Thrift stores in Waterloo Region say extreme cold is hurting donations and sales.

Thrift store shelves are unusually bare in Waterloo Region this winter and extreme cold is behind the decline in donations, according to one local store manager. 

"When we have cold, minus twenty-six degree temperatures, people do not want to be cleaning out garages and standing out in the cold to stack carts or unload their car when they arrive," said Karla Richards, manager of New Hamburg Thrift Centre.  

The decline in donations means that pickings are slim at many second hand shops leading to a smaller number of customers frequenting the stores. 

"We're at the mercy of whatever is donated in the back door," said Richards. "So if people aren't willing to come out in the cold obviously it has impact on the rest of our operations."

The New Hamburg Thrift Centre typically makes about $90,000 in February but Richards says that's an unlikely goal this year. There have been days when she was afraid they wouldn't make more than $100. 

"From our perspective, by the time you pay the heat, the hydro, the service to come in and clear and salt our parking lot, it's cost us money to be open," Richards said. 

Still, Richards is hopeful that warmer spring weather will get people back out to shop and donate. 

"We know the items are there. People will typically start bringing them in great volumes in May and June," said Richards. "But if you have the items now we'd love to see you today."