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Stores Corner — Pricing Strategies for SVdP Thrift Stores

Stores Corner — Pricing Strategies for SVdP Thrift Stores 1080 1080 SVDP USA

A Discussion by: Dave Barringer, SVdP National Chief Executive Officer

The concept of Pricing is the least understood among the “4 P’s” of marketing – Price, Product, Place (distribution), and Promotion. However, a good pricing strategy can be your strongest tool toward sales and profits in a thrift store program.

In this article I will discuss several pricing strategies you can use to develop a set of guidelines for your store that help ensure you are creating maximum value for your store as well as your customers. As the former National Chief Marketing Officer and National Director Stores Support for Goodwill Industries, my insights below are based on twenty years of supporting more than 2,500 thrift stores across the United States. While the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is quite a different organization, the pricing theories and practices between the two retailers are much more the same than different.

First, know your limits. There is no point in operating a store unless it makes money for your organization. Certainly, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) may give away some, or even a lot, of what it collects directly to people in need, the store still needs to make enough money to keep the operation going. Fortunately, there are proven ways that a store can properly integrate with other aspects of the Society and still meet business objectives.

Here is an example of how this might work: The Council that owns the store wants to provide mattresses at no charge to families in need. They create vouchers for its Conferences to give to those who need this product, who bring them to the store for redemption. You know what each mattress costs from the supplier. Add to this any storage, transportation and other costs, such as labor and administration. From this, derive a “price” for the mattress, even though you will not charge the family in need for it. You will, however, charge the Conference this price for the mattress. In this way, you maintain the sales you need for the store’s livelihood, still provide the mattress at no cost to the family and keep a reasonable cost for the Conference who would otherwise need to purchase a new mattress elsewhere. A corollary example: The Conference may use its own vouchers to purchase the mattress, earned from its collection of saleable goods that are given to the store. Again, pricing plays a role here. The retail team determines, for example, that a truck full of used donated goods is equal 100x. The Conference holds a collection event at its parish and fills the truck. Upon pickup, the retail team pays the Conference in vouchers worth a percentage, say 60x, of the truck’s contents resale value. Everyone wins.

The first critical component of a good pricing strategy is to know your costs. This includes both direct costs (the cost for each unit) plus the indirect costs (costs that are there regardless of the number of units, such as rent) that are then applied to each unit. Most retailers take the total cost of the unit and then double it to set a price to ensure its profits. This becomes your baseline pricing strategy, cost times 2. This price allows for the unforeseen, such as shrink and damaged goods to some extent, and gives you wiggle room to stimulate sales through pricing discounts later.

Competitive Pricing

Some thrift stores simply copy the price of the other stores in town. This is dangerous because their costs may be radically different. The competitor with many area stores can spread its indirect costs over more stores and more items. Perhaps the competitor wants to price you out of business, by selling their goods so low that if you match them, you go broke first because of your cost structure and/or charitable goals.

I once saw a store that priced its goods exactly double those of another thrift store directly across the street. The higher-price store went shopping at the competitor, took its best goods, then doubled the prices for sale. Customers only saw inferior goods at the lower-priced store and were happy to pay the higher prices for the better goods at the other store because, after all, every item is one of a kind. Believe it or not, the lower-priced store was happy for a while being the wholesaler in effect for the other store. Ultimately, though, they realized that shoppers weren’t coming in any longer, because the “treasures” that shoppers enjoy in all thrift stores were being picked away before most shoppers had a chance to find them. What to do? They raised their prices to cut the profit margin opportunity for the higher price store and kept good values for its own customers who had already proved they would pay the higher prices by their defection to the other retailer.

The same concept applies to shoppers who use our stores as suppliers for their yard sales and eBay/online businesses. They show us that our goods are worth more in the marketplace, so why don’t we price them to keep the profits for ourselves? It may be our charitable intent, which I will discuss later. Remember, the first customers to complain when you raise prices are these retailers who make money from what they buy from you. Thus, these complaints are a sign that you are doing a good thing!

Know your Environment

If you are reading this article in hopes that I can give you a specific price point for every item, or even any item, in your thrift store, then you don’t understand your local environment. Did you know, for example, that food prices may be 30 percent lower in Baltimore than only a few miles away in Washington, DC?

