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Old 01-26-09, 09:31 AM   #1
wrk101
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Are Thrift Stores Drying Up in Your Area??

The thrift stores in my area have noticeably less inventory, and a lot more customers. The stores are starting to look empty! Quite a difference from last year where good items were loaded into the dumpster out back every day.

In talking with some of the local T.S. management, they tell me donations are down, and business is up, way up (like 30% or more). Seems to reflect the economy. I am seeing more and more swap meet sellers (professional pickers if you will) on a daily basis waiting to get in and snarfing up anything they think they can resell.

Sure hope the economy turns around soon so we can get back to normal! My inventory of flippable bikes is down significantly, as I have sold several in 2009 already.

My last thrift store catch was a month ago. I did get a sweet C/L catch and got screwed out of a second one (called the guy who lives an hour away, agreed to buy the bike, headed out to his house, got there and he told me, "oh I just sold it.").

I am seeing more garage sales. Usually around here, there would not be any garage sales this time of year. I went to a sad one last weekend, family was selling everything as they are losing their home. Tough, really tough situation.

I have found 20 good bikes in thrift stores in the last year. But nothing in the last month.

Last edited by wrk101; 01-26-09 at 11:44 AM. Reason: clarification
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Old 01-26-09, 09:41 AM   #2
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The best deals are not at thrifts but the dumps. Local laws vary. Some say you can't salvage some clerks will sell you the bikes at dirt cheap prices. I got an old french frame with a full Nuovo Record for 60$ it didn't have the hubs but all else was in tact.

Look up your recycle centers. Some are a little drive but can be worth it.
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Old 01-26-09, 09:48 AM   #3
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In the Twin Cities it's -7 right now. Thrift stores here won't put bikes out for sale until March at the earliest. I won't be surprised if nothing is out until late April.
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Old 01-26-09, 09:55 AM   #4
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I have never found a lot at Thrift Stores. The good stuff, over the past 6 months, have been an above average condition Schwinn Varsity, a mid-60's Hercules 3 speed and 3 speed Schwinn Breeze. None of the bikes were on the floor. I asked if they had any bikes and they took me int he back and upstairs to where the non-seasonal things were.

The Breeze was flipped last year and the other two are on the current fix up for spring flipping pile.

The most fun thrift store finds were last Monday when I picked up a Jamis 20" kids bike, an old Schwinn Pixie (on it way to CA right now) and a 24" wheeled Schwinn Sprint for a total with tax of $1.64.
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Old 01-26-09, 10:17 AM   #5
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The local Goodwill stores here are putting flyers in bags stating that they need more donations and it's made the local tv news. A couple I go to have had people parking out in the street because the parking lots were full. One that usually had at least 6-12 x-mart bikes has had no bikes the last few times I went there.

Some other thrift shops, multi-site and solo, are business as usual, no big crowds, usual inventory. One just between Friday and Saturday put out 6-8 x-mart MTB's.

A week or so ago one of the St. Vincent de Paul stores had their semi-annual 50% off sale of everything in the store and it was wall to wall people. Someone I know was there at closing time and they still had over 30 people in line to check out with purchases, the store manager even got on the intercom and said she was going home now and left the clerks there alone to finish up with the remaining customers in line.

It's kind of a strange market right now. There seems to be desparation sales mixed in with speculation sales, and desperation buyers trying to find "anything" that they can resell for a buck mixed in with cash-heavy buyers trying to find items sellable as a collector item. Definitely a strange time right now. I'm just hoping my job holds up, and in case it doesn't I've been building up a little inventory on my own for when the weather warms up some and the regular bicycle commuters start getting out again.
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Old 01-26-09, 10:43 AM   #6
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The thrift store offerings in my area are pretty pathetic - very few bikes and usually Xmart one at that. I'm waiting for spring and yard sale season and always keep my eyes open during my daily work travels for deals.
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Old 01-26-09, 12:14 PM   #7
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I haven't seen much change in the last few months. I did notice quite a few more bikes being rolled out before the holidays, and the local CL has been pretty busy for a week or so (lots of re-listing though.)

I have seen more garage sales lately, and I know that plenty of them are hardship-driven.

