The launching of thrift store shopping online with Goodwill Industries

The online service features browsing by category, personalization, and free returns. However, unlike its rivals Thredup and Poshmark,

On October 4, the iconic non-profit store chain Goodwill launched an online retail service for the first time, marking a shift away from the long-term focus on physical stores. The move, it is hoped, will spark more interest and help generate more revenues for charity. The online service is expected to grow multifold in the next few years.

Goodwill Industries International forms a large, global chain of stores specializing in second-hand items. Goodwill’s business model focuses largely on providing sustainable employment opportunities to disabled or inexperienced workers, whose salaries constitute nearly 89 % of the company’s running expenses. The excess revenue is then donated to a large variety of charities, mainly those working for disabled rights or veterans. While the organization operates in many countries around the world, including Brazil and Mexico, it is based in Maryland and more than 3,200 of its stores are situated in the U.S. and Canada.

Until 2022, there was no centralized online retail service catering to all Goodwill local stores. Some of the store administrations maintained limited online presence, but most kept their traditional focus on the physical, community-level stores. This dynamic changed with the Tuesday launch of the new non-profit GoodwillFinds, with Matthew Kaness being appointed as the CEO. The latter forms a separate legal entity, but will only work to support the broader non-profit network.

The online service features browsing by category, personalization, and free returns. However, unlike its rivals Thredup and Poshmark, GoodwillFinds still does not accept donations online, possibly due to the oversupply issue that has long plagued the industry. The store currently features around 100,000 items in the first days of operation, but aims to add over one million more over the coming years. According to Kaness, each item received will be individually inspected at the company stores, and only the best ones will be designated for sale online. The exact delivery charges will vary from location to location.

The move comes at a time when the ongoing financial crisis and inflationary surge are pushing more people towards cheaper alternatives to regular shopping. While Goodwill features items ranging from old automobiles to books, most donations to the chain come in the form of clothing, which has become synonymous with the company brand. Incidentally, the second-hand clothing industry is expected to grow around 16 times faster than the broader retail sector by 2026. The long-awaited decision to enter the online market could not have been more timely.

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