Fort Mill Times

Goodwill offers smart economics lesson

Armando Barragan, communications and promotions manager for Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont looks at clothes Friday as Steele Creek store manager Tom Hungate, left, said "I have wasted so much money not shopping at Goodwill." He said in his two months, he's amazed at the loyalty of customers. "People come by every day, because every day is a treasure hunt."
Armando Barragan, communications and promotions manager for Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont looks at clothes Friday as Steele Creek store manager Tom Hungate, left, said "I have wasted so much money not shopping at Goodwill." He said in his two months, he's amazed at the loyalty of customers. "People come by every day, because every day is a treasure hunt."

There's at least one student who is starting the school year off with a lesson in economics.

Emma Hampton, 15, on Friday said even though her family moved from the Tega Cay area to Rock Hill a couple of months ago, it's worth making the trip to the Goodwill store in Steele Creek because "this is where we find the good stuff."

The teenager, who likes vintage clothing, said she hasn't been to a mall in "forever."

"I like it cause it's kind of like an adventure," she said picking up name-brand clothing such as Roxy and Xhilaration for less than $4. "You never know what kind of good deals you'll find."

Even though she admits some of her peers consider shopping secondhand "voodoo," she says Goodwill makes her hard-earned baby sitting and lawn work money go further.

"It's Goodwill. It's cheap and I'm saving money," she said. "You can get an $80 pair of jeans for $5."

Her stepfather John Elliott is proud that his honors daughter has learned the value of the dollar. In fact, Elliott said his entire family, including wife Emma Elliott and daughter Taylor, 17, check out "Will's Boutique."

"It's great because we use our money on other things," he said, adding his entire home office furnishings came from Goodwill estimating the savings at $1,500 to $2,500. "I could not even begin to imagine how much we've saved."

Apparently, the Hamptons aren't alone. As the U.S. and local economy struggle, Goodwill is actually seeing more shoppers, said Armando Barragan, communications and promotions manager for Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont.

"The number of people has increased dramatically in the past several months," he said, "because people are trying to save money and stretch that dollar.

Barragan said sales were up 7.3 percent this July compared to last year (which does not include the Steele Creek store since it opened July 14, 2007).

"We are getting a lot of new customers," he said, adding there are 19 stores in the region, 33 donation sites and five job centers. "What's amazing is you're helping people in your community succeed."

Through people's donations and customer sales at retail stores, Goodwill puts 80 percent of the sales into employment and job training services.

"With the economy, those services are up 72 percent," he said.

Goodwill provides training in such fields as banking, hospitality and construction, as well as keyboarding and computer skills.

"The ultimate goal is getting people to work," Barragan said. "Every success story begins with a donation."

Steele Creek, the seventh busiest store of all 19, is getting noticed as " a very strong store for donations," Barragan said, it is expected to be one of the top five stores by next year.

The Hamptons donate clothing back to Goodwill, too.

"It's a big asset for the community to have a business like this," Elliott said, adding he's bought Italian-made suits with price tags for $10. "You can get the very best at a mall just at a cheaper price."

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