The image, product line and operating margin of Goodwill Industries stores in the Valley have undergone major changes.
"We’re not your grandma’s Goodwill store anymore," said Keith Mason, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Arizona.
Mason, who took over the Goodwill operations in Arizona in 1992, said during the past decade items donated and sold in the Valley’s 29 stores have changed from mostly discarded and secondhand products to the latest and popular merchandise found in higher-priced retail stores.
"We’re now selling high quality items and, as a nonprofit, charitable agency, we’re competing with the profitmaking retail stores, including the so-called, profit-making thrift stores," Mason said.
Other operational and sales changes in recent years include offering discounts and refunds, free coffee and snacks, advertising and providing valet service at busy stores.
"Our stores are larger, modern and offer a good appearance and high quality goods," Mason said.
He said the modifications made in stores, including several in the East Valley, have resulted in Goodwill Industries of Central Arizona being touted as one of the fastestgrowing nationally and internationally.
In 1992, $2 million in products were sold from six, relatively small stores in the Valley, Mason said.
As a result, they were able to provide services, including job training, education and other charitable care to 184 people.
Estimated revenue for 2005 is expected to reach $38 million and about 10,000 individuals will be helped through a variety of programs.
"Our goal for this year is to serve at least 13,000 people," said Mason, who added that Goodwill Industries of Central Arizona now has more than 300 computers for job training programs compared with only one in 1992.
Mason, who served as executive director of Goodwill in Lincoln, Neb., for six years before joining the Arizona agency, addressed a three-day conference of Goodwill Industries executives from throughout the nation at the Tempe Mission Palms on Tuesday.
He told them the restructuring of Goodwill Industries began by eliminating some services such as repairing TVs, radios and bicycles, replacing home pick-up service by encouraging drop-offs at stores, streamlining and clearing "the junk" from stores and hiring qualified, full-time employees.
Goodwill employs about 1,000 workers, including 800 in retail stores. It continues to encourage unpaid volunteers as well, Mason said.
An estimated 2 million shoppers visit the stores in the Valley each year to buy items such as recycled clothing, books, belts, shoes, furniture and household goods.
Ninety-seven percent of all donated items are either sold or recycled, thus saving 28 million pounds of merchandize that would otherwise be dumped in landfills, Mason said.
"We’ve had to make many changes, and the changes will continue. It’s a continuous journey," Mason said.