• Search the Site

Upcoming Events

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.

Pricing Strategies for SVdP Thrift Stores, Part 2

Pricing Strategies for SVdP Thrift Stores, Part 2 1512 2016 Jill Pioter

A Discussion by Dave Barringer
National Chief Executive Officer

Different Pricing Concepts to Explore
(catch up on Part One here)

There are many ways to determine a pricing strategy, each with advantages and disadvantages for our thrift business. Here are the most common that may be worth your time and experimentation to try at one or more stores.

Two things to keep in mind: One, pricing is always temporary. Even dollar stores have items that are no longer a dollar. A unit price can rise and fall based on many factors, some quite temporary. Don’t be afraid to try a new higher price, for example, that fails if it does not deliver the desired results. Second, remember our base price was established earlier. Every tweak to your pricing strategy may create sales movement, but your costs in most cases are still the same. You may want to intentionally price below the profit line for a limited time or for limited products, but consistent pricing below this line will kill your business. Likewise, when you change the cost, you need to at least consider a pricing change to accommodate it and maintain the profit component. We can only absorb so much and stay afloat.


Shoppers get excited with a sale! Different items on sale at different times keep up a good level of excitement and keep shoppers returning to the store. We need, however, to manage the process so that these sales are effective in our overall pricing and sales strategies. So, why put things on sale?


If we get so many items donated that we can’t store/warehouse them, or we have so many of the same product, consider discounting them to get them out the door. They might be a good candidate for BOGO (buy one, get one) for limited time. If the items are seasonal, such as shorts or Christmas items, sales can be an effective way to get them sold while demand is high. You make up the profits through quantities sold. However, again, if you are selling below our profit line, no quantity will help — you only lose more money with each item sold!

Loss Leading

Retailers place an artificially low price on certain items to drive store traffic increases. Through ads, word of mouth and in-store signage, a too-good-to-be-true price can bring in more shoppers. We see this most commonly for Black Friday sales in attempt to get people into the store and then to buy other things at more profitable prices. Thrift stores can use this strategy, usually by category (“All glassware 50% off this week!”) because we don’t have enough of a single item to make it work. However, you could consider using inexpensively purchased goods, or a large quantity of goods donated by a retailer or manufacturer, to make this work. Pricing, however, must be synched up with promotion and processing to make this work correctly.

Seasonal Sales

We know that some periods of the year bring us fewer or more shoppers. Every thrift store sees more customers between September and December, because we enjoy back-to-school, Halloween, and Christmas purchases. In some areas, weather dictates the selling season. With this knowledge, you can adjust your pricing strategy. Consider lower prices during down customer periods. First, it attracts more and repeat customers. Second, you may make less on each item but sell more items, keeping your profit per transaction closer to normal.

Value-Based Pricing

We get the history of mankind donated to our Stores program! Therefore, when we recognize an antique or collectible, we can price it closer to its real-world value instead of keeping it priced with all of the other similar but not rare items. For example, you may price all those baseball cards at twenty-five cents, but that Mantle rookie card worth $50,000 in the collectibles marketplace deserves a higher price (and probably gets pulled for an online sale). We want customers to find treasures, but when we see an obvious item of great value — jewelry, watches, art, fur coats, signed items, rare books, whatever — we owe it to our mission to get as much value as we can from it.

Good-Better-Best vs. Unit Pricing

Within the thrift industry, there are two schools of pricing thought. The Unit Pricing strategy says that every shirt is priced the same as every other shirt. A Good-Better-Best strategy says that we can divide shirts into two or more categories, each with its own price, depending on the perceived value. This value may be considered due to manufacturer/store brand or fashion or materials. Each strategy can work, but we need to look at the big picture. Unit pricing creates more speed in the processing area because fewer decisions need to be made, and all the labels look the same. If filling the racks consistently and fully is a challenge, you can’t slow down processing to make these decisions for the sake of what often amounts to small gains. Recognize too that customers will argue over which shirt belongs in each category — beauty (and proper price) is in the eye of the beholder.

Rotation Pricing

A popular and effective store strategy is to place all goods for sale into a rotation system. This means that each week, the piece changes downward from full price through various points to an ultimate clearance price. Why? Because we know from more than 100 years and thousands of stores in this business two important truths. One, overall you will only sell about 50 percent of what you collect. Two, 75% of what you will sell is sold within the first two weeks on sale, and 50% in the first three days!  Therefore, full price is appropriate for the first week or two, followed in the third week by a discount, and then the fourth week is a price that only needs to be higher than what you will get from its salvage sale, such as a dollar a unit or by-the-bag price. This system maximizes realized profit values, and the customer decides what price they want to pay. They can pay full price when they first see it, or risk having someone else snap it up while they wait for a discount. With our usually one-of-a-kind items, this system works!

An alternative to the Rotation Pricing system is still to put everything on a rotation basis, but to wait until the last week or even only a few days of the item’s shelf life and then heavily discount it with no intermediate prices.

Clearance Sales

Some stores believe in a once monthly clearance sale, where everything in the store (okay, maybe a few exceptions such as antiques or furniture) is either a set very low price (“Everything a dollar!”) or set percentage (“Today only, everything 90% off!”) or full retail price. While this creates short-term excitement, it is risky. Are you training customers to only come in once a month? Are you accused of over-pricing goods at the beginning so that the clearance price just looks better? And most importantly, again, your costs have not changed, so will this strategy still cover them adequately and make the needed profit? With this system, you willingly sacrifice the profit from the items in their first and second weeks on sale because everything, even the freshest inventory, gets caught up in the same clearance sale.

Trickle or Tsunami Pricing

Having a long-range pricing strategy can help reduce customer ill will. A price increase of 40 percent across all items and all at one time might create shopper riots! But smaller increases, different per category and with a little at a time, is normal business in every other store in which they shop. We benefit as well from most items being unique, so shoppers don’t compare from one shopping trip to another quite so much. Know where you need to go and have a plan to get there that mediates sticker shock.

NEXT TIME: Part Three – Knowing What Actually Works

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


Sign Up for Our Newsletter

    Privacy Preferences

    When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in the form of cookies. Here you can change your Privacy preferences. It is worth noting that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we are able to offer.

    Click to enable/disable Google Analytics tracking code.
    Click to enable/disable Google Fonts.
    Click to enable/disable Google Maps.
    Click to enable/disable video embeds.
    Our website uses cookies, mainly from 3rd party services. Define your Privacy Preferences and/or agree to our use of cookies.
    Skip to content