Black Friday sales give Salvation Army store a boost

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Brooklyn - posted Tue., Nov. 29, 2011
Assistant store manager Lynn Chapman stands near the music display. Photos by D. Coffey.
Assistant store manager Lynn Chapman stands near the music display. Photos by D. Coffey.

On the day after Thanksgiving, the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Brooklyn (or Sally's, as it is known to insiders) threw open its doors for a special five-hour sale. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., customers could select from an assortment of items that were drastically reduced from their already low prices. All clothes, bric-a-brac, CDs and DVDs were 50 percent off. Electrical items, toys and furniture were 25 percent off.

It was the second year of the store's Black Friday sales. Brooklyn store manager Eve Lafleche said the idea for the Black Friday sale came from Salvation Army headquarters in New York. Sally's wasn't just competing with retailers for holiday dollars; it was giving its customers a taste of what they have come to expect, including extended hours, half-price sales and even giveaways.

Lafleche oversees an operation that takes in almost 3,000 new pieces of clothing daily. Five to six bins of clothing come in each day from the Hartford distribution center. The clothing is separated, hung, priced and put out on the floor. A staff of 15, with the help of volunteers, keeps pace with the daily deliveries. Customers insure that the clothes head out the door.

The bad economy has been a boon for Sally's. While the figures do fluctuate, customer counts and revenue have increased in the Brooklyn store in the last year. The reason: quality goods can be had for a fraction of the cost of new ones. Used American Eagle jeans sell for $5.99, versus $110 retail. LL Bean fleece jackets can be had for $5, rather than the $50 they would cost new in the store. Clothes come in from high end retailers like Talbot's, The Gap, The Children's Place, Liz Claiborne and Aeropostale.

The drawback: it's all hit or miss. When you're dealing with used clothing, tears, stains and general wear and tear go hand in hand with shopping. Color choice is limited. There are no guarantees. But the frugal buyer can be rewarded with precious finds. A Liz Claiborne seersucker vest can spruce up a summer wardrobe. A pair of shoes can be had cheaply. A complete set of matching dishes can be purchased for under $10. There are books, furniture, DVDs and sporting goods to choose from. An array of pocketbooks, belts and ties dangle from racks. Aisles are separated into men's and women's, boys and girls, long and short sleeves, jeans and pants. There are plus sizes and pajamas, linens and lingerie. Sporting goods, electronics, books and jewelry all have their places in the store.

Patricia Loos has been volunteering for more than 20 years in Brooklyn. She sorts through the items that come into the donation center. A roasting pan had come in just in time for the holidays. She and Lafleche knew that it had to make the shelves quickly.
“Every time I need something, it comes in,” Lafleche said. “A customer might ask for something, and if I don't have it, it will come in the next day.”

Of course there are some things they don't need, and some things they won't sell. Not all donated items are accepted.

Assistant store manager Lynn Chapman said she loved to see the expression on people's faces when they got great deals. Earlier that day a woman had asked for a price reduction on a stuffed animal she planned to give a grandchild for Christmas. She couldn't afford the price tag, and after thinking it over, Lafleche let her have it for less.

“She was so appreciative she gave her a big hug,” Chapman said. “There are people who really need a break, and you can tell who really needs it,” she said.

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