Living. Learning. Creating.
I have the pleasure of being able to share with readers today an exciting 2012 ‘Thrifty Thursday’ partnership Miscellaneous Mum has made with Savers Australia – The Recycle Superstore. Over the duration of the year I will be occasionally posting about the internationally renowned recycled clothing and homewares store and discussing in a wider sense the benefits and surprises of buying second-hand goods. To start I had a rare treat of a store tour last week: Donna McMaster, Managing Director of Savers Australia, took me around the Brunswick store to give me a behind-the-scenes look at how this busy store operates and the processes involved, as well as letting me know a little of the company’s philanthropic philosophy. If you’ve ever been curious about ‘how things work’, then you’re about to find out!
“The recycled clothing journey begins at Saver’s when the truck of donations arrives at the back door,” says Donna. “These goods are then taken off and separated into two major groups: cloth and ‘hard goods’. This product is then weighed, which triggers the commercial payment that is then given to the charity that is delivering it. This payment must always exceed their cost of operations by a minimum of twenty per cent to make it worth their while. They then pack up and leave and we are left to begin the job of sorting.” That seemed like a pretty big gamble to me, so I had to ask the question, “You don’t even know what you’re getting?” Donna nodded. “That’s right – every single delivery is a lottery. A very exciting one! As we pay on weight, we have literally no idea what’s arrived until we go through it and look at each piece individually.” This is how that happens.
Are bundled onto carts and taken to the sorting tables to be separated into sellable and non-sellable piles. Donna explained that approximately 60% of all donated goods are deemed non-sellable and these are put back onto the cart. Those that have been deemed to be in good condition are hung up in rows according to their category (women, men, kids) to be thoroughly assessed before ascertaining a retail price. This assessment includes asking such questions as: What is the condition? Are there rips? Sagging hems? Stains? What is the brand? Is it high quality? What is the fabric?
Once a price has been determined the item is ticketed and racked, ready to go out on the floor. Donna says, “The average price of a piece of clothing is around the $5.50-$6.00 mark. We get the occasional complaint that something might be questionably high in value, or there are two exact items side by side with different prices. To that I say, at the Brunswick store alone, we ticket 6,000 items per day, 6 days a week, 1 garment at a time. So we apologise and say we do do our best, but the odd mistake happens. We are currently looking into rating software that will take that variable factor away.’
These get taken to the bailing machine to be bailed up and shipped to underdeveloped nations, as are all clothes that remain on the floor for longer than a few weeks. “We figure if it hasn’t sold in that time, given the high customer rate (8-10 thousand per week in Brunswick alone) and turnover, then it probably won’t sell,” says Donna. “This way the clothes are kept out of landfill and will help others. Sometimes cloth will go to rag buyers, or we will dispose of it responsibly.”
Books area – heaven!
Shoe sorting area
While I was there I discovered that the new product brought out onto the floor is hung on the left hand side of the bars, between dividers. So if you’re looking for new things, start at the left. There is also a five week colour tag rotation, so by looking at the tag and its position on the rung you can determine how long a garment has been around. Are there any times that are better to shop than others? In terms of stock, no, says Donna. “It’s constantly changing. We have people come in several days a week. Our customers can be broken down into three major groups: one-third are low to middle class purchasers, one-third are eBay resellers and antique dealers, and the last third are alternative fashion crowd, many young students, who like to do their own thing and not follow the current trends and fads.” There is also a 14 day return policy; all that is needed for this is the proof of purchase (receipt) and intact tags.
“There is a lot of waste,’ Donna admits, “and there are some out there who treat donation points like they were hard rubbish dumping sites, but people generally do the right thing. And the responsibility is then ours to dispose of it.” But there is a positive side too. ‘Our business model is to give back to the community and that often means saving up to open a new store, thus providing local employment and an alternative to keep things out of landfill. That’s always a good thing, and I don’t think we’re touching the surface yet of what we could still do and achieve,’ says Donna. “We have strategic partnerships with three major charities, two from this state – Diabetes Australia Victoria and SIDS and Kids Victoria – and in South Australia, Diabetes South Australia. Diabetes Australia Victoria’s net profit alone is over one million dollars per year, coming from their soliciting donations by various means, including leaving bags and magnets and through their call centre: if you call the number, a truck can come and pick up your goods from your home.”
I’d like to thank Donna for taking the time to show me around and I hope you all found this little virtual tour as interesting as I did.
Karen Andrews is the creator of Miscellaneous Mum. This is one of the most established and well-respected parenting blogs in the country and is a two-time finalist in the Best Australian Blogs competition. She is also an author, award-winning writer, poet, editor and publisher at Miscellaneous Press. Is an exercise junkie (when she finds the time).
Ohhh, so that’s what Savers is! All these years I’ve heard Melbournians mention it online and wondered what the heck it was! I thought it was like a Go-Lo or something. It sounds much better than that.
Sharon @ Funken Wagnel recently posted..A Small Child, Free From Religion
It certainly is, Sharon!
I’d really love a Savers down here in Tassie. I love that any clothes that aren’t saleable, or quickly sold, end up in areas that need them.
Thanks for this Karen!
Veronica recently posted..On drawing parallels between blogging and other niche communities
IF you come up for the EWF, I’ll have to try to take you to one!
I’m honestly not sure I’ll be able to make it, the sitting up on the plane and at the events might just kill me!
Veronica recently posted..18 weeks
Thanks so much for this, Karen. What a fantastic business to be partnered with I look forward to hearing more about them throughout the year.
Kathy recently posted..Being away from the kids
Thank you Kathy – I will do my utmost best!
That is fantastic, thank you Karen. Savers is one of our favourite stores and I often pop in to our local shop to see what is new. Particularly in the book section
Marita recently posted..Things I Know
When we go to visit family down on the Peninsula we go to the Franskton Savers….My fav things about Savers:
They are always neat and clean.
They sort garments into sizes and colors…..If you are looking for a black size 10 work skirt….you can find in within minutes of walking into the store.
There is something for everyone there….from very casual to very formal.
Helps stop waste…..recycling can also be fashionable.
michelle recently posted..Knowledge is power………
They will be pleased to hear your feedback, Michelle! And I agree with those points, even though I’ve not made it to the Frankston store, I’ve seen it in others I’ve been too.
There’s some real treasures to be found, M!
Very nice post, i love this post so much ^_^
That is an incredible article and I have always wanted to know how it works. Amazing. Thankyou for sharing!
Amanda recently posted..Social Etiquette – Cell Phone Etiquette Rules and Table Manners
I’m a lover of thrift shops too, I’ll surely visit Savers after the Lenten season. I saw that there’s an area for books too, I’m digging that! Thanks for sharing!
Zoe Jirik recently posted..6 Essential Makeup Brushes for the Average Person
That’s definitely a much bigger operation than I’d realized
Yes, I had the same thought!
It’s really interesting to see the behind the scenes – I always wondered about the some profits going to charity thing.
Susanne recently posted..Australia’s National Year of Reading – my reading habits
What a useful enterprise in this era of unnecessary expense and wastage!
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