Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Goodwill doesn't necessarily mean used goods

Someone recently asked me what my biggest obstacle is to the success of Goodwill Too! (for those who just joined us, Goodwill Too! is the e-commerce web site at operated by my employer, Goodwill Industries-Suncoast).

Of course, there are plenty of obstacles, just as there are plenty of successes, but the one that jumps out at me these days is a preconception. Goodwill Industries is well-known for quite a few things, but one thing people think of when they think of a Goodwill store is a pretty good selection of used merchandise. Gently used, more often than not, but used nonetheless. That Goodwill takes donations of used items and sells those items in their stores to generate revenue to run its programs is no surprise to most people. I think many people are surprised, though, to learn not every Goodwill store limits itself to donated goods.

Like many Goodwills elsewhere, Goodwill-Suncoast supplements its stores' offerings with a copious amount of new items. Since the organization's customers are used to finding used items at very low prices, the new merchandise is also offered for less than typical retail. This is not a universal idea, however. Not every Goodwill, worldwide, offers new goods. It is easy enough to tell which ones do, however, when one walks in a store. The new goods are packaged like they would be anywhere else, so they tend to stand out.

So, when I was tasked with building a virtual Goodwill store, the aforementioned Goodwill Too!, I knew I'd be able to offer both new goods and gently used goods, and our local customers don't seem to have a problem with it.

The problem is, web site visitors from outside Goodwill-Suncoast's area often assume everything offered on the web site is previously used. It doesn't seem to matter what we say on the site, they want to believe the entire site is stocked with donated merchandise.

Yes, we have some gently used items online, but for the most part, they are confined to the Gently Used Merchandise category. The rest of the site, roughly 7/8 of the inventory, is brand new merchandise. Those low prices you see on items are low because we got a good deal on them... not because the items had been used once!

So, success would come to Goodwill Too! a bit faster if people looked at the merchandise the right way. Goodwill Too! is a shopping web site offering retail items cheaply and carrying a few donated items because, after all, we are still Goodwill!

I think if the Goodwill Too! Team just got that word out, people who shied away from Goodwill stores in the past would take a peek at our selection, and shortly another barrier would fall.

What do you think?

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