The Christmas rush is over most places, but it’s just beginning at Goodwill and other local thrift stores.
As in years past, the last few days of the year are proving to be the busiest time for charities, as thousands make room for new Christmas goods and seek last-minute tax write-offs.
“With the end of the tax season, this week is the largest donation week of the year for Goodwill,” said George White, public relations director at Goodwill of Tacoma. “For shoppers, it’s also the best time of the year to pick up bargains.”
According to White, Goodwill of Tacoma is expecting more than 70,000 loads of household goods to be dropped off at its stores and donation stations during the last two weeks of 2013.
If you itemize deductions on your federal income taxes, donations to certified charities qualify as tax deductible expenses.
At Goodwill’s Federal Way store, White said, cars typically wrap around the store and line up down the block during the last three or four days of the year.
At Tacoma’s 38th Street store, he said, staffers already are handling 400 carloads a day and expect the volume to rise steadily before the tax deadline on New Year’s Eve.
Charlotte Wiedow, manager of the 38th Street Goodwill, says spring and early summer are also heavy donation times, but items donated then don’t compare in either quality or quantity with the end of the year rush.
“People are making room for all their Christmas gifts,” she said. “You’re going to see great stuff from the end of December all the way through January.”
Wiedow said she doesn’t add to her staff of 54 people during the rush, but she does reassign people who normally work in other jobs to help handle incoming donations.
“The busier it gets, the more people we’ll put down there,” she said. “We’ve had 12 to 15 at a time.”
Donors tend to bring in loads of electronic equipment and furniture after Christmas, White said, much of which will appear on the sales floor on the same day.
“The furniture will turn over three times in a day in some of our stores,” White said.
Clothing takes longer to sort through and price, he said, meaning there’s a longer delay before it makes its way onto the floor. That means good deals through the second half of January, he said.
Contrary to widespread belief, Wiedow said, donated items do not go to a central distribution warehouse where they’re dispersed later to stores throughout the region.
“We keep it all,” she said.
Or nearly all.
Like most thrift stores, Goodwill now employs “e-commerce” personnel, whose job it is to search out treasures likely to do well on online auction sites such as eBay or Goodwill’s own competitive bidding site, Shopgoodwill.com.
Some of the high-end goods are siphoned off to Goodwill’s “Blue” fashion boutiques, located on North Proctor Street in Tacoma and Capitol Way South in Olympia.
At Tacoma’s 38th Street store, the online treasure hunter is Karen Summers, a seven-year Goodwill veteran.
“You can’t catch it all,” Summers said, “but I don’t miss much.”
Summers proudly recounts some of her best scores: a 1964 Beatles record player that’s in big demand on eBay; a $10,000 ring; a $20,000 Persian rug and a $900 turquoise necklace.
Summers grudgingly admits that, during the post-Christmas rush, more of the treasures are apt to get by her and onto the sales floor.
While donations are heavy at the end of the year, they still fall short of providing the resources needed to deal with high unemployment in the region, White said.
Goodwill of Tacoma provided job training and other resources to 9,000 people in 2013, White said, but much more is needed.
“Even through this heavy season,” White said, “you’ve got to remember that, at the end of the day, we’re providing only a fraction of the need that’s out there.”
Rob Carson: 253-597-8693