Goodwill Industries is one of the largest retail thrift store chains in the U.S. and beyond, operating a network of about 165 independent, community-based organizations in 15 countries. In 2011, the non profit 501(c)3 organization earned more than $4 billion, with 82 percent going to provide employment, training and support services to more than 4.2 million people.
One of the newest stores that has opened under the Goodwill umbrella is the new Crossgates Select Store located in the Crossgates Shopping Center at 5708 U.S. 80 East in Pearl. Even though there were already four other Goodwill stores in Metro Jackson, including one in Rankin County, the new Pearl location has proven to be very popular.
The 14,000-square-foot store is the largest Goodwill Store in the area and opened on July 11, with its grand opening celebration Oct. 17-19.
The store has been very well received, said Dave Hollingsworth, marketing and community involvement director, Goodwill Industries of Mississippi Inc.
“The Friday of our grand opening celebration set an all-time record for sales by a Goodwill of Mississippi store and Saturday eclipsed that record by 17 percent,” Hollingsworth said. “That strong shopping has continued since the grand opening. We have received numerous thanks from the community for opening the store.”
Hollingsworth said their mission is to assist people with disabilities and other barriers to employment find jobs. “The opening of the Crossgates store has created 19 new jobs – and each of those jobs helps people who are most in need,” he said.
The new store is well organized with wide aisles and plenty of lighting that makes it easy to shop for bargains. Clothing is arranged by size, style and color, much like in a department store.
Goodwill relies primarily on donations to stock the store, and donations to the new Crossgates Select Store were great, particularly the last two months of the year.
“Donations are the lifeline of Goodwill,” Hollingsworth said.
“It is donations that grow our enterprise and allow us to fuel our mission, a mission that creates jobs and changes lives for the better. We placed a major emphasis on the store’s donation center. It is state-of-the-art in terms of convenience and accessibility. Since our grand opening, donations at the Crossgates Select Store increased 32 percent in November and 39 percent in December.
“So it is gratifying that the community is making a difference by their level of donations. Customers who donate and those who shop Goodwill can be — and often are — one and the same.”
Generally donations made in Pearl stay at the Pearl store, although in some instances donations are distributed to other Goodwill stores including the Metro Jackson Goodwill stores and one in Hattiesburg. Hollingsworth said this is typically due to a shortage of merchandise at another local store.
Goodwill does buy merchandise on occasion, but limits that amount to less than five percent of total goods sold. The merchandise purchased is often items returned to stores because of a packaging deficit or overstocking.
Many customers just like finding a bargain, but second hand stores like Goodwill are particularly popular when the economy is tough.
“Goodwill’s success is part of a national trend that shows consumers abandoning their traditional, high-priced shopping destinations for lower-cost alternatives,” Hollingsworth said. “We are experiencing that at our Goodwill stores in Mississippi.”
There has been controversy in the past about allegations that Goodwill Industries International pays its CEO more than $500,000 in compensation per year, but pays less than minimum wage to disabled people. An article in Huffington Post Sept. 25, 2012 quoted Dr. Marc Maurer, the president of the National Federal of the Blind, as stating that, “Goodwill Industries is one of the most well-known charitable organizations in the United States, but most members of the general public are unaware that Goodwill exploits people with disabilities.”
The article said some employees earn just 22 cents per hour, which is legal because of a Depression-era loophole in federal labor law. About 7,300 of the 105,000 employees are paid less than minimum wage, the article said.
“We can’t speak for other Goodwill agencies,” said LaKeysha Greer Isaac, chair of the board of Goodwill Industries of Mississippi.
“Locally at Goodwill of Mississippi, our IRS 990 is posted on our website. Locally, executive compensation is determined by consultations with independent advisers, local and regional market studies, and executive job responsibilities and performance. All our employees earn a minimum wage or higher.”
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