By William Hamilton
PBN Staff Writer
If you’re unfamiliar with Savers stores now, you’re likely to hear more about them in the near future. The for-profit thrift chain has 245 stores in 25 states, 10 Canadian provinces and Australia, including three in Rhode Island – Cranston, Warwick and Woonsocket. The Seattle-based company recently opened another outlet in North Attleboro, and Ken Alterman, president and CEO, says more will be coming in southern New England. Right now, a Providence store is in the works along Branch Avenue, near North Main Street.
PBN: Give us a rundown of the Savers Inc. business model.
ALTERMAN: It’s a wonderful social enterprise in that we have many ways that we win. The first is the community, in the way we get our merchandise. We partner with nonprofit organizations such as the Epilepsy Foundation as well as Big Sisters of Rhode Island. Those are two of the locals we work with here. They solicit for goods. It’s their business. You can either bring to them, or they can pick it up. Or you can bring it to our stores, which have a donation center that’s affiliated with them. The merchandise is weighed, and we have a contractual agreement on how much money we’ll pay by the pound. …
The second stage is we have to sort the merchandise. Only the stuff that’s new or near-new condition gets put on the floor. Everything else that is usable but not near-new condition gets baled and recycled. We processed more than 500 million pounds of material a year, and of that, we sell roughly 125 million of it. The rest of it gets sent to developing countries all over the world. It makes us one of the largest recyclers of used clothing in the world. It’s a big part of the model.
PBN: Do you find that many people are not aware of how Savers works?
ALTERMAN: Yeah. As a company, we have a great opportunity to do a better job to tell our story. But what we find is that the customers are really interested in the quality, the bargain and the treasure hunt.