Looking Sideways – Re-sale boom boosts local charities

Mark Luetke

The parking lot has become busier in the last few months on the Stonehenge side of Sylvania Avenue’s Saxon Square. Part of the attraction: more customers drawn to the American Cancer Society’s quality resale store, the “Discovery Shop.”

Although it’s been at the same location for 19 years, new manager Anita Campbell is growing traffic recently by offering higher quality merchandise, a revamped pricing structure, and outreach to younger customers…and men. She uses social media daily to attract prospective clientele, including Sylvania shoppers who often “really don’t know we exist.”

The Discovery Shop and other local outlets are part of a global resale boom, according to Holly Goldstein Becher of the Cooper-Smith advertising firm in Sylvania Township. “A recent study reports sales in pre-owned goods are projected to grow 10-15 percent annually over the next decade,” she noted.

“Research shows the strongest reasons for consumers to shop resale are recycling and sustainability, access to exclusive fashion brands, and cost-savings…particularly in these inflationary times,” said Becher. “Fashion conscious consumers are driven by access to luxury brands that may otherwise be out of reach without resale outlets.”

At the Discovery Shop, about 30 volunteers help run the shop: accepting donations from the public during business hours, arranging merchandise, and helping an almost steady flow of customers. Proceeds go for cancer services through the American Cancer Society. The shop is open weekdays, 10 am to 5 pm, except Thursdays, when it is open until 6 pm; it is also open Saturdays, 10 am to 2 pm.

Township resident Charlotte Murd has been working at the shop for more than two years and said, “I love it here.” She also volunteers at Hospice and Flower Hospital. Her husband died of cancer and she told me, “I want to give back to the cancer society; the people who come in here are just amazing.”

On a recent Friday afternoon I met customer Marilyn Marok of Ottawa Lake “Looking for clothing and purses to augment my wardrobe,” she said. She visits two or three times a month, frequently donates her own items, and appreciates the cause…she’s lost several family members and friends to cancer.

Marilyn said, “I actually think the quality and variety here is better than most women’s clothing stores, where you look at a rack with 20 of the same thing, just in different colors and sizes. Sometimes people who buy high-end brands have so much that they don’t wear an item very often. That means much of the resale merchandise is in very good condition. It’s always a nice surprise to find something here.”

A second local non-profit resale store is operated on a somewhat smaller scale by the ProMedica/Flower Hospital Auxiliary. Called the Cozy Cottage Retail Shop, it sits atop a hill next to the historic Harroun Barn on the Flower campus. Volunteers accept donations, sell the upscale merchandise, and even enroll new auxiliary members from 9 am to 2 pm on the second Thursday of every month.

Auxiliary president Susan Kanwal said the organization also holds two major fund-raisers and other smaller ones throughout the year. Proceeds from the shop and events go to various projects at Flower, including support for families with patients in the psychiatric unit and parents who have lost a newborn during childbirth. Funds also go to a number of community charities.

In addition to the non-profits, three franchised resale stores operate at 5644 Monroe Street: Plato’s Closet, One Upon A Child, and Clothes Mentor. They emphasize the sustainability of resale by selling locally-sourced and quality used products.

A final player in the resale space is, as with everything these days, online. Campbell said online sites don’t interfere with the Discovery Shop at all. But Cooper-Smith’s Holly Becher underscores the power of the online resale economy with a story of her 26-year-old son, Zale.

The young man frequently purchases and re-sells athletic shoes and other apparel online…including a Star Wars t-shirt he bought on a site for $40. Mother and son were recently attending the National Star Wars convention in California when the owner of a booth selling vintage tees called out “cool shirt.”

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“He held up the exact same shirt as Zale’s…in exactly the same condition…that he was selling for $320,” said Becher. “While I was shocked, my son was unphased. He told me he knew it would be worth more when he bought it, and if you study a particular category or brand of apparel, you can make good money at it. Still, he bought the t-shirt just because he loved it … and has no plans to re-sell it again.”

A good way to get a peek at Discovery Shop is an after-hours event from 5 to 8 pm on Wednesday, Oct. 12. Visitors can buy merchandise, but there will also be a fundraiser raffle to help support HOPE Lodge, which provides free housing for families of cancer patients at the Cleveland Clinic. The event is free and open to the public on a drop-in basis.

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