On a related note, a new Goodwill just opened a few minutes' pedal from my house, and I went by to donate some clothes at the back door. I recognized a flea market seller who was at my garage sale a few weeks ago (she bought about $300 worth of purses and perfumes from my wife...) She was digging through the bins and had a few ornate gowns over her arm. I always suspected that that back door deals were happening, but now I've seen it firsthand.
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Old 01-26-09, 01:08 PM   #8
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...
On a related note, a new Goodwill just opened a few minutes' pedal from my house, and I went by to donate some clothes at the back door. I recognized a flea market seller who was at my garage sale a few weeks ago (she bought about $300 worth of purses and perfumes from my wife...) She was digging through the bins and had a few ornate gowns over her arm. I always suspected that that back door deals were happening, but now I've seen it firsthand.
That is supposed to be against their rules.
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Old 01-26-09, 01:17 PM   #9
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there was an article in the paper today about the problems thrift stores are having with donations. Of course it may be because of the bitter cold.
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Old 01-26-09, 01:31 PM   #10
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And against the backdrop of declining availability, I have seen a marked increase in my personal bike sales. I have sold five bikes already this January, which in the past was a dead time for selling. My guess is that it is economy driven. People are avoiding the full retail of their local bike shop, and buying used instead. I have not cut my prices. Perhaps I am better at marketing?? But when I run out of inventory, then the party is over....

One thing I am doing which I learned from another poster, is that I always list the height of the person that would fit the bike. Many newbie buyers do not understand frame sizing, so listing the bike as a 23 inch frame is almost worthless to them. Although I do still list the frame size (experienced riders will want it), I also list the height of the appropriate rider.

Last edited by wrk101; 01-26-09 at 01:36 PM. Reason: clarification
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Old 01-26-09, 01:33 PM   #11
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my girlfriend just got promoted to manager of our salvation army store, so I don't foresee any shortage of bikes, as I will now have full access to the regional distribution clearing house!
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Old 01-26-09, 02:29 PM   #12
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my girlfriend just got promoted to manager of our salvation army store, so I don't foresee any shortage of bikes, as I will now have full access to the regional distribution clearing house!
...and this is why thrifts stores suck for the good stuff like bikes. Employee cherry picking...
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Old 01-26-09, 03:55 PM   #13
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Just picked up a like-new Panasonic Sport 1000 Mixte at local Goodwill in an out of the way little town, surprised to see it show up there, but these things can pop up anywhere I guess!
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Old 01-26-09, 05:18 PM   #14
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I have found several bikes at the (west suburban Detroit area) Salvation Army store recently, but not the high-end stuff that people on this forum like. I got a campus green 1974 Schwinn Varsity at the beginning of the month for $30 (which I've posted in a thread on removing rust), and a yellow made-in-Japan Schwinn LeTour the day after MLK Day. and it was marked with a dated priced tag indicating it was priced on MLK Day. There was also a yellow Collegiate that I passed on, partly because it was missing a pedal but the price was not lowered to reflect that, and finally a Montgomery Wards Amateur Athletic Union 12-speed. I've never seen one before. All the bikes were priced high, IMO, at $39.99. I didn't want to let the LeTour get away, and since there was a 10% discount that day for some reason, I took it. Unfortunately for me, I think the employees are beginning to recognize me at that location.

I haven't made a habit yet of checking SA stores regularly. I did check two other stores in the area last weekend and they had nothing but a few little kids' X-mart bikes.

There are no Goodwill stores around here, unfortunately. The best thrift store purchase I've ever made is the Peugeot from the www.shopgoodwill.com auction site last summer. All bikes from shopgoodwill.com are pickup only, and it was a 90-mile round trip to get it. And I've never seen a bike advertised from that shop again.
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Old 01-26-09, 05:47 PM   #15
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Here in Southern California (Orange County) I have a long-established Goodwill Industries store about a mile from where I live. Plenty of business and inventory. Never bought a bike there; seen an old Puch, an old Murray, some X-mart stuff, but not too many bikes

But I might check this place out in Glendora - lotta old road bikes.

http://losangeles.craigslist.org/sgv...007233989.html
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Old 01-26-09, 06:20 PM   #16
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Bike selection here at the thrift stores is slim to none. Garage sales and estate sales are the best bet for the shopper with way too much time.
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Old 01-26-09, 07:03 PM   #17
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One here posted an ad on CL stating "tons of bikes, all sizes, all types", i went there within an hour of the posting and they said "we have those 2 for sale, that's it" and they were both huffy kids bikes. i was a little POed. Last year though, I caught a Schwinn Tempo w/ full 105 for $20 in mint shape, a Miele w/ full RSX for $30, a Raleigh Record for $20,
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Old 01-26-09, 07:54 PM   #18
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I'm looking to start flipping some bikes. I'm looking at it as more of a hobby than an income. I'm looking for pointers if any of you would like to help. I've started reading a lot in the mechanical section. I have a lot of mechanical tools but not for bikes. I know I'm going to need some to seriously repair some really poor condition rides. BBs, rear hubs, and headsets kinda scare me. I've done far more complex stuff on cars, but until I do one I've got black box sendrom. I live in AZ bikes here usually aren't rusty but the bearings will dry out. I have a huge college campus to market to and with the flat land here people aren't afraid to ride. Any pointers or tips would be appreciated.
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Old 01-26-09, 08:16 PM   #19
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I've flipped a few but mostly look for bikes for my own use. I picked up a Diamondback Topanga MTB complete except for wheels, seat & seatpost last week for $5 that was headed for the thrift store's scrap bin. Other than that I haven't seen any keepers in almost a year.