We all live in areas with separate economic conditions and cost-of-living realities. Separate from our competitive status, we also have economic truths to consider in pricing. That four-dollar blouse is a bargain in a high-cost area but priced too high for another one. You probably have some sense of your relative trade market economy. Scoping out other thrift stores and discount retailers will help you gauge the range in which your prices may need to reside, at least as a starting point.

NEXT TIME: PART TWO – Different Pricing Concepts to Explore

If you have a topic that you would like addressed in a future Stores Corner article, please e-mail our Jeff Beamguard, National Director of Stores Support at

11-02-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

11-02-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1080 1080 SVDP USA

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done? I don’t mean running a 10K, bench pressing 300 pounds, or completing the New York Times crossword in record time. No, I mean what was really the hardest thing you have ever done? Was it to leave home and venture out on your own? Was it to ask that pretty girl out on the first date that resulted in a lifetime of love and family? Was it to leave an unhealthy relationship or change an unhealthy behavior? Was it letting go when you really didn’t want to? Was it leaving that comfortable, well-paying, secure job to take a shot at a new opportunity?

And why did you choose to do that thing? Close your eyes a minute and think about it.

OK, welcome back. I don’t know what you might have decided was the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but I am pretty sure that whatever it was, there a very important factor that was involved in your decision to do it: Vision.

When you began the thought process about that decision, I am willing to bet that (consciously or unconsciously) you went through a process of imagining the ‘other side’ of it. You had a vision of the consequences of success — or  failure.. And as you contemplated your decision, you asked yourself “Imagine if I …”

Underlying that vision was an even more important factor: Faith.

Your faith — in yourself,  in others, and  in God — was the underlying core that made that vision something attainable and realistic, and thus gave you the courage to move forward. Likewise, in the decision process a lack of faith in any of those things might have given you the red light to say ‘No, this isn’t something I want to do/try/begin.’

In a few months we will begin what I have called our SVdP USA ‘Family Conversation.’  It is an opportunity for us to journey together in an exploration of the challenges and opportunities we have as we adapt to a changing world; just as we are called to do by The Rule, Part 1, 1.6.  As we work together in this guided process over the next few years and journey together to adapt to a changing world, let’s keep those two very important principles in our minds.

Vision: “Imagine if we …”

Faith: “What is God calling us to do as his workers in the field to support our Sisters and Brothers in Christ?”

Because if we can answer those questions and do the hard things that result from them, then we will create a beautiful foundation for the future and those who follow us in this amazing vocation.

Remember the words of St. Paul: “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.”

Peace and God’s blessings,

National Council Welcomes National Store Support Manager

National Council Welcomes National Store Support Manager 799 1117 SVDP USA

The National is excited to welcome the new National Store Support Manager, Jim Conley.

In his new role, Jim will oversee the opening and operation of the second SVdP National Thrift Store in Fairview Heights, IL. Once open, the store will serve as an additional location for Conference and Council Stores leaders to come and learn best practices to take back to their thrift stores.

Jim received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance from the University of Missouri – St. Louis in 1997.

After graduating, Jim went on to work in retail management for more than 20 years. He worked for companies such as The Home Depot and, most recently, Total Wine and More.

Jim enjoys teaching and training associates to deliver outstanding customer service, as well as helping to build successful, profitable businesses. He is very passionate about helping his associates reach their career goals and providing them the level of training needed for that.

Jim currently lives in Ballwin, MO and has a 13 year old son.

Please join us in welcoming Jim to the SVdP team!

If you would like to contact Jim, he can be reached at (314) 576-3993 ext. 229 or by email at

Contemplation — Like Unto Him

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When he was eighteen years old, Blessed Frédéric felt as if he was not committed enough to living his faith, that he too often failed in charity. His spiritual director at the time advised him that his many distractions and temptations would fade away when he was formed. “When I am formed,” Frédéric lamented. “When will that day come?” [Letter 13, to Materne,1830]

For the young man, in a hurry to grow, this was an obvious question. When, exactly, can I check “formation” off my list? When will I be finished? When will I be what I am meant, and called, to be? These are questions every Vincentian, indeed every Catholic may ask.

