The Roanoke Goodwill store on Orange Avenue near Bonsack will close at the end of June and already, there are cries of “the internet did it!” I don’t much think that’s the case.
This is a busy section of a divided highway that has seen struggling businesses for quite a while. The shopping center–Market Square East–is not a lot to write home about, either. It’s low-end, hard to get to and hard to get out of. Big truck traffic at peak hours is interstate insane, and frankly, dangerous.
A while back, a WalMart Neighborhood Market store (one of the smaller WalMarts) closed on the other side of U.S. 460 and a large Kroger closed nearby several years ago, moving east into Bonsack.
Right now, Goodwill has a large presence in Roanoke with six substantial stores/donation centers; two stores/donation centers in Salem and one each in Vinton and Troutville; one donation center only and one car donation center in the Roanoke Valley. Bedford has one large center and Blacksburg/Christiansburg have two. It is a big business.
Goodwill, in my view, does not really face a threat from the ‘net. Shopping there–and at most thrift stores–is its own shopping experience. Bargain hunters like me will enter a Goodwill with absolutely no goal but to find something interesting and unanticipated at a bargain price. It is recreation. Two days ago, I bought a new, restaurant-quality panini grill (a $170 value) for $5. I didn’t need it, nor did I anticipate it being there.
I buy clothes at thrifts for a fraction of their retail cost, some of them slightly used, all of them well-made, fashionable and sturdy. I don’t need the clothes, but it’s fun finding the deals and bringing them home (even as I take others to the collection center at the thrift stores).
I’m not aware of any shopping experience on the internet that equates to the thrift store experience, and I shop for quite a few items on the ‘net (camera equipment, electronics, books [Kindle], prescriptions), but never clothes. I don’t and don’t expect to shop for groceries online. Again, it’s about bargains. I love to walk out of a grocery store, totaling in my head the money I saved by being careful.
Don’t blame the ‘net for this Goodwill closing and I wouldn’t think of it being a sign of things to come. This one’s a simple practical closing of a store that is not generating the kind of square foot revenue expected of the modern Goodwill stores, where you’ll often see more customers than in a Belk’s or Penney’s. My guess is that a donation center–if not a store–will pop up nearby pretty quickly. Oh, and Goodwill says the employees (about 15 of them) will still have jobs in other stores.