Selective shopping more popular

Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Tribune photo by Clint Confehr Goodwill store employees worked all night decorating their store at The Acres.

With the current economic down turn, business is up at Goodwill stores in Middle Tennessee as well as warehouse and so-called seconds shops like S&D in Lewisburg.

Shopping "more now" at Goodwill with his mom was Joshua Buttram, 11, of Richardson Road. His mother, Wendy Buttram, works at CosmoLab where pay cuts were imposed recently for the second time in two years.

"I buy children's clothes because they grow so fast," Wendy said recently while shopping at the Goodwill store in The Acres Shopping Center at East Commerce Street and Ellington Parkway. "My husband sends me here for camouflage."

He eats what he kills from his hunt, and she makes deer jerky, Wendy says while admiring an insulated vest.

The Goodwill store here increased sales by 31.5 percent through October this year, compared to the first 10 months of last year, according to Suzanne Kay-Pittman, spokeswoman for Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee.

And that's before Sanford Inc. announced it's cutting jobs here and in Shelbyville where the Bedford County Goodwill store saw sales go up nearly 38 percent in 10 months, Kay-Pittman said. October sales there were 50 percent more than October 2007.

Almost 21 percent is the increase in October sales here in Lewisburg, Kay-Pittman said. Across some 46 Middle Tennessee counties the increase was nearly 14 percent from one October to another.

Raw numbers show that Lewisburg's store has "just above 120,000" in sales last month while the Shelbyville store "had sales of over $100,000," Kay-Pittman said.

S&D Warehouse on Vista Boulevard, practically behind Goodwill, is also experiencing more sales, according to Yvonne Stubblefield, the store's manager who explains that the owners, Dale and Sharon Loy, buy new products sight-unseen when they're available from tractor trailer trucks for various reasons.

S&D (it stands for scratch and dent) was started by Sharon, but when Dale was laid off at GM's Saturn plant in Spring Hill, he started working at the store. It's grown so much since then that they're planning a new store in Cornersville.

Kelly Scott of Lake Hill Circle was shopping at S&K with her daughter, Ryleigh, 5, recently and explained she's looking for "lower prices. Everybody is looking for lower prices."

The Scotts started pushing their shopping cart down an aisle to buy boxes of food and while Goodwill doesn't sell food, consumer merchandise, mostly clothes, are but one of several product lines and services from Goodwill.

"Career Solutions is where a lot of our store's revenues go," says Goodwill store manager Steve Robertson. "Our mission is to find people work."

Goodwill Industries Career Counselor Racheal Lane says clients are taught how to be prepared to get a job. It starts with getting up every day as if you're going to work.

"Getting a job is a job," said Lane whose office and classroom are next to the store.

Goodwill products also bring income to some people, according to Dee Wadley: "Some people buy things at Goodwill and sell them on e-bay."

John Biega is perfectly located to comment on the Goodwill store and S&K since he lives between the stores.

"The Goodwill here is the cleanest Goodwill store I've seen," says Biega whose career was in retail, having worked as a Dillards employee at Green Hills in Nashville.

Biega buys clothes and furnishings at the Goodwill and S&D where he also buys food.

Angie Cooksey of East Hill Avenue says she's shopped at Goodwill "for years," noting the decline at other businesses, adding; "My husband's employer (Smurfit Stone) has gone to four days a week."

Diana Box of Spring Hill was at the Goodwill store on Friday, having heard of its lower prices. She'd read about S&D in one of the Nashville newspapers, but then realized Goodwill was near by.

There's a natural competitiveness between the stores, but managers also realize that they benefit from the proximity realized by Box and Biega.

"The contrast with Goodwill is that everything at S&D is new," Stubblefield said. Product warranties still apply.

One S&D customer indicated some people don't like buying used clothes such as what's found at Goodwill. However, the company's spokeswoman counters that with style.

"I don't know that we're competing, but are rather co-existing.

"Buying used clothing is not unusual and has become quite chic," Kay-Pittman said. "Kids in college have bragged about something cool they could get at Goodwill."

It's also probably going to be one of a kind at the store.

"The reality is that a lot of folks buy used clothing," she said. There's a huge market including brand names and high-end products.

"S&D is a retail business, but Goodwill funds a mission that employs people," Kay-Pitman said. "We live and die by the generosity of our donors. We hope they will continue to be as generous as the have been over the years."

Meanwhile, the word is out and the two stores seem to have become a destination for residents in Middle Tennessee and points south.

Doug and Kay Mitchell of Christiana "found a few things that are interesting," he said as they started shopping at S&D. She said, "It depends on what you're looking for. Found something that I've been forgetting to buy at Wal-Mart."

Pat Rezack of Elkmont, Ala., reports; "Someone at the Senior Citizens Center said they have relatives who shop here. A couple of weeks ago, a group of women came up here (in a van) and we shopped."

The group also ate a meal at one of Lewisburg's restaurants. Subblefield says she's asked restaurants to leave menus at S&D so she could refer her customers to their eateries.

Friday, the Rezacks had "business in Nashville, but took a side trip to the Goodwill here where she said that during one trip the shoppers looked so long that her husband read all of one of the books on the shelves at the Goodwill.

"You'd be surprised what you can find here," she said while her husband was reading another novel.