Bad economy good for thrift business

Chelle Delaney

On Friday, Charlie Thibodeaux traded a coffee pot for a dozen tortillas.

Thibedeaux said barterning is not a routine part of his business at the Canal Trading Mall. In fact, he said, he likes to have cash-only transactions.

But, “She only had $3 and she said her coffee pot had quit on her,” Thibodeaux said.

Started in May by Thibodeaux and his partner, Jerry Dodson, the mall on south First Street is open Wednesday through Saturday and sells antiques, household goods, furniture, clothes and other items ranging in price from $3,500 to 25 cents.

“Thrift stores are booming,” Thibodeaux said.

From Portales to Tucumcari, consumers are finding bargains at thrift stores to match their budgets in the economic downturn.
Thrift stores have become a source of much needed gas money or grocery money for local residents. Clovis and Portales thrift stores have seen an increase in shoppers looking to cut costs by shopping with them, as well as customers bringing in items to sell.

Sheila Sabitz, owner of Consigning Women in Portales and Clovis, said that sales have more than doubled from last year. In 2007, Sabitz said the stores had about 300 customers a day; in 2008, that number has more than doubled.

“The demand is serious. People are feeling the financial crunch everywhere,” Sabitz said. “You have to cut the fat somewhere and you can’t cut it in gas or food so you have to cut it in clothes and other things.”

Sabitz said shoppers are realizing that gas prices make driving to Lubbock or Amarillo to shop unrealistic.

Heidi Zamora, a Clovis homemaker, said that thrift stores help her family of five with their finances.

“I’ve found brand-name things in our thrift stores,” Zamoria said. “I’m excited because I can get a $5 outfit for my daughter that would have cost me $120 in the store (when it was first put out on the rack). And I didn’t have to go to Lubbock.”

While shoppers are staying local, residents are also utilizing thrift stores to cushion their own pocketbooks.

Lee Bricker, owner of This and That, said that he has an extra 15 people a week bringing in items to sell. “More people are trying to sell things just to have money to get around,” Bricker said.

The increase of items will help his store in the long run Bricker said.

“People need the money and it gives me more to sell,” he said.

In Tucumcari, the Canal Trading mall offers space to people who want to rent a small area to set up their own “store” and sell their own items. However, since most can stay and man their little stores Dodson and Thibodeaux charge the storeowners a commission.

Other people bring in items on consignment, such as dining room sets and bedroom suites, he said.

“The economy is shot. Retailers will be hurting and we don’t have any debt,” Thibodeaux said.

“But if the customers come “and they don’t have any money, then I don’t have any money,” Thibodeaux said.

Lilian Castillo of Freedom New Mexico contributed to this report.