Got a closet full of stuff you don’t know what to do with? How about that gift from Grandma tucked away on the back shelf that you’re just too guilty to get rid of it? Or the pair of boots — still unworn — that seemed so perfect in the store but don’t actually match anything else you own?
The old adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” doesn’t come from nowhere, and a new venture called WebThriftStore may just be the answer to your closet full of clutter.
WebThriftStore, the brainchild of business partners Doug Krugman and Lynn Zises (who also happen to be married with three young children) is a web platform that enables any registered charity to create an online thrift store. The concept is as simple as it is effective:
Donors list their stuff on the site, and designate one of the charities the site has partnered with. When an item sells, the donor prints out a prepaid USPS mailing label and leaves the package for the mail carrier. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to the charity, and the donor gets a 100% tax deduction. One of the most appealing aspects: it all takes place from the comfort of home. No lugging boxes across town for the donor, no prohibitive brick and mortar costs for the charity. It’s a win-win situation for all.
“We see it as a really amazing opportunity for charities to raise badly needed cash in a difficult time and to do it in a way that benefits everyone,” Zises tells me. “It benefits the charity, it benefits the donor, and it benefits the buyer.”
And stuff sells. “We have a joke here in our office,” Zises laughs, describing an item her husband had donated. “Doug had listed an item of his – a very super techie thing that one of the guys we work with was teasing him about, ‘Oh Doug c’mon, no one’s going to buy that.’ And it sold. You know there’s a market out there for almost anything.”
WebThriftStore does not demand any up-front fees or subscription fees, and buyers receive a 30 day money back guarantee on their purchases. The company, which is based in New York, is a for profit enterprise that takes 20% of each sale to cover operational costs, including credit card processing and transaction fees.
“What we’ve done is really take all the risk and hassle out of it for all the charities.” Krugman explains. “They’ve had absolutely no problem with the 20% because they don’t have to put in any investment and we take all of the risk.”
Donors have listed more than 600 items and charities have raised more than $6,000 since the site’s launch in January, according to Crain’s. When I clicked on the ASPCA page on the site, I could have purchased items ranging from a flouncy orange Marni blouse for $298, to a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses for $38, to The Shih Tzu Handbook for $8. Krugman and Zises are working with four non profits right now: the ASPCA, classwish, the East River Development Alliance, and Maccabi USA. As their site expands, so will the number of charities they take on as partners.
“We’re approached every day. We get multiple calls and emails from charities and ultimately we will work with all of them,” Zises says. “But right now we’re creating a process for onboarding smaller charities and continuing to perfect our model.”
As Zises tells me, thrift store shopping is a whopping $13 billion business in the U.S. alone. Couple that with a recent estimate from NPD Research that the average U.S. household has $7 thousand worth of unused stuff squirreled away, and the potential for this kind of charitable giving is truly enormous, even more so when you consider there are 100 million U.S. households.
“The thrift store is a model that everyone is familiar with,” Zises says. “We’re just bringing it online and bringing an online role to this proven model.”
Take a look at this video about the idea behind WebThriftStore:
Photo credit: pixeljones via flickr