Yet we know what we are called to be. Jesus said it quite clearly: we are called to “be perfect, just as Your heavenly Father is perfect.” Christ, of course, was only echoing the words of the Father, who said (more than once) that “you shall be holy, because I am holy.” Knowing that we are called to be like God, you would think we would be more patient with ourselves, more willing to “abandon ourselves to the providence of God and be very careful not to run ahead of it.” [CCD II:499]

The word “holy” stems from the same root as “healthy” and “whole”, meaning complete. Similarly, “perfect” also expresses completeness. As the Apostle explains, “when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” When we are formed, we will be complete, fulfilling God’s plan and His will for us.

This is why, for Vincentians, our formation is not limited to training events, like the Ozanam Orientation, which serves the intellectual dimension of our formation. Instead, we feed our human formation by service to the poor, building habits of holiness by serving “for love alone.” [Rule, Part I, 2.2] Our spiritual formation is fed by our reflections, prayer, and sharing our insights and growth with each other. For our ministerial formation, we try to live our vocation in “every moment of our lives.” [Rule, Part I, 2.6]

When will we be formed? When will we be perfect? The two questions have the same answer.

The same God who called us to this vocation walks with us on our pathway, guiding our steps if we let Him. To continue this walk is not to confess our inadequacy, but to express our gratitude for having been called. Along the way, we are regularly reassured by our “devotion to the Eucharist” [Rule, Part I, 2.2], in which “God, seeing Himself in us, makes us, once again, like unto Him… thereby giving us the capacity to live in Him as He lives in us.” [SWLM, M.72]

We will be fully formed, fulfilling God’s will for us, when we are perfect. We remain humble in our incompleteness and patient in our pursuit of holiness, reminding ourselves that “Even the saints could be better since the Creator alone enjoys infinite perfection.” [Letter 515, To Amélie, 1843]


How have I become more holy this week?

Recommended Reading

15 Days of Prayer with Blessed Frédéric Ozanam

10-26-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

10-26-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Imagine my surprise when I saw several young adults at National Assembly wearing my chosen brand of athletic shoes. It was even more surprising to learn that their choices were based on seeing me wear the shoes at the Midyear meeting!  I had not chosen to be a “fashion influencer;” my shoe choice was based on having plantar fasciitis, and my trying not to scream with every step!

We are often influenced by others when they don’t realize it, and sometimes we don’t realize it either. A coach will tell athletes to make their bed in the morning and it gets done, even though the parents have tried without success for the same results over and over again. We wear something because someone on television wore it. We pick up language patterns from our parents and friends, mostly unintentionally.

As Vincentians, we may not realize how much of an example we set for others. We believe ourselves to be simple humble servants, but you may be heroes to other parishioners in the pews because you take on work for the poor that they appreciate but don’t feel comfortable doing themselves. You set an example for those we serve through your compassion and willingness to listen and to help. You also exhibit an example of perceived financial stability and success.

It is said that one’s character is who you are when no one is looking. We know as Vincentians that God is always looking! If you are a parent, you know that the kids are always looking – often at times you may not choose! Yet we may not be aware that others also see us when we aren’t thinking about providing any example, we are simply living our lives. We are who we are even when we aren’t “wearing the uniform” when we serve.

How many Conference or Council leaders act one way when leading a meeting, but seem to be completely different people when off of the meeting stage? How many of us are Saints when conducting a Home Visit encounter, but act, well, differently when among friends or family? Chances are, this difference in behavior and/or attitude is unintentional. It’s not that we are at times putting on a show; it’s more that we are aware of our capacity as example-setter when in certain situations and we want to perform in an exemplary manner.

Being the best we can be is hard work, even for small periods of time. We can’t be perfect every waking moment, even when we try. That’s okay, God is forgiving, certainly more than we may be for each other. Let’s give each other, and ourselves, some grace in those moments when we aren’t at our best.

That said, let’s work in our Vincentian lives to remember our role as community exemplars. We wear the Society of St. Vincent de Paul label as we serve our Church and the Poor, and granted, that can be a lot to live up to each day. Let’s nonetheless be intentional regarding our individual and collective language, behavior, appearance and anywhere else that may serve as an example for others.

