The WHY question is an important question in any business, be it for-profit or not-for-profit. And it is especially true in the ministry-owned thrift store industry. The reason being the genesis of most ministry owned stores was threefold.
- To provide a source of inexpensive clothes, furniture, and household goods to a needy population.
- To provide a place for recovering clients to work and find purpose for their day.
- To provide a revenue stream to the ministry by taking advantage of generous people dropping off their used possessions.
These motivations were all good and seemed to work in harmony for a season, but as in every business cycle, things change. The days of running thrift stores with multiple (and competing) objectives must change as well. The thrift store of today can no longer afford a pricing strategy that exclusively accommodates the low-end buyer while leaving thousands of dollars on the table for sophisticated resellers.
The client-based staffing model, while effective in lowering payroll costs, makes it virtually impossible to produce great customer service that insures a desirable shopping experience that will attract return customers.
The practices therefore limit profitability potential in the competitive thrift store market place and further restrict the desired outcome of the third reason for being in the business to begin with.
The industry has changed. The need for finding the language and tools to deal with change is an issue that makes people nervous and uncomfortable, but change is reality. We must adapt to survive.
So, it is time to ask the question, “Why does your store exist?” If your reasons are number one or two and you are meeting your objectives, congratulations. But if you’re “why” is number three and the return on your capital, time, and mental & emotional energies are not being met, it is time for a new business model.