Goodwill of Central Arizona focuses on selling products, but its success is really based on its staff’s customer service, Vice President of Real Estate Kim Ryder says. “We really value having the best people in play,” she says.

Vice President of Retail Operations Jackie Halleen agrees. “Not only are we a fast-growing retail organization, but we’re a mission-based organization,” she says. “[We need] people that will really contribute and be really passionate about what they do.”

Based in Phoenix, the nonprofit organization is part of Goodwill Industries International Inc. Goodwill of Central Arizona started operations in 1947 and today has 52 resale stores and nine donation centers in its region, Ryder says.

The company also has strong brand recognition, Halleen says. “When people think thrift, Goodwill is absolutely top of mind here in central Arizona,” she says.

Although its stores vary in size, “When you go into [one], you know what you’re going to find,” she says. “They all have the same [format].”

Stocking the Shelves

Despite Goodwill of Central Arizona’s brand recognition, it can be challenging getting product donations for its stores. “Without donations from our great customers, we wouldn’t be in business,” Halleen admits. “We’re constantly seeking new ways and opportunities to make sure those donations come to Goodwill.”

Those have included hiring a donation coordinator who has reached out to nonprofit organizations, including Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America. Together, the groups have held donation drives.

This not only helps Goodwill of Central Arizona get more products for its stores’ shelves, but it gives its staff experience in organizing and planning events. Because this initiative is relatively new, “We’ve only had a few [drives],” Halleen admits.

The company also operates a pick-up service where it collects unsold and unwanted products from garage sales. “Most organizations don’t operate that way,” she notes. “We’ve been very successful and have been able to keep our costs down, so it hasn’t affected our bottom line drastically.”

Something New 

Goodwill of Central Arizona recently introduced its “Redesign” retail concept, which is a new venture for the company. Halleen explains that two new stores in central Arizona specialize in selling new and used furniture and home goods.

The idea for Redesign came, Halleen explains, when Goodwill was relocating one of its traditional locations. “We didn’t want to leave the building dark,” she recalls. “[So] we came up with the concept of something a little different.”

Each Redesign location, she explains, shows customers how they can use the used furniture in their homes. Additionally, Goodwill of Central Arizona works with several vendors, including Home Furnishings and Artisan, that provide new items that carry a high customer value. 

So far, the Redesign stores have been a hit with customers, Halleen says. “They love it,” she states. “You can find something you need to fix up or you can go in and find something new. We have tons of accessories, artwork and decorating items in the stores.”

Career Counseling

Goodwill’s stores work extensively with their communities, Ryder says. This has included work in an area that some might not expect: job training. 

Many Goodwill stores have a career center where people can get assistance for career opportunities with Goodwill and other employers, as well, Ryder says. “Inside of a career center is a small office where we can help people with resume writing and mock interviews,” she says, noting that Goodwill served 40,000 people and helped find 15,000 jobs last year.

Growth Potential

Although Goodwill of Central Arizona is enjoying strong business, “It’s almost the tip of the iceberg for us,” Ryder says. “I’m not sure anyone realizes the potential we have [for growth].”

For now, Goodwill of Central Arizona plans to add an average of five stores a year. Currently, the company is looking at rural areas where it can add locations. “We’ll probably do three to five per year, depending on how those go,” she predicts.

Goodwill’s growth, Halleen notes, will be assisted by the change in attitude among consumers about going to resale shops. After the recent recession, “People have really changed their minds about shopping at a so-called ‘thrift store,’” she says.

Before, some consumers held such stores in a low regard. “Now, it’s [viewed as] an achievement that you went into a thrift store and found something for such a great price,” she says. “People have really embraced it.”

Ryder agrees. “It’s much cooler and it’s much trendier now,” she says, noting that Goodwill of Central Arizona has been able to get more locations in shopping centers after the recession. “It’s made us much more attractive to landlords.”