“You won’t spend money unless you are happy to be there,” Meloy said.
Goodwill started paying more attention to store managers, hiring experienced retailers and giving them more autonomy. As the economy declined, Meloy went after experienced store managers who had been laid off.
She also attacked the donation process, which has been under siege by competitors (for-profit and nonprofit) seeking dibs on the used clothing, furniture and accessories that people discard.
Meloy wanted to improve the donor experience. Donation “attendants” who wait outside the stores, accepting goods from drivers who wait in line on a Saturday to drop off their stuff, were taught simple service etiquette such as being polite.
The goal was two-pronged: First, to have employees understand how important the bag and its contents are to the business, and second, to make the experience pleasant so donors would keep coming back. It’s important: More than 1,000 donors will stop at Goodwill’s Glebe Road store in Arlington on a given Saturday.
“The attendants need to know that bag pays for your employment,” Meloy said.
The “back of the house” sorting process — think of it as the nonprofit group’s version of store “buyer” — was also overhauled. Instead of one person going through a single bag of clothes, Meloy assigned three — allowing people to specialize in things like shoes so that they can separate the wheat from the chaff and know how to get the best price.
“Our job is to make sure we separate the best possible donation out of the bag to put on the floor,” Meloy said.
This year, the Glebe Road store — the chain’s “mothership” — will sell $1.9 million worth of goods, up from $1.6 million last year. The store has between 30 and 35 employees, up from 20 a few years ago. It is one of the busiest Goodwill stores in the country.
“Our employees are our shareholders,” said Meloy. “And our responsibility is to return jobs and job training to our shareholders.”
The company this past year trained 180 disadvantaged and disabled people for jobs in the Washington area, including 10 in Friday’s graduating class, all of whom were placed in jobs.
Not a bad dividend.
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