Identifying your Customers

One of the most valuable pieces of information to a successful retail operation is to know your customer. Retail chains spend millions of dollars developing a profile of their customer so they can target advertising cost effectively. Developing an accurate demographic, as well as psychographic, model of the target customer influences everything from product selection to in-store marketing and promotion decisions.

Over a period of several years, we conducted surveys to ascertain why customers shopped our thrift stores. After much analysis and discussion, we placed our customers into one of three basic categories.

  • ResellerThis customer shops the store for the expressed purpose of buying items to resell for a profit. The Internet has dramatically expanded this market segment and represents a growing percentage of a thrift store’s customer base.
  • Treasure HunterThis customer is simply in it for the deal. This customer has disposable income to shop at upscale shops but instead derives much joy and a sense of accomplishment finding high value items at below-market prices. (Ironically, we have seen many of the items purchased by this group later re-donated after a short period of time.)
  • Thrift DependentThis customer shops thrift because it allows them to afford much more than standard retail pricing would allow. This group represents the targeted market for most thrift stores. They are typically low income families who are stretching every dollar to the max, be it for clothes or other household items.

Parenthetically, few customers shop your store for the sole reason of what your ministry does. But what you do and how you treat the customer can influence where a thrift shopper shops.

And so, the question is, “So what?” How does this information change the way you manage your stores? This is a big question with many answers that we would love to discuss.

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