The Truth Behind Traditional Thrift Stores: How Habitat’s ReStore is Breaking the Mould

Shop Habitat HM's ReStores so you know your thrift store purchase is actually making a difference.

Thrift stores are idealized as the perfect place to find unique and affordable items, with proceeds benefiting local charities. They’re also thought of as a great place to bring donations so you can de-clutter and feel good about helping local families. Talk about a win-win situation, right? Unfortunately, this is a common misconception about the way traditional thrift stores operate. In reality, 75 per cent of your donations are being shipped overseas, and the local charities they’re “benefitting” see less than 20 per cent of the thrift store’s revenue from goods donated on their behalf.

Conversely, Habitat’s ReStore operates in a highly transparent way to assure you that your donation to Habitat, or your purchase from our ReStore, really does have an impact on local families.

The assumption when you donate to a traditional thrift store

Typically, making a donation to a thrift store, or a charity outsourcing the resale of their items to a third-party, comes from a desire to help. The thought process of donating might loosely follow along the lines of “Wow! What a great way to declutter, divert waste from the landfill, help support local charities and ensure that your donation will be enjoyed by someone who can appreciate it, purchased at an affordable price!”

It doesn’t always work out this way. An important question that should pop into your head when considering making a donation is, “How will my donation actually be helping people?

The misconception

At Habitat HM we believe large for-profit thrift stores are misleading the public to attract high volumes of donations.

Sweeping statements like Value Village’s “Every item you donate, big or small, supports a non-profit in your neighbourhood,” make it easy to take their word at face value. With partnered charities like Big Brothers and Big Sisters and Diabetes Canada outsourcing the sale of their donations to Value Village, it might seem like the perfect solution to satiate your desire to help.

The truth

It may shock many individuals who regularly donate to these charities to learn that between merely eight to 17 per cent of sales revenue generated through the resale of donations actually end up with the charities they “benefit.”

While Value Village, as the largest for-profit thrift store in the world, generates over $1 billion in revenue annually.

This reflects the way Value Village has operated its clothing sales. For furniture and household items, charities didn’t see a dollar back for their donation until 2015, when Washington’s Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, launched an investigation regarding the operations of the company.

How is Habitat’s ReStore different?

Habitat HM’s ReStores are supported primarily through their resale of furniture, appliances and household items. Other not-for-profit organizations who are unable to sell donated items themselves and are left with the option of outsourcing the resale of their donations to third-party companies like Value Village. Our ReStores allow us to maintain full control over your donation, from when we receive the item to its resale with a family within our community.  

While Habitat HM recently started accepting clothing donations, we don’t currently offer clothes for sale in our ReStores. Instead, we outsource their sale to a third-party organization called Recycling Rewards. They operate in partnership with Talize Thrift Store, which resells the clothing to individuals in the community for a reduced price.

We wanted to include the option of a clothing donation bin to offer our donors the ease of having a one-stop spot for all their donations. The revenue Habitat HM receives from Recycling Rewards for our addition of clothing donation bins is used in the same way as our ReStore funds.

Where does my money go when I buy from the ReStore?

Whereas some charities are unable to guarantee how much of your specific donation will be used to support their cause, we can guarantee that 100 per cent of the revenue from a purchase through the ReStore helps support the operation of our not-for-profit organization.

Working as the engine within Habitat HM that helps fuel our mission, revenue from the ReStore covers necessary costs of office administration. With these expenses off our plate, we can focus on what we do best: building.

With two of the highest performing ReStore locations in all of Canada, our ReStores allow us to ensure that every dollar donated to Habitat will go towards building affordable housing inside our community.

Habitat HM values transparency

As a not-for-profit organization run entirely on the generosity of donors and individuals like you who buy from our ReStore, we think you deserve to understand the behind-the-scenes of our donation operations.

Make your donation count with our ReStores

At Habitat HM we do everything within our power to maximize our impact. That way we can build more houses within our community that will help hardworking and deserving families build a better future for themselves. Maintaining control of the resale of items donated to Habitat allows us to ensure that we’re getting the most out of your donation.

Why should Habitat HM’s ReStores be your thrift store of choice?

Beyond the mechanics of a thrift store’s operations and how your donation helps, we’re sure you’re interested in what you can find in a ReStore. A big part of the thrift store shopping appeal is its treasure-hunting character. At our ReStores, with countless items arriving daily and even more flying off our shelves, you never know what hidden gems you might find.

Wide variety of items

Similar to traditional thrift stores, our ReStores offer a range of household items (small pieces of furniture, décor, knick-knacks, etc.), but we don’t just stop there. We receive individual gently-used donations and brand-new corporate donations of appliances, large furniture pieces and sets, lighting, windows and doors, dishware, books, activities and many more items. Stop by today to see what we have before it’s gone!

High-quality items at cheap prices

Every item that comes through our doors is inspected before it goes on the shelf to ensure we’re selling only quality items. We set our price points at a fraction of their retail value so we can bring you the most affordable prices.

We make an impact within your community

We’ve discussed how your purchase through the ReStore supports Habitat HM’s operations, but how do we actually help our community?

Here’s a look at the build projects we’re currently working on. These homes are located within the Halton and Mississauga regions so that our impact stays local. Create change within your community so that we see the benefits (like $175,000 in benefits to our community per home built).

We’ll deliver your ReStore purchase

For a small contribution, our wonderful team of volunteers will ensure your purchase makes it home safely. This means no scratches to your purchase, no damage to your car from trying to squeeze the item in and no injury to you from struggling to lift a heavy load.

Inquire with a member of our team in-store today to learn more.

Ditch the traditional thrift store shopping spree

A purchase through one of our ReStores means you’re supporting Habitat’s mission to build affordable homes within our community.

Through Habitat, 100 per cent of the revenue from your purchase will be used to support our organization. A purchase through a for-profit thrift store means only a small portion of your donation will be benefiting charities.

When you make a donation or a purchase from thrift stores with the intention of helping others, step back and ask yourself “who is this really helping?” Rather than ending up in the pocket of wealthy corporations, we know you’ll feel rewarded being able to answer “my purchase through the ReStore makes an impactful difference for families right here in my community.”

Our ReStore Locations

Burlington

Location: 1800 Appleby Line, L7L 6A1

Hours: Mon-Sat 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Phone: 906-637-4446

Mississauga

Location: 4500 Dixie Road, L4W 1V7

Hours: Mon-Sat 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Phone: 905-828-0987

Milton

Location: 25 Brown Street, L9T 7Z8

Hours: Mon-Sat 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Phone: 905-693-0444

With files from: CBC News, NBC News, The Stranger and The News Tribune.

By: Olivia Kabelin