Since last spring, I think donations have been way down, about the time gas prices skyrocketed and the economy tanked. Plus, I'm pretty sure there are a couple of aggressive flippers and kitten-killing single speed converters hitting the stores at least once a day that are getting back door deals.

I might have better luck with yard sales, but Saturdays are for riding!
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Old 01-26-09, 08:17 PM   #20
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I'm looking to start flipping some bikes. I'm looking at it as more of a hobby than an income. I'm looking for pointers if any of you would like to help. I've started reading a lot in the mechanical section. I have a lot of mechanical tools but not for bikes. I know I'm going to need some to seriously repair some really poor condition rides. BBs, rear hubs, and headsets kinda scare me. I've done far more complex stuff on cars, but until I do one I've got black box sendrom. I live in AZ bikes here usually aren't rusty but the bearings will dry out. I have a huge college campus to market to and with the flat land here people aren't afraid to ride. Any pointers or tips would be appreciated.
Go to the valuation section and read the bike flipping 101. You will find the opinions of several active flippers.

If you are mechanically inclined, bike mechanics are pretty basic. Can't imagine anyone being scared of it.

Regardless of the mechanical side of it (tools, etc.), you also need to find decent rebuildable bikes cheap. Hence the interest in thrift stores, garage sales occasionally ebay (often too expensive), auctions and Craigs List. Expect to spend more time finding bikes than rebuilding them. You have to develop/build your own supply chain for your area.

And do a search of this forum, there are endless threads on bike flips.

As far as an income source, it really is more of a hobby business. I make a lot more tutoring math a couple of days a week!


Know your market, know how to spot a good bike, know your costs, and you will do fine.

All the best!

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Old 01-26-09, 08:23 PM   #21
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I have only had a few thrift store finds in my area. I check 3 regularly and have only caught 5 bikes, only 1 of which was a mens frame. I have not found anything in a long while, but I think the temperature may be the problem. I hope to find more pop up once Ohio unthaws. I have met a few local flippers through craigslist, so even in a mid-sized city (75,000) there is plenty of competition.

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Old 01-26-09, 08:31 PM   #22
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Most of the good bikes are gone. Lots of Magna and Next. They've been ridden for one summer so they're all used up already.........The WALMARTIZATION OF AMERICA strikes again!
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Old 01-26-09, 08:58 PM   #23
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Not much in the way of bikes in the thrifts that I frequent in suburban Philadelphia. I have not gotten anything worth while in the last year or so.

That said, in the space of two weeks last year I picked up a Miyata 1000, Miyata Ridge Runner MTB and 1986 Schwinn Predator BMX bike, all from the same store. All were in fantastic shape and needed only cleaning and tuning. They were all too small for me and went to ebay. I made a bunch of cash and then spent it on more bike stuff for me! Ahhhh.... the "Flippers Circle of Life"!!

With regard to the economy and bikes, I think much of the collectible stuff has come down in price (luxury items) and solid, transportation type bike are still in demand. Even here in Philly in the winter, the solid transportation type rides go quick on CL,if not idiotically priced.

I feel for the folks struggling right now. I was out of work for 8 months after being laid off in March of '08. I was finally hired by a new company in December. I have never been unemployed since I started working at age 13 (41 now). Politics aside, (God, I am so sick of politics) if you know someone who you think needs help, they probably do. Please offer to help if you can. I know I was thankful for anyone who would just listen to me at times.

It might not be a bad idea to cobble together some solid transportation type bikes out of members extra, non-valuable parts etc. and donate the finished bike(s) to someone who needs it. Kind of like pay it forward but for one specific purpose.
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Old 01-26-09, 09:42 PM   #24
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The thrift stores have dried up, but it seems like there is more activity on CL with high end bikes & wheelsets for sale, plus a lot more high end components. Mostly overpriced, but it looks like people are thinning their stables & cleaning out their garages to pay the mortgage.

Typically-"Many upgrades-$3800 invested. Sacrifice $3300.
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Old 01-26-09, 09:52 PM   #25
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Yes, they are.
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