Local Goodwill stores now selling items online

(Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Online shopping is transforming retail as we know it, but it's not only major chains that are adapting to the trend.

Local Goodwill stores are now expanding their business to the web. Mindy Boyd, Vice President of Donated Goods at Goodwill, said nationwide, retailers are feeling the pinch and Goodwill is no different.

"We've noticed a decline in foot traffic in our stores. That's not unique to Goodwill," Boyd said. Goodwill's retail sales struggled to meet sales targets in 2016.

Brand name items are popular bargains found at Goodwill.
Brand name items are popular bargains found at Goodwill.

Boyd said it was time to take the product to the shoppers; a platform that's 24/7 and only a click away.

"As millennials age and become more of your primary shopper, they grew up online and that's where they are shopping," Boyd said.

So now, Goodwill is selling there too. They broke into the business four years ago selling only textbooks, an item that really needed a broader audience.

After a success in the book selling, they are now adding more items to shopgoodwill.com that may not sell well in a store or fetch the value they may have.

The website not only features selected items from local stores, but from Goodwill's nationwide. In total, Boyd says there are around 100 Goodwill's nationwide that are participating.

The expansion has proven to be a profitable move. Boyd said that each local Goodwill that's offered online products this past year has made an average of a little more than $900,000 (including the shipping charges). That is close to the amount that the traditional brick-and-mortar store made in the year as well. In total, stores who participated from Goodwill Industries of the Valley's pulled in $36 million.

The move to online retail has even created new jobs. Boyd said by the end of the first quarter, Goodwill will have added nine positions who strictly focus on e-commerce items in the stores.

But, contrary to some critics of the move to online expansion, there are still great items to be found in store.

Vice President of Marketing and Communications Kelly Sandridge said that not all great finds go online. Items are selected for online sale based on the average success rate that type of item has in store.

Coach bag found and purchased at Goodwill located on Melrose Avenue in Roanoke.
Coach bag found and purchased at Goodwill located on Melrose Avenue in Roanoke.

For instance, Sandridge said musical instruments do not typically have a high success rate in store. But selling it online, however; provides a broader audience.

"It's a treasure hunt at Goodwill. You can always find good items including name brands," Sandridge said.

While WSLS 10 crews were there, Sandridge found clothing brands that included Jones of New York, Banana Republic, Anne Taylor Loft and even Coach.

Although online shopping invites the world to buy local items, the money stays here in our community.

That aspect is key to what Goodwill provides to the local community. Sandridge said that in 2016, 44,000 people walked through their doors in need of Goodwill training and employment assistance. She says between 68-70 percent of the organization's revenues comes from sales at local Goodwill Stores. Expanding to the online world will only help generate more funding that ultimately benefits the community.

About the Author: