WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — While most retail stores are hanging on by a thread due to COVID-19, Jonathan Kreuyer is having the opposite problem. He’s up to his elbows in work, barely able to keep up.
“I’m more busy now than I was last year,” he said. “We’ve seen a major surge in donations in all of our thrift stores.”
Since the pandemic began, his days have been a blur of sifting and tagging and hanging a never-ending tsunami of items. The big surge in donations started around June, soon after people came out of the first lockdown.
“People were sitting at home,” he said, “isolating trying to find projects to do and what they did is they cleaned out their closets.”
They are still doing it now, during the current stay-at-home orders.
“We spend a lot more time inside the house now so we just see a lot of stuff that we don’t use and think that maybe it’s time to get rid of it and give to someone that can use it,” Sandy Miller, who dropped off a bunch of items at the store, said.
The pandemic, which has decimated the sales of many small businesses, has been a boon for thrift stores across the country. Many of them have been seeing person after person after person dropping off everything from framed pictures to irons to lamps, not mention the mountains and mountains of used clothes.
Angelica, who asked us to only use her first name, is one of the store's cashiers, and the one who goes through most of these items, deciding which to take in and which to throw out.
She said at least 50% of the donations are unsellable. But every now and then she finds a little gem that brightens up her day.
In all, donations have been up 30 to 40%. The downturn in the economy has also brought in a lot more customers looking for a bargain.
“The store has seen a 15 to 17% revenue growth each month since June,” Kreuyer said.
The pandemic could have a long lasting effect on the thrift store industry for years to come. According to thredUP, a major secondhand shopping site, the resale apparel market will grow from $28 billion to $64 billion in the next five years.
“You have to have the patience and the time to spend in these thrift stores,” Kreuyer said. “But everyone always walks out of here with a gem.”