The Arc Stores aren't just any secondhand store. Located in California's Butte County, the stores are designed from the ground up to offer work, support and education for individuals with disabilities to give them a measure of independence and self-worth.
And it's a big job, as Kathy McCreary tells us in this interview.
Tell us a bit about The Arc Store. What's its mission, and how did it get started?
The Arc Secondhand Store was originally started as a work program for individuals with disabilities to build self-esteem, to enhance their lives, to give them independence - it was all about the clients. With three locations, in addition to helping the clients, it has become a source of funding for all of the programs Arc provides their clients.
What goes into running a network of secondhand stores?
Most importantly are donations from local residents in each community we have a store in. If we don't get donations, we don't have merchandise to sell. Our goal in that aspect is to create an easy, friendly way to donate and a marketing plan to solicit quality donations in our three geographical areas.
How do you sort all those donations?
All donations go through a sorting process by hand; clothes, shoes, purses and belts that aren't resalable or up to our quality standards are sent to orphanages in Africa through a third party. Items that are store-ready are then priced, and clothing is priced by Arc clients Monday through Friday. Higher quality and brand-named clothes are placed in the boutique section within our store.
How do you rotate in new stock?
Merchandising is a large part of the process which involves displaying and organizing the products to make them easily accessible and more appealing to the shopper. Staff and supervisors make sure to cycle items that haven't sold in a timely manner, placing them in discounted sections or announcing particular sales on social media; thus, quality control is an essential part of the sales process.
What's the one thing you wish everyone knew about secondhand stores?
That shoppers can save money and buy quality merchandise in a secondhand store.
People can be dismissive of secondhand stores. What would you say to them, if you had the chance?
Just like retail stores, secondhand stores vary vastly depending on the organization running them. Many people believe that secondhand store merchandise is worn out, the stores are unorganized or they smell bad and they're dirty, but that is not the case at the Arc Stores.
Many households donate new clothing and other articles with price tags still attached. The quality of secondhand merchandise has improved dramatically over the last several years, and shoppers can save a lot of money by purchasing in their own community.
An important aspect of the Arc secondhand stores is all the revenue from sales stay local, which helps local people and the community as a whole.
What's next for Arc?
Maintaining the integrity of clean, quality merchandise and consistently creating awareness of the mission of the Arc is foremost. The Arc Stores are all about providing jobs for the clients of The Arc, raising revenues to fund the programs for the disabled while helping families of the community stretch their dollars with money-saving opportunities.
For the latest from the Arc Stores, check them out on Twitter.