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Retailer spotlight: Play it Again Sports

Used skis and ski boots on shelves

Sports and other recreational activities often require a lot of gear, and the investment can be expensive when people grow out of their gear or try a new sport and decide it’s not for them. Play it Again Sports (six metro locations) makes it affordable to outfit yourself by buying and selling used sports equipment and fitness gear. “They were once loved and can be loved again,” says Sarah Zerull-Smith, Human Resources marketing manager for the metro area’s stores. “Actually, a used, broken-in [baseball] glove is more desirable than a new one.”

The pandemic affected Play It Again Sports in multiple ways. Zerull-Smith says stores were a little scared at the beginning when everything shut down, but it gave them a chance to get their online offerings going. As people stayed home, fitness took off, she says, as did winter sports such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. With the economy down, Play It Again Sports gave people a way to get gear while saving money, and the stores saw lots of first-time customers, Zerull-Smith says.

Initially, the thought was that people with so much time on their hands during the pandemic would clean out their homes and bring in a lot of gear, according to Zerull-Smith. But people didn’t know how long the pandemic would last, so they held on to their stuff, thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll take it out this winter, I’ll have time.’ With hope on the horizon, she says, things picked up in the spring as people traded in their old gear for proper sizes or for payment on the spot. 

Play It Again Sports depends on customers bringing in used gear to stock their ever-changing selection. People buy equipment, “grow out of it within a year, and keep trading it back. It’s really easy for them to do,” Zerull-Smith says. “We are really looking for people to bring in gear. It’s a quick process that could be potentially profitable. We offer store credit or a pay-on-the-spot option. Bring them for someone else to enjoy for a second time, or third or fourth time.”

Ice skates on shelves

To supplement what customers bring in, the stores also rely on people they affectionately call “pickers,” who hunt down things the stores want from garage sales, Goodwill and the like. Most of them do it part-time, enjoy the thrill of the hunt, and make good money with their picking, Zerull-Smith says.

Having spent about 11 years in the reuse sector – first in bridal consignment, then women’s clothing – Zerull-Smith sees the benefits to reuse. “Who else can use it? How can they save money? Something is not just going into a landfill,” she says. Play It Again Sports customers feel good about being able to reuse things, and many learned to do so from their parents, who were customers, too. “For a lot of people, it’s not necessarily about saving money — it’s kind of a no-brainer,” she says.

A part of Hennepin County’s Choose to Reuse program, Join the Circle encourages residents to buy used goods rather than new – not only to reduce waste and preserve natural resources, but to save money. By joining the circle, residents receive useful tips, as well as exclusive benefits at participating retailers. You can learn more and Join the Circle today at hennepin.us/choose-to-reuse/learn-more

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Now that warm weather has arrived – and with it, the desire to clean and declutter – this a great time to get serious about donating usable goods that are taking up space in your overcrowded home.