Goodwill Dresses Up For New Customers

In April, Deborah Ferguson told us about some rack-skimmers in Bedford who were giddy at finding shirts by Ann Taylor or Tommy Hilfiger for under $8 at the local Goodwill store. Other labels they stumbled across at the supply haven for the needy? Prada and Coach.

Dallas area fashion junkies endeared to the chain will be seeing a lot more high-end in the bins -- and on tables, folded neatly for boutique-like displays -- if the 24 North Texas Goodwill stores follow the initiatives of regionally-run marketing at shops across the country.

A New York Times fashion article examines a Goodwill store in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City that employs a former Banana Republic salesman to assist a new demographic that's been coming in to browse the inventory: the kind with a little money to burn. In the story, a stylish writer decides to invest in a Marc Jacobs dress -- she "needs it" -- and is rushed by said employee with an armful of gowns that might look fabulous on her, a Diane Von Furstenberg number among them.

The Chelsea store is a kind of guinea pig for Goodwill International's plans to refurnish its brown-bag image. The company's CEO told reporter Ruth La Ferla that the push to doll up the brand is "particularly strong" as the recession drones on and the ranks of bargain shoppers with hip tastes increase.

Stores in Milwaukee, Palm Beach, and Portland already stock choice designer labels with daily deliveries and the Washington chapter even staged a virtual fashion show with a Paris theme. And sales have been good, the piece notes, rising 7.1 percent in the first three months this year over the same time last year at Goodwill stores open for at least a year.

So what kind of marketing strategy would the Dallas and Fort Worth chapters use to lure notoriously Southern-slick DFW  fashionistas? Goodwill Wedding, perhaps?

Time to dig out the boxes and drop off donations of clothing, you know, a shield to the elements. Your old clothes never go out of style for Goodwill's more traditional patrons. Regardless of this new brand of demand, donations have been fewer.

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