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Teen Challenge Canada joins the London thrift store marketplace
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By Rick Vandekieft

The used merchandise stores industry in Canada that includes about 2,500 stores with combined annual revenue of about $1billion is about to welcome a new player later this month.

Teen Challenge Canada (TCC) is launching a new thrift store business unit in order to diversify its revenue base and develop alternatives to straight financial donations. Similar to their successful Vehicle Donation Program, this revenue-generation initiative will help fund the ministry’s operations, while also providing significant work therapy opportunities for the students in the rehabilitation program. Each store will also mobilize local volunteers with an affinity for the organization.

The Thrift Stores will sell used clothing, furniture, and other donated household goods to the general public. The initial step is the launch of a pilot store in London. A retail location has been secured in south-east London, with 11,127 square feet of showroom and staging space in a commercial mall with demographically compatible co-tenant stores including Dollarama and Food Basics. The long-term goal for the new Thrift Store Program is a chain of 5-10 stores across the country, generating revenues of $750,000 – $1 million per store with a net contribution to ministry expenses in excess of 40%. The business unit will be led by Thrift Store Director Remi Legacy, an experienced retail and operations manager who in 1986-1989 oversaw the set up and launch of the first four Canadian stores for “Price Club” (now “Costco”). Remi combines solid leadership experience in both retail and TCC Centre operations.

The thrift store operation involves two major business functions – sourcing of donated goods, and retail sales. Donations will be sourced through a network of sponsor churches, individual donors, estates, nursing homes, down-sizing, word-of-mouth, drop-offs and pick-ups. In the past year while developing the business model Remi accumulated a warehouse full of merchandise simply through quiet word-of-mouth.

TCC seeks additional financial support beyond its own investments to help fund the Thrift Store pilot start-up costs. Once the London store is successfully established in 2017, a Store Manager will be hired and Remi will begin preparations to launch a second store. The start-up capital will cover store fixtures, leasehold improvements, signage, furniture, truck purchase/lease, equipment, and working capital for first 6 months.

The new Thrift Store Program has two overall objectives: to fund an expanded ministry, and to provide high-quality Work Therapy opportunities for students. The current Pilot Store initiative will be used to prove and refine operating practices in both areas, paving the way for a national roll-out of thrift stores.