Let’s work not only to talk the talk, but also to walk the walk. Apparently, I can recommend the right shoes!

Contemplation — Only to Be Shared

Contemplation — Only to Be Shared 1080 1080 SVDP USA

In a house in Reuilly, a district in the southeast of Paris, the Duchess of Bourbon had founded a hospice that served as a home for elderly and sick former servants of the royal family in their final years. It was here, in 1831, that a young Daughter of Charity was assigned. Sister Catherine, known to her family as Zoe, was 24 years old when she arrived. Born to a farming family, she was one of 17 children, ten of whom lived past infancy. Her mother had died when she was nine. By the time she was twelve, she had become the woman of the house, cooking, cleaning, and caring for her family. She never learned to read or write growing up, beginning her schooling when she was 18, mainly so that she could be admitted to the Daughters of Charity, which she was, in 1830.

Assigned to the Enghien Hospice as a novice, she was sent first to the kitchen, where she helped prepare meals for the elderly residents. Soon, she would be moved outside to care for the cows, pigs, and chickens, and later, to do the laundry. The work was tiring, but not too much for a young woman. Rising each day at 4:00, she was always diligent in her mending, washing, and folding.

After taking her vows, she remained at the hospice, continuing in her labors for 45 years, never complaining and seemingly never tiring of it. For a time, she had carried out the superior’s duties, but declined the title. She gladly relinquished these duties to a much younger superior. When others urged her to complain, she led them instead to follow her in humble obedience.

During many turbulent and dangerous times, Catherine’s calm reassured her sisters. When the Commune in 1870 arrested and killed clergy and religious, and threatened to burn down their house, Catherine somehow knew they would be safe. Indeed, throughout her life she shared small visions that later came to pass. She was so unassuming that people hardly noticed her prophecies until years later.

It was not until her final days that the great secret of Catherine’s life would become known. In 1830, at the Motherhouse on rue du Bac, young Catherine had been visited by the Blessed Virgin. She had laid her head on Mary’s lap and received instructions to have a medal struck. During Catherine’s lifetime, millions of medals had spread throughout the world – Catherine herself often gave them out. Stories of miracles and of the apparition were well-known, but nobody knew the identity of the young Daughter of Charity who had been chosen by the Queen of Heaven.

When it was revealed that Catherine had been the one chosen by Mary, nobody who knew her was surprised. Of course, it was her; of course, it was the one who washed laundry for 45 years. Of course, it was the one who had arrived as an illiterate farm girl, the one who asked nothing for herself. This vision had been her greatest gift, and like all gifts from God, she knew it was given only to be shared.


Do I make a habit of sharing generously the time, talents, and treasure I have received from God?

Recommended Reading

Sister Catherine LaBouré of the Miraculous Medal

SVdP News Roundup October 14 – October 20

SVdP News Roundup October 14 – October 20 1080 1080 SVDP USA

With 100,000 Vincentians across the United States and nearly 800,000 around the world, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering. Read some of their stories here:



A Week in Prayers October 16 – October 20

A Week in Prayers October 16 – October 20 1080 1080 SVDP USA

Monday, October 16

Lord Jesus, I have seen You
In the suffering of my neighbor,
Who bears a heavy cross.
Help me, Lord, to lift him,
As he folds beneath its weight.
And if my offering is too small
To relieve him of that burden,
May it be at least the cloth
Offered with love and humility,
That wipes away blood, sweat, and tears,
That lifts up sinking courage,
And shares Your eternal hope.

Tuesday, October 17

Lord, live within me,
Make me whole,
Help me to share Your love.
Let my weakness be Your strength,
My poverty Your wealth,
And Your will be my own.

Wednesday, October 18

Enter my heart, Lord,
Enter my heart.
Enter my mind and soul.
You are great, and I am small,
But all I am I offer to You.

Thursday, October 19

I seek to praise and love You, Lord,
In all I do and say.
Help me to be better.
I seek to know and serve You, Lord,
In the person of the poor.
Help me to be better.
I seek to love my neighbor, Lord,
For Your love alone.
Help me to be better.

Friday, October 20

Holy Spirit, live within me,
Quiet my doubts and fears.
I surrender myself, O Lord.
In the depths of my soul
Grant me the peace,
The wholeness,
The holiness,
That is not of this world.

