More for your buck

Thrift, consignment stores see an upward trend


Sam Green/Cortez Journal Michelle Neely sets up a display at Second Time Fashions.

Thrift store shopping has developed a new reputable place in society. The practice of purchasing used and recycled goods is looking to be both trendy and economically beneficial. Negative connotations about thrift stores can stem from bad experiences and one-sided perspectives.

But the rise of thrifty spending is putting a stop to that.

As more families are cutting their budgets, thrift stores in Cortez are experiencing a dramatic increase in customer sales and visits. There aren't many contenders, but the ones who are here thrive considerably and their neighboring consignment shops aren't doing bad themselves.

Both Cortez thrift stores can contain treasures for collectors, shoppers and crafty individuals.

Methodist Thrift Shop, 444 E. Main Street, had a high volume of donations and healthy sales that steadily rose as the holidays approached. January is proving to be just as productive.

Carol Soukup and Maidee Leonard are co-managers, and the only paid staff at Methodist thrift. Organized and run by majority volunteers, the store has become a hive of productivity over the last year.

Soukup has seen a rise in customer visits, a trend she thinks will continue to grow as residents of Cortez discover their retail space. Word of mouth has proven to be a useful part to their expanding consumer pool.

And because they are a not-for-profit entity, Soukup is grateful that people who buy are also willing to give back.

"People are shocked at how cheap items are," Soukup said. "When we ring them up they won't take their change. They know our cause so they feel like we should keep what we can."

Soukup is also surprised at the substantial amount of items a person can walk out with. She recalled, a woman recently came in with an empty baby carriage and filled it to the top with infant's clothing. Soukup asked the woman if she knew someone who was having a baby and she replied "me."

"Our baby clothing is priced at 50 cents apiece and she bought $10 worth," Soukup said. "They are getting really good deals and lots of items, then they tell other parents and it brings more people in."

Ten dollars can get a shopper far in a thrift store. In fact, it may be a feat for some to spend even that amount. But as people are relying heavily on places like Methodist and the Salvation Army to help balance budgets and save money, Soukup believes as the economy gets better, customers will continue to thrift shop.

Not every thrift shop boasted better sales through the holiday season.

The Salvation Army Thrift Store at 201 N. Pinon Dr. has not yet seen its slowest time of year when they experience half of normal sales.

Evalena Russell, thrift store manager, said peak time for sales and donations at the Salvation Army is between February and late summer to early fall.

"Yard sale season is the best time for us," Russell said. "People start having yard sales and they donate whatever is left over."

Russell said the items from garage sales that are typically overpriced won't sell. When those items are donated, they turn around and sell them for a lower price. Things like electronics, furniture and other household wares are big sellers, she said.

"I think people clean out their homes and have an overabundance of items," Russell said. "So our donations slow down in October but they pick back up again in April."

They did, however, experience an odd overflow of shoppers at the beginning of November, but the lot was quiet after a week of bustle. For now, they will sit tight until warmer months come along and more donations start to flow in. Donations that may also come with a nice tax break.

But consignors need not worry. A tax break may not be available, but cash or credit for clothing is always a good alternative.

On the east end of town, Second Time Fashions, 2228 E. Main, has been operating in consignment for 25 years. Owner Michelle Neely, is buzzing with appointments, as people bag up gently used clothing for her to sell. In the five years Neely has owned Second Time, this is the first year she has had to set up appointments to receive clothing.

"I think we got so busy because people are looking for ways to save money," Neely said. "Not just because of the economy, but also I think people are more conscious of recycling and the impact they have on the earth."

Neely uses the appointments to go over the consignor's product and determine if the items will be of use in her store. The merchandise must be in very good condition and in some cases, Neely said items will still have the original tags on them. Accepted merchandise is sold for the consigner at 35 percent, and Neely keeps 65 percent. The consigner can spend that credit within the store or get cash back.

Currently, Second Time Fashions contains women's clothing and accessories, children's and men's clothing and a "vintage" section, for items circa 1950 to 1970.

"We do really well around the holidays and after, because other than second hand clothing, we also have jewelry and handbags that I buy wholesale," Neely explained. "And those are always great gift ideas. We also sell party dresses around the holidays and Halloween is a big time for us."

Neely said she stays steadily busy with shoppers and consignors until February when it stars to slow down. However, when the seasons change she always has plenty of traffic. She strives to keep her store neat and clean, providing customers with trendy, discounted items. And she knows the importance of both thrift and consignment stores in a community.

"We have a good formula here," she said. "We sell our items at 75 to 80 percent below retail price. And with our customer accounts it keeps everything in the community. Consignors will either take cash and spend it locally or use their credit here in the store."

Another consignment shop, Kwality Konsignment, operates at 210 W. Main St.


Sam Green/Cortez Journal Mary Boxley and Judy Barrett tackle another bag of clothes to sort at the Methodist Thrift Store. The thrift store has had an increase in donations over the holiday season.