Shortly after St. Albert’s new Value Village opened its doors Thursday, there were already more than 300 people browsing through seemingly endless rows of clothing racks.
But the number of shoppers was of no surprise to Ken Alterman.
After all, the CEO of the large, North American thrift store chain knew that a few nights earlier, about a thousand fans of his brand had already browsed these racks, as part of an exclusive preview of the store.
Thrift stores are rising in popularity, he said, and St. Albert is the right market for the chain.
“St. Albert is its own market. And all across Canada where we have that set-up, the store does really well on its own,” he said.
“When you put a (Value Village) in a nice neighbourhood, the whole neighbourhood will go. And you have people of maybe lower income areas go to a nice place to shop, but you won’t find people of middle income go to a lower income area to shop.”
The new Value Village is located in the old Rona location at 18 Inglewood Drive. The business boasts 34,000 sq. ft. of space, which makes it one of the biggest in the region.
Almost 10,000 new items enter through these doors each day, while the store has more than 100,000 items on sale at any given time.
That includes everything from used children’s clothing, to jeans, shirts and shoes for adults, and even the occasional wedding dress. There are also accessories, some household items and, pending the time of the year, a wide array of Halloween costumes.
The latter were the reason that local Sue Hesp stood in line before the store opened Thursday. Now she doesn’t have to go to the chain’s Edmonton location to shop for a costume, she said.
Like many of the other grand opening shoppers that day, she also thought it was about time St. Albert had its own Value Village.
“A lot of people say ‘You are in St. Albert, it’s all rich people here,’ ” she said. “But there are still people who don’t have that much money. And the clothes are all good.”
Other shoppers that morning arrived at the grand opening out of curiosity.
Local resident Sadie Stiksma said the chain has already become an asset to many people in Edmonton with both upper and lower incomes.
She also said other thrift stores in St. Albert are too crowded, and a larger store was needed in the community.
“They get a lot of stuff and they need to get a little bit bigger and now that we have something like this. It’s better,” she said.
Not everyone reacted as well to the arrival of Value Village in St. Albert.
When the store first announced it was opening a location in the city, some residents took to social media wondering whether it would harm other, local thrift stores and philanthropic organizations.
But Marie Renaud, executive director of the LoSeCa Foundation, is not worried about competition.
The local non-profit runs a volunteer-led thrift store in Campbell Business Park to support programs for people with disabilities in the community.
Renaud said the store has attracted a steady stream of shoppers and long-term customers for years. She expects that will not change with the arrival of Value Village.
“I think we are sort of unique in what we do and where we are and the people that shop here have shopped here for years,” she said.
“We are not looking to create an empire, we are just looking to fund our program. And our prices are also very low.”
Charity relationships are also a big part of the Value Village chain, said Alterman.
For each of the items donated by customers, the company pays money to the Canadian Diabetes Association, whether the item is sold or not, he said.
The items that are not sold (about one in four) are shipped to third-world countries and repurposed for sale by other aid organizations.
Yet Alterman agreed that Value Village is no danger to other stores.
Unlike LoSeCa, Goodwill or The Salvation Army, Value Village works for profit and pays taxes, he said.
And partly in thanks to a boom in online markets such as eBay and Craigslist, thrift shopping has become part of a new trend amongst smart shoppers. Value Village and other thrift stores only feed into that trend, he said.
“Thrifters, they like looking at all of (the stores),” he said.
“And competition makes everyone better. So I don’t think one puts one out of business. And when you look at all the retail stores around, thrift stores are a tiny percentage of this.”
Value Village in St. Albert is located at 18 Inglewood Dr. The store will be open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information go to www.valuevillage.com or call 780-470-8022.