Retailer spotlight: Arc's Value Village
“We say our customers leave our store feeling lucky and rich,” says Arc’s Value Village marketing manager Molly King. “We sell really unique things that you never knew you wanted until you touch it, and then you’re so excited. It’s a little treasure hunt, you get a little thrill out of it. Then the cashier adds it up, and it’s not much money, and it’s incredible.”
Addressing the trend of online reuse clothing companies such as thredUP, King says: “Our inventory comes from the neighborhood and goes back to neighborhood. There’s a local aspect instead of shipping things all over.” For promotion, Arc’s Value Village relies on word of mouth and social media. “We can talk to our community of people to find out what they like and don’t like in a social way,” King says. “There was a dress I posted a couple weeks ago, an ‘80s Gunne Sax dress. There were speeding tickets in Richfield as people came to get that dress. They were texting me all night asking if the dress was still there. As a marketer, it’s kind of a dream come true to get people so excited immediately.”
Since Arc’s Value Village reopened in mid-May after closing under COVID-19 orders, the stores have been deluged with donations from people with extra time on their hands for decluttering. "So much amazing stuff has been donated," King says. “As part of the COVID-19 [orders], we weren’t an essential business. A lot of thrifters had to disagree with that. People were ready to come back, and they’re happy to wear a mask and happy to keep the store occupancy low, so happy to get back in the store because they missed it. Thrifters gotta thrift—there’s something about thrifting that’s compelling to people.”
One of Arc’s Value Village’s unique services is free personal shopping stylists who select items for you based on your individual needs, then show them to you virtually. King tried the service: “It’s so fun to have someone pick stuff out for me, [they] picked things that I wouldn’t have gravitated to myself. It’s a good option for people who aren’t ready to leave their house right now. We’re trying to meet people where they are. People are super pressed for time … this feels like a luxury. Someone is spending time focusing on you and only you, and it’s a nice feeling. This is something that feels like a permissible indulgence.”
With social-distancing protocols in place at the three locations in Bloomington, New Hope and Richfield, King says the current issue is balancing having enough volunteer sorters to get stuff ready for shoppers and having enough shoppers. Arc’s Value Village’s COVID-19 protocols require everyone to wear a mask, while stores are kept at half capacity so that people are spaced at least 6 feet apart. An employee is stationed at the front door to control the number of customers allowed into the store and to ensure mask wearing.
Two interesting tidbits: The “arc” in Arc’s Value Village is a noun, not an acronym -- it’s arc, like part of a circle. And there’s a funny misconception around Arc’s Value Village’s charity concept, King says: “A lot of the shoppers think they’re the charity, that we’re providing cheap things for them. Actually, they’re the source of funding. They say, 'you’re not supposed to make a profit, you’re a non-profit.’ We’re definitely trying to make money, a lot of money, because we use the money to further a cause.” Store sales support The Arc Minnesota, which provides assistance and advocacy around health care, housing, education and public policy for people with intellectual and development disabilities. “It’s shopping with a purpose,” says King.
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 www.hennepin.us/choose-to-reuse/learn-more
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