The recession has taken its toll on many large US retailers, but smaller ones catering to the second-hand market are flourishing as the cash-strapped seek better bargains.
The National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops, which claims to be the world's largest resale trade association, recently reported that a survey of its members about second quarter sales in 2009 (compared to the same period in 2008) showed increasing turnover in the second-hand sector.
"Of the 263 stores that responded, 64.1 percent said sales increased (with an average increase of approximately 31 percent), 11.5 percent said sales were about the same and 24.4 percent had a decrease in sales," the association reported.
Dallas, Texas-based Half Price Books, a privately held operation that mostly trades and sells used books and magazines, has seen its sales increase.
The chain opened four new stores earlier this year, with more due to open this fall. It currently has 106 stores in 16 states.
"It started last year with people coming in and selling books for gas money," said Kathy Doyle Thomas, executive vice president for marketing and real estate at Half Price Books.
"I think people are okay with buying used. It is also part of the growing culture of recycling," she said.
Such success is rare in a financial crisis that has thrown millions of Americans out of work and made many think twice before they shop.
For example, US-based Macy's Inc said in January that it was closing 11 stores that were performing badly in the recession. US diamond and jewelry retailer Zale Corp has been closing stores, too.
Sales for Half Price Books' last fiscal year (July 1 2008 through June 30 2009) showed an increase of 6 percent to about $200 million in same-store sales and a rise of 10 percent for total sales, including the new stores.
Kathy Gropper is a regular at Half Price Books.
"Whenever I finish a book, I bring it back and get more," she said after bringing in a box full of books and magazines to the retailer's main store in Dallas.
"For me it's a recycling thing. We also did it before the recession, but we are even more careful now," said Gropper, who is a stay-at-home mother.
The chain was started in 1972 in a converted laundromat in Dallas with 2,000 books from the founders' own libraries
Other smaller and privately held second-hand retailers with humble beginnings are also enjoying success, at least in part because of the recession.
(China Daily 10/06/2009 page4)