Forget sifting through racks of clothing or shelves of shoes and books at your local Goodwill. A few taps of your iPhone or iPad is all that’s needed to buy that pair of worn Gucci pumps or a used cookbook for diabetics.
Goodwill of Greater Washington has updated its free mobile application to allow customers to shop its four online channels: eBay.com, Amazon.com, Half.com and Shopgoodwill.com. With the original app, created in 2010, users could map Goodwill’s 14 area locations, donate money or read its fashion blog.
“We want to provide our constituents easier access to our lines of businesses and services,” said Brendan Hurley, chief marketing office of Goodwill of Greater Washington.
The local Goodwill is one of 165 independent chapters of the international organization, which uses proceeds from the sale of donated clothes and household items to fund community development initiatives, such as job training. A growing number of chapters across the country, including ones in San Francisco and Houston, are tapping into the app craze to engage more customers and move goods.
About 3,500 people have downloaded the Goodwill of Greater Washington app through iTunes in nearly two years, just under 50 downloads a week. That number has doubled to 100 a week since the app was updated on March 29.
The chapter sells two thirds of its books, movies and music online. Less than 1 percent of its collection of apparel, however, is traded on the Internet to avoid cannibalizing brick-and-mortar sales, Hurley said.
“We selectively pick unique items that we believe we will generate a higher price point on the Web than we can charge in our stores,” he said. The Gucci pumps, for example, were selling for $50 on Shopgoodwill.com.
“We can add thousands of books to our e-commerce channels because we would never be able to sell all of them in our stores,” Hurley added.
Goodwill of Greater Washington began selling items online in 2007, a move that has netted $822,000 in additional revenue last year. All told, the chapter recorded $16.7 million in retail sales in 2011, up from $12.8 million a year earlier.
As a whole, the resale industry has recorded about 7 percent growth in stores in the past three years, according to the National Association of Resale Professionals, an industry trade group. There are more than 30,000 thrift, resale and consignment stores in the United States.
While not-for-profit Goodwill Industries remains the largest thrift store chain in the country, with more than 2,600 stores and $2.6 billion in sales, it faces growing competition.
For-profit chains such as Tucson-based Buffalo Exchange and Savers of Bellevue, Wash. have been expanding operations nationwide. Both companies are opening stores in the Washington area this year — Buffalo Exchange in the District and Savers in Woodbridge.
Hurley sees potential for synergy between Goodwill and a store like Buffalo Exchange, which donates the merchandise it rejects for sale. “We’re hopeful at some point if we can develop a dialogue with Buffalo Exchange, we might become the charity of choice where they donate those items,” he said.