CONTRIBUTOR
Chief Content Officer,
Techstrong Group

Goodwill is gearing up in 2024 to further digitally transform the way it collects and resells clothing and other items as part of an ongoing effort in the face of stiffer competition to more efficiently help those in need.

Much like any retail outlet, Goodwill is dependent on brick-and-mortar storefronts that resell clothing and goods that have been donated at a specific location. The non-profit is now moving, with the help of Salesforce, to expand its GoodwillFinds.com online store in a way that makes it possible for the autonomous business units that make up its nationwide network to resell anything donated anywhere there is demand for it.

The challenge Goodwill is encountering stems from the rise of multiple for-profit entities ranging from Poshmark and thredUP to eBay and Amazon that specialize in reselling vintage clothing. Along with an army of small businesses that typically have small vintage clothing stores in some of the trendiest parts of a city, competition for the most lucrative gently used items has soared. The average Goodwill store, however, is typically located near the community it was originally intended to service, so it’s becoming increasingly difficult for autonomous Goodwill business units to compete.

GoodwillFinds.com provides those business units with access to an online store that few of them would be able to set up and maintain themselves. The issue that arises is that any goods sold via the online store need to be shipped, which is a cost that today needs to be borne by the autonomous unit that collected the item. Those business units also need to contribute to the upkeep of GoodwillFinds.com while also trying to ensure their physical storefronts have enough inventory to attract local customers.

Many of those storefronts are also contending with resellers that purchase goods from a Goodwill store only to offer it to consumers themselves. While providing business units with a steady stream of revenue, it also serves to increase the number of local and online competitors each business unit faces.

The engine that keeps all these entities in business is a fashion industry that continues to overproduce apparel, more than 30 billion tons of which each year find its way into a landfill. Younger consumers tend to be more aware of sustainability issues, so many of them are also now opting to purchase used clothing that is often higher quality than what they would otherwise be able to afford at a department store. In fact, many younger consumers that are typically living from one paycheck to another now regularly shop for used clothing, says GoodwillFinds.com CEO Matthew Kaness. “There’s no stigma anymore,” he adds.

Of course, Goodwill is looking to sell more than just vintage clothing that commands the highest price. It’s twin mission is to both make inexpensive goods available to communities in need in addition to making whatever revenue that gets generated available to fund, for example, job training programs.

Ultimately, GoodwillFinds.com would like to streamline the collection process. Most retailers will heavily discount apparel that doesn’t sell via a variety of outlets. It would be simpler if more companies in the fashion industry simply viewed Goodwill as an extension of that process that provides the added benefit of making any donations made tax deductible, notes Kaness.

It’s still early days so far as digital transformation is concerned at Goodwill, but the potential to transform how used goods are acquired and resold is tremendous. The challenge and the opportunity now is to organize autonomous Goodwill units that collectively are going to be much fiercer competitors than they could ever hope to be otherwise going it alone.