Businesses have been hit hard by the continuous pandemic closures, and nonprofit thrift stores are no exception. But for Erin Kohlaas, manager of the Red Door Thrift Shop, the pandemic has also been an opportunity to expand the business online.
“It really encouraged us to rethink our business model,” Kohlaas said.
The Red Door Thrift Shop, which is a mission of the Christ Episcopal Church of Anacortes, hired a web designer to help create a site hosting a new online shopping feature at reddoorthriftshop.com.
Running the store is more labor-intensive with an online option, requiring changes to the store and the way merchandise is presented, Kohlaas said.
The shop has been rearranged to make space for a mini photo studio, where staff can take photos of products to show them off on the site. Descriptions have to be written for each product since customers cannot see or feel them like they could in-store. The shop is organized more like a warehouse now, she said.
Within weeks of opening the online store, they’ve already had orders, first from within the congregation but increasingly from the community at large. Between the start of the shutdown in March and the launch of their new website, the store had been selling products via Facebook and through window display shopping, offering curbside pickup on Wednesday mornings.
As for reopening the physical location, Kohlaas said the store will certainly be closed to shoppers for the rest of the year and until it’s safe to return.
“Most of our volunteers are in that at-risk category,” she added.
The online shop will be a permanent fixture, even after the storefront reopens.
“It’s going to be a hybrid model, going forward,” Kohlaas said. They are exploring ways to ship items farther from town.
While staffed by two paid employees, the Red Door Thrift Shop is mostly run by volunteers. All profits go toward community organizations. Last year, the shop raised over $60,000, Kohlaas said. It also is always looking for input on ways to better serve the community.
“We’re trying to give back as much as we can, even though that dollar amount will be a lot less this year,” she said.
The Red Door is one of several thrift shops in town that have had to adjust since the pandemic. After closing for months, the nonprofit shops run by Kiwanis and Soroptomist International are both open to the public on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.