusa.org or Diane Smith Melloy at dianesmithmelloy@gmail.com.

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