Charity's thrift stores sell their wares online

Mr Tan from The Salvation Army's Red Shield Industries says the charity hopes to sell items directly from its own website in future.
Mr Tan from The Salvation Army's Red Shield Industries says the charity hopes to sell items directly from its own website in future.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Salvation Army's social enterprise arm lists items on Lazada website; physical shops sprucing up

Thrift-store shopaholics in Singapore no longer need to trawl through racks of clothes or shelves stocked with electronics or accessories to get a good deal.

Instead, they can browse through them from the comfort of home.

The Salvation Army's social enterprise arm, Red Shield Industries, which operates five physical thrift stores here, recently started listing some of its items on the Lazada website.

Bargains include a brand new coffee machine for as little as $60, and a second-hand, refurbished iPhone 4 for $180.

"The sphere of influence of an online store is much wider," said Mr Nicholas Tan, retail and marketing manager at Red Shield.

"Brick-and-mortar stores draw in people who live in the neighbourhood, but with the Internet, the reach is global."

He told The Sunday Times that the charity eventually hopes to sell items directly from its own website, www.reddshop.com, which currently acts as a catalogue for its stores, as it lacks the resources and manpower to sell goods online.

Visitors can find out which items are available for sale at the stores, but must visit the shop itself to make the purchase.

The Salvation Army has been operating the physical thrift stores for about 20 years. It now hopes that using e-commerce will attract young shoppers, "the next generation of customers".

Currently, most people who visit the thrift stores are expatriates, families and seniors.

The Salvation Army has also engaged a visual merchandiser, whose job is to present the items for sale in an attractive way, to help it spruce up its physical stores over the next year. This will start with the Bukit Merah Family Store in March.

Shoppers will find it easier to find the items they are looking for. However, Mr Tan assured that the shops will retain their vintage charm.

Another goal is to change the impression that thrift stores stock only second-hand goods, by displaying brand new items more prominently and having periodic promotions for them.

"Apart from second-hand items donated by individuals, we also have corporate donors who contribute brand new items," Mr Tan said.

For instance, Lazada Singapore last month donated 10,000 items of clothing, shoes and bags.

A Lazada Singapore spokesman said: "We are keen to ensure that we give back to the community and were excited to be able to do this through The Salvation Army."

Profits from The Salvation Army's thrift stores contribute to 40 per cent of its revenue stream.

The money is used to fund the charity's social services programmes, including a nursing home and a youth development centre. "The store also hopes to promote a culture of reusing items," Mr Tan said.

Mr Eugene Tay, founder of environmental group Zero Waste SG, welcomed the initiatives, saying they will help to prevent unwanted items from being thrown away, .

He added: "These efforts can attract more young people who are used to shopping online."

Paralegal Jasmine Chan, 22, is keen to start thrift shopping online.

She said: "I don't mind buying second-hand clothing as I believe it is still in good condition - and it is environmentally friendly too."

• The Salvation Army's new thrift shopping site can be found at www.lazada.sg/the-salvation-army/

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 24, 2016, with the headline 'Charity's thrift stores sell their wares online'. Print Edition | Subscribe