Daily Prayers are written by Tim Williams, National Vincentian Formation Director.

10-19-2023 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

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During my career in business and government service we often found ourselves talking in an internal shorthand that made perfect sense to us but was usually very confusing to new members of the team, and nearly everyone outside the team. These acronyms, as they are called, are so common and confusing that many times you’ll find an ‘acronym list’ at the beginning of reports, books, or reference material so that people reading it can understand what they mean!

The use of these acronyms becomes so prevalent that oftentimes we don’t even realize we’re using them. And that is not good for clarity and understanding when we are discussing things as a Conference or a Council.

Take the term, Home Visit, for example. We all know what it means, right? Well, maybe not. A new Vincentian working in the Food Pantry or the Thrift Store may not feel they are participating in Vincentian service because they have never walked into someone’s ‘home.’  A Vincentian visiting a neighbor in need at a homeless shelter, or on the street, may wonder if they are doing ‘Home Visits.’

Interestingly, the words ‘Home Visit’ never appear in The Rule.

What does appear? The words “Personal encounters or visits.”

‘Home Visit’ has become our internal ‘code’ for the human-to-human, Christ-centered ENCOUNTERS we have with our neighbors in need. Of course we do Home Visits, it is a bedrock and foundation of that Christ-centered human ENCOUNTER. But that does not mean it is the only way we encounter and help our neighbors in need. Every encounter we have, whether it be in a home, a thrift store, a food pantry, a kitchen, a medical clinic, a classroom, or under the tree in a park, is a human-to-human Christ-centered opportunity for us to live our Vincentian vocation and grow in holiness.

Peace and God bless,
John Berry
SVdP National President

Contemplation — The Greatest Need

Contemplation — The Greatest Need 1080 1080 SVDP USA

The parable of the good Samaritan is a Vincentian favorite, and a powerful allegory for our own home visit, reminding us that Christ calls us very directly to serve the neighbor. Perhaps this beloved parable can also shed some light on what our Rule calls “adaptation to a changing world.” [Rule, Part I, 1.6]

The Samaritan cleaned and bandaged wounds, transported the robber’s victim on his own mule, and found shelter for him. Today, other than perhaps performing basic first aid, we would leave all the rest of that work to the paramedics. It isn’t that we’re lazy. Quite the contrary. In our time, it would be irresponsible for us not to call 911 immediately. To find help is also to help.

It would be rare, in our day and age, to find a bloodied robbery victim lying in the street as people look the other way as they pass, and equally rare that the victim’s only possibility for help would be from a stranger passing by. Yet there remain in our modern world many who are overlooked, ignored, or found too burdensome to assist, even if they are not always lying in our path. The Samaritan stopped to help. Vincentians must first “seek out and find those in need and the forgotten.” [Rule, Part I, 1.5]

In many cases, the emergency aid we offer by paying bills, or providing food and clothing are just as urgent as the bandages the Samaritan provided, but as we build relationships with the neighbor, we also identify and help prioritize other needs, not all of which can be referred to other organizations.

In this age of the internet, social media, phones in our pockets that can connect us with thousands of people, and with all the knowledge of history and science literally at our fingertips – with a thousand Facebook friends, people are lonelier and more isolated than ever.

Just as the robber’s victim lay bleeding on the side of a dusty road until one person cared enough to stop, so too do so many of our neighbors lie in desperate need of a connection that they perhaps can’t fully articulate themselves, but it is written on their hearts. It is written also on our hearts, because we are made by God to live in community – in communion – with one another. Each of us draws the others closer to God through our love. When we go to the neighbor it is our presence that matters most.

And when you think about that challenge given to Frédéric and his friend so many years ago, it was not a challenge to see how many bundles of firewood could be delivered; it was a challenge to show the good of the church in the modern world. The answer to the challenge was to go to the poor just as Christ came to us.

Anybody can give money. You can even do it online. Like the Samaritan, our founders chose to give of their time, their possessions, and themselves. Let us, as Jesus commanded, go and do likewise.


When I offer assistance, do I truly stop on my path to give my love, talents, and time?

Recommended Reading

A New Century Dawns

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