Retail revolution at the MCC

Thrift store outlet now selling items by the pound

Early this January, Kildonan Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Thrift Store opened a second clearance location on 396 Edison Ave. that offers the chance to buy clothing and other items by the pound. 

“Its 99 cents a pound, period,” Robin Searle, chief operating officer of the Kildonan MCC, says.

Searle hopes the new system will make second-hand buying more affordable for individuals who can’t always afford the basics. 

“My goal was to reach out to those in our community that are low income, marginalized and are new settlers to our country,” Searle says. “It’s very expensive to buy clothing, so if you buy it by the pound, five dollars buys you a lot of clothing.”

The clearance centre also offers items beyond clothing, such as housewares, books, purses, shoes and more, also available to purchase by the pound. Searle explains that these aren’t just toss-off items in poor condition. 

“(The volunteers) and I always said that the clothing that’s coming off the 75 per cent off rack is in such great condition. The stuff that’s on there is name-brand stuff. It’s really, really good clothing.”

Now with the option of offering these items at the clearance centre, Searle explains she’s able to offer more at a more sustainable price.

“We’re (also) starting to sort the clothing into two different piles,” Searle says. “We want to make sure that we are still sending the best.”

MCC’s larger mission is to keep clothes out of landfills by promoting reuse of products and, as a non-profit, relying on thrift stores to make money to optimize on the funds they can return to the community. 

“(Clothes) are outgrown so quickly,” Searle says. “It’s appalling that people aren’t donating, (and) it’s just going into the landfill. That seems like such a waste.”

She says there’s no other thrift store in Winnipeg that sells by the pound, and this will fill a need in the community.

Kristen Andrews, curator of Ragpickers Antifashion Emporium, thinks the introduction of new ways to buy second-hand is necessary in a changing economy. 

“The old retail models and how we used to do things (are) dead,” Andrews says. “If we don’t remake ourselves (and) look at new ways to reach out to people or utilize the glut of what we’ve got in a disposable consumer society, we're going to be drowning in stuff.” 

The idea of systematically marking down stable merchandise is a way to capture those products that would potentially end up in a landfill, Andrews explains.

“When you have a department thrift store (selling used goods) at a higher price sometimes than what it is to get (them) brand new, then you have a place that’s interested in capitalizing and not recycling,” Andrews says. 

Bringing people out of chain retailers and into second-hand stores encourages ethical and environmentally sustainable practices, Andrews says. She feels that offering an affordable rate for second-hand goods should be the primary motivator of the recycler.

Published in Volume 71, Number 18 of The Uniter (February 2, 2017)

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