Like any small business, thrift stores need to pay overhead, including rent, electricity, software and salaries. Thrift stores require strong and regular sales in order to pay bills and stay open. Yet, many people think about donating items to the thrift store--not buying items from the store. Ensuring that the public recognizes the thrift store as a great place to shop will help generate sales.
Promote sales to all thrift-shop donors. Consider giving a 10 percent off coupon, or buy-one-get-one coupon, to every person who drops off a donation. This will get them to browse the store.
Promote seasonal or holiday items--such as used Christmas trees, Halloween costumes, oversize Valentine's Day hearts or American flags--by displaying them prominently in store windows and near your donation drop-off site.
Gather addresses of all the customers who buy from the store and all the donors who drop off items and launch a direct-mail campaign, in which you mail an advertisement or coupon to their homes.
Gather phone numbers of customers and donors and ask the thrift store employees to call the donors and customers to persuade them to come in and browse. Time this to coincide with the direct mailing.
Form alliances with other community groups that support your thrift store's mission. If your thrift store proceeds benefit the Humane Society, for example, partner with your local PETA or ASPCA chapter, local zoo or local wildlife sanctuary. Do this by volunteering for the organization or asking to attend a chapter meeting to speak to the other organization. This will increase your thrift store's visibility in the community.
Invite local civic and nonprofit groups to meet in your space. Many groups lack meeting places, so consider clearing a corner of your store and allowing groups to meet there for free.
Advertise at your local college by passing out fliers. Alternatively, contact professors who teach subjects related to the issue that your thrift store benefits (e.g., if you help the poor, contact the sociology department) and ask them to forward to their students an email from you that promotes the thrift store and describes the good it does.
Be a guest speaker at a local business, civic or nonprofit association or at a local college class, and make a plug for shopping at your thrift store both before and after the speech.
Kennedi Rose is an Atlanta-based journalist who began her career in 2005 as a newspaper reporter covering the education beat. She has written for a wide variety of commercial, trade and online magazines covering food, drink and the retail sector. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology.