At a time when many retailers are struggling, new thrift shops are opening and consignment shops are expanding in the Fresno area.
One of the reasons is a no-brainer: low-priced retailers attract cash-strapped customers.
But sellers of used goods weren't immune from the recession. Sales at some thrift shops dropped during the downturn, and several local consignment shops closed.
Many of the survivors, however, say that they're thriving again.
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Store owners say the ones that adapted to market changes and diversified their businesses made it through the worst -- and now are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
They made it through by doing things like lowering prices, adding new items to their stores and going after new customers.
Such changes are what businesses in any industry need to do to survive, said Travis Sheridan, director of marketing and communication for the Central Valley Business Incubator/Small Business Development Center.
"Every business needs to do something," he said. "Businesses that survive need to find new ways of increasing revenue or decreasing costs."
Companies that refuse to change will die, he said.
Repeat Performance, a consignment shop on Van Ness Avenue, north of Olive Avenue, isn't anywhere near its deathbed.
Sales are up since owner Gwynn Clark lowered prices and started selling products on eBay.
The store specializes in women's clothing, competing with stores like Ross and Marshalls. When the recession hit, people who once would spend $10 or $12 began spending $7 instead, she said.
So Clark lowered her prices 30% last year. It worked. Sales held steady and eventually increased, she said. Now they're up 8% compared to this time last year.
Repeat Performance also started to reach new customers by opening an eBay shop.
Clark said that items she knew were worth a lot of money -- say, a collectible porcelain dish or a $2,300 Prada purse -- weren't selling for what they were worth or selling at all in the store.
The eBay shop allows her to market the items to collectors searching for them online.
Such a move diversifies the business, enabling it to withstand decreases in one area while another thrives, Sheridan said. It also expands the customer base.
"Consignment shops and antique stores and thrift stores ... have a lot of potential to do business online through eBay and Craigslist to broaden their horizons and find ... a new way to move product," he said.
New items spark Goodwill
Goodwill Industries of the San Joaquin Valley Inc. also has increased its sales after a few lean months.
It opened its fifth store in the Fresno area three weeks ago in Peach Tree Plaza at East Kings Canyon Road and Peach Avenue.
But earlier this year, times were tough.
Goodwill's customers are at all income levels, but its poorest were hit hard as the economic downturn dragged on, said Sally Wooden, director of public relations and development. Even a few extra bucks for a T-shirt wasn't in their budgets.
Sales were down about 6% at the beginning of the year -- about the same time as jobless rates in Fresno County hovered above 18%.
In response, the nonprofit Goodwill gave customers more of what they wanted and needed -- new items like shampoo, socks and underwear and pet beds.
It's a change the nonprofit made in recent years, but Goodwill boosted the amount of new items even more this year, she said. New products took up 15% of some stores.
California State University, Fresno, students also kick-started the opening of the area's first community donation center, a drop-off point in a parking lot. That led to the opening of six permanent centers.
The new locations spurred an increase in donations.
Donations also increased as some people started to feel more secure financially, began shopping for new clothes and donated their old ones to Goodwill, Wooden said.
Increased donations are good for business because fresh merchandise keeps customers coming back, Wooden said.
Together the changes steered sales into positive territory, with year-to-date sales 1% above last year, she said.
"It doesn't sound like much, but it's a come from behind [increase]," Wooden said. "Each month we've tracked up."
Confident that sales would continue increasing, Goodwill opened the new store.
Other new stores have opened, too. Sinbad's Closet, a consignment shop selling clothing and local art, opened last month at 110 W. Shaw Ave., in Clovis. Neighborhood Thrift, which has run a large thrift shop on Olive Avenue since 2009, opened a second, smaller location at Cedar and Shields avenues in March.
Expanding in different ways
Consignment Cottage sold furniture for years at the corner of Palm and Shaw avenues, until the building was torn down to make way for a Walgreens.
The consignment shop moved to Blackstone Avenue, south of Shaw Avenue, in February and renamed itself Consignment Emporium.
Owner Roseanne Guaglianone also is using the move as an opportunity to expand, more than doubling the size at the new location.
"We struggled, just like all the other businesses, but we've done better than a lot, and we're still here," she said.
The store lowered prices in reaction to the recession.
And changes Guaglianone made before the downturn paid off, too.
She also owns Hemisphere Furniture, which sells new furniture. When Hemisphere delivered new furniture, it offered to pick up the old pieces and sell it on consignment.
Hemisphere also has its own entrance in the new building, and although it doesn't have a showroom anymore, customers can order furniture, drapes and bedding. Hemisphere also continues its interior design business.
The extra space at the new store allows it to sell more furniture and accessories.
It also provides room for a clothing boutique that will open in October, selling women's and men's clothing, handbags and accessories on consignment.
Consignment Emporium also started a flea market on the third Saturday of every month in its parking lot.
Guaglianone anticipated taking a hit in business due to the move, in addition to the recession, but things already are looking up.
"We are getting back to where we need to be and we're seeing growth," she said.