UpCycle Ohio Thrift Store is thriving. Want proof? Just spend some time scrolling through the store’s Instagram feed, where you’ll see photos of quirky merchandise, volunteers roller skating through the aisles, and customers happily modeling their purchases.

Of course the real proof, as is the case with any retail establishment, is sales, and UpCycle Ohio Thrift is exceeding expectations on that front.

In January, Thrift Store Manager Sadie Meade and her team started working toward a monthly sales goal that increased each month of the year.

By February, they were already generating sales that hadn’t been projected until the following December. In fact, they more than doubled the sales numbers for any month up to that point. As 2021 has progressed, the Thrift has continued to exceed its revenue budget.

While sales performance is important, the Thrift Store is more than just a business. It’s a social enterprise of Rural Action, and a critical part of its mission is giving back to the community. As such, it plays a key role in zero waste initiatives by upcycling materials that might otherwise end up in a landfill and striving to recycle donations that aren’t sellable in the store.

Sadie is quick to note the success is a team effort, praising the work of Sales Associates Pauline Phillips and Kylee Minick, not to mention 30 or so volunteers, an OU work/study student, and a high school intern.

“We designed our point-of-sale system to be specific enough to generate data to use about how we curate the space, but not so specific that it’s not intuitive for our staff members to use,” Sadie says.

Curate is the operative word. Compared to many thrifts, UpCycle Ohio is clean, well-organized, and curated. For instance, the books aren’t stacked randomly in dusty stacks. They’re categorized and organized, thanks to volunteer Sarah Mitchell, and that has translated into strong sales.

Another strong seller is women’s tops. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel in terms of how retail functions,” Sadie says. “We make more space for women’s tops when we’re doing well on them.” Sadie credits volunteer Sarah McGrew with playing a key role in making garment sales a success. Sarah is a long-time resident of the community, and she has a background in retail and image consulting.

And while the social accounts broadcast a constant stream of interesting products, they seldom list prices. Customers need to stop by the store — at 751 West Union Street in Athens – to discover the price, not to mention other products they might want to purchase.

When four large cardboard boxes of Union Bar T-shirts from 2016 come into the store, Sadie was worried they’d end up having to send many of them to fabric recycling. How were they going to sell about 500 shirts, all with the same design?

Thanks to social media posts, half of them were sold in the first week.

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