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Iconic Goodwill gets serious with online for thrifters

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  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                A Goodwill store sign is shown in Berkeley, Calif., in March 2021. Goodwill Industries International Inc., the 120-year-old non-profit organization that operates 3,300 stores in the U.S., and Canada, has launched an online business, as part of a newly incorporated e-commerce venture called GoodwillFinds.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    A Goodwill store sign is shown in Berkeley, Calif., in March 2021. Goodwill Industries International Inc., the 120-year-old non-profit organization that operates 3,300 stores in the U.S., and Canada, has launched an online business, as part of a newly incorporated e-commerce venture called GoodwillFinds.

NEW YORK >> Thrifters who flock to Goodwill stores will now be able to do more of their treasure hunting online.

The 120-year-old nonprofit organization today launched GoodwillFinds, a newly incorporated shopping venture that is making roughly 100,000 donated items available for purchase online and expanding Goodwill’s internet presence that until now had been limited to auction sites like ShopGoodwill.com or individual stores selling donations online via eBay and Amazon.

GoodwillFinds’ goal is to have 1 million items on its site in a few years, said Matthew Kannes, newly appointed CEO of online shopping arm, which features search tools that let shoppers browse by category. Eventually GoodwillFinds will be able to be personalized based on a customer’s past purchases.

The new venture, a separate entity, will support Goodwill Industries International Inc. by helping fund its community-based programs across the U.S. provide professional training, job placement and youth mentorship. It should also increase donations, while also helping to expand its base of customers.

Unlike rivals like Thredup and Poshmark, customers cannot use GoodwillFinds to make donations and will still have to visit one of the organization’s 3,300 U.S. and Canadian Goodwill stores to drop them off — for now. But Kaness said that as the business expands, Goodwill will eventually offer that service.

The move comes as the second-hand clothing business is expected to grow 16 times faster than the broader retail clothing sector by 2026, according to a report by research firm GlobalData for Thredup. It’s also happening at a time when surging inflation is pushing shoppers to be thriftier.

“Our new social enterprise makes it easier for the conscious consumer to shop sustainably online, while heightening the thrifting experience they’ve come to love at Goodwill,” Kaness said.

In 2021, retail revenue from donations to Goodwill was more than $5.4 billion, the organization said. GoodwillFinds follows in the footsteps of ShopGoodwill.com, which launched in 1999 and sells many items via auction.

“Goodwill is a very big part of the second-hand market, but it’s been focused on stores. That is its heritage,” said Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail, “Online has been an afterthought and done very informally with the regions.”

Karness said that when shoppers donate to the stores, workers will figure out which item will be designated online. Workers inspect each item but they don’t clean it. If it is very dirty or not good quality, they won’t sell it. Items designated for online will then be digitized. Purchases will either be packed and shipped from the store or a cluster of stores’ mini-warehouses.

A spokeswoman for the online venture said that because items from GoodwillFinds ship from a variety of Goodwill locations, shipping options and fees will vary per item. During the checkout process, customers will be offered the shipping options available for their items based on their shipping address. She said that GoodwillFinds accepts returns for items that arrive damaged or if there’s an inaccurate or incorrect item in the customer’s order.

The vision for GoodwillFinds came from a consortium of Goodwill members throughout the country, including Evergreen Goodwill of Northwest Washington, which wanted to tap into the organization’s full potential.

Daryl Campbell, the CEO of Evergreen Goodwill of Northwest Washington, said he expects that revenue for his consortium of 24 stores in his area will double from the $24 million it did last year within the next five years because of the centralized online approach. He also predicts that he will be able to double its online business to 32% of its consortium’s sales in the next few years.

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