Pawnshops an option for Calgary's budget-conscious holiday shoppers

Calgary's lagging economy is keeping pawnshops busy leading up to the Christmas.

Christmas a busy season for pawnshop borrowers, buyers

Sharky's International is a pawnshop located in northwest Calgary. (Dave Will/CBC)

Calgary's lagging economy is keeping pawnshops busy leading up to Christmas, as people look to unload items in exchange for quick cash or pick up inexpensive holiday gifts. 

Robbie Barrett, assistant manager at Sharky's International, a pawnshop located in northwest Calgary, told CBC News his store says consistently busy year-round, but there's definitely an increase of borrowers in December.

"We see a bit more people looking for loans," Barrett said, adding that customers span all demographics.

"Right now, with the economy the way it is, it's everybody. You don't know what tomorrow's going to bring ... it goes from oil workers, to contractors, to stay-at-home moms."

Robbie Barrett, assistant manager at Sharkys International, said some of the most frequent items people putt up for collateral are laptops, jewelry, bikes and recreational vehicles. (Dave Will/CBC)

Barrett said his store goes out of its way to avoid stereotypes about buying pawned items — it's clean and staff run security checks to make sure products have not been stolen, a service lacking in online classified listings like Kijiji.

"Customers need help, we're here to help ... it's a business, but we try to lighten the mood and make customers feel good about being here," he said.

For those looking to pick up Christmas gifts, pawnshops can offer an appealing budget alternative when brand-new items are out of reach.

Sharky's is embracing the holiday shoppers, offering a promotion leading up to Christmas. 

The store also usually gets swamped with customers on Boxing Day.

Barrett said the hottest items include new video game consoles like Xbox Ones and PS4s, TVs, jewlery, tools and musical instruments — but what's started to really fly off the shelves are classic game systems. 

Both collectors and buyers hoping to relive their childhood or share their favourite games with their kids are eager to get their hands on vintage systems like Super Nintendos, he said, and games often sell for more than when they were first released.

With files from Dave Will