Goodwill opens its new flagship, outlet

Saturday, November 12, 2016
By Katie Nussbaum
katie.martin@savannahnow.com

Known for having that retro shirt or the perfect table you can’t find anywhere else, Goodwill of Southeast Georgia is again introducing something new to the Low Country, an outlet store and a new midtown flagship location.

The flagship store at 7220 Sallie Mood Drive is being relocated to a new 6,800-square-foot location at 220 Eisenhower Dr., which will mark the 17th location for the company in southeast Georgia.

Goodwill of Southeast Georgia helps people who face some sort of employment barrier through training, education and entry level job positions, with a goal of helping each one find sustainable, individual employment. The efforts are funded largely by their retail stores.

Vice president of Community Engagement Cynthia Barnes and Chief People Officer Tammie Blaha both said they hope the new location will be more accessible to shoppers and help attract some new ones.

“To have a retail store right there in the heart of midtown retail, it’s going to give us an opportunity not just to give a great shopping experience to longtime Goodwill shoppers, but to attract people who have maybe never shopped in a Goodwill store before,” Barnes said.

Barnes said the new flagship location will allow for more presentation of housewares and a selfie wall for shoppers to show off their new outfits. They’ve also put together a DIY Lookbook that will feature various projects and crafts that can be made with repurposed items from the store.

“Building on the Pinterest craze, it has ideas you can make with repurposed furniture or clothing or what you can do with picture frames that you buy for a few cents at a Goodwill store to redecorate,” Barnes said, adding that the projects will feature QR codes that after being scanned will deliver the how-to instructions right to a smartphone.

The Sallie Mood Drive store will remain open, but has been converted to a “buy the pound” outlet store, which is a new addition to the local market. After about four weeks an unsold item at a regular retail store will be sent to the outlet and sorted into large bins of related items.

Bins will be rolled out for buyers and the hunting begins.

“You can literally fill up your basket, and then when you check out, you just pay by the pound for however much all those clothes weigh,” Blaha said. “… It’s amazing the frenzy that’s created over this stuff. It goes so fast because they dump another bin every so many minutes and people just go crazy for it. It’s a lot of fun to watch it.” Blaha traveled to a store in Richmond, Va., to see how the idea works.

Purchases weighing zero to 10 pounds cost $1.59 per pound; 10 to 25 pounds, $1.39 per pound; weights more than 25 pounds, $1.19 per pound; and glassware is $0.39 per pound.
“There’s constantly new things coming through and I think the treasure hunters of Goodwill really appreciate that,” Barnes said.

Unsold items from the outlet store are sold for salvage. Depending on the material, items can be used to make insulation for houses, roofing or recycled rags.
“We’re assured what’s going to happen with them after they leave us. We know that they’re not going to end up in a ditch in China. Everything is vetted out to make sure we’re being responsible with our efforts to recycle,” Blaha said.

A mission beyond retail
Barnes and Blaha said Goodwill’s mission goes far beyond its retail locations.

“We’re a very diverse organization… The retail store is just the one small piece of it,” Blaha said. The company also has a manufacturing division, logistics department and job connection centers, which she said show the organization’s mission in action.

Goodwill has five connection centers, which help people who face challenges finding jobs, funded by money received in retail stores.

“We don’t just look at employment opportunities, we look at the whole person and how we can help them be successful in not only their job search, but obtaining economic self-sufficiency,” she said.

“That’s the real goal. We don’t expect anybody to come to work for Goodwill and stay at Goodwill for the rest of their lives. We want to grow them up and out. We want to give them the skills and confidence they need to continue to grow in whatever they chose to be their career path.”

Goodwill strives to work closely with the Savannah business community and has contracts with several government organizations, including providing custodial services for Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Air Force Base and groundskeeping for Laurel Grove North Cemetery.

“We want to be seen as that leader in workforce development and see what can do can to help our whole community to be successful and what can we do to help the individuals who are having challenges with finding employment,” Blaha said.

More than 5,100 people received job-related service from connection centers last year and more than 1,400 found individual, sustainable employment.

“That’s the measure. That’s what we focus on the most,” Barnes said, adding that the organization diverted more than 14 million pounds of surplus from landfills by selling it in the local retail stores.

The organization also relies on the community for support.

“Donations are the lifeblood of this social enterprise, so we rely 100 percent on people in the community giving to us their gently used items, whether it’s clothing or houseware items,” she said, adding that items needed the most are men’s clothing and home décor like picture frames or other knickknacks.

Goodwill also introduced the GoodGuides mentor program in Groves High School and Hubert Middle School last year in an effort to start planting the seeds of success in younger generations. According to Barnes, the program provided about 7,000 hours of mentorship to students last year.

“We’re reaching back to help them have those skills that they need when it’s time to go into the employment sector,” she said.