P.E.I. thrift stores planning to adapt to the new reality
'The phone's ringing off the hook so there's lots of interest'
Some Islanders might have taken the opportunity to sort through their closets with the public health restrictions in place over the past months,
Marg Schroder, manager of Mission Thrift Store in Charlottetown, said she expects the store will receive an influx of donations when the doors reopen.
But Schroder said the donation process will be different than it was before.
Employees collecting donations will be gloved and masked. Physical distancing will be observed whether the donor or staff members unload the donations.
Staff will be taking extra precautions with the donated items.
"All donations will be put in isolation for at least a week. And we do have the area to be able to do that with the incoming donations," said Schroder.
"It is an existing area where we now have our overflow, but we've got that all reorganized so that all of the product coming in will be separate from even what's already there."
The store has also installed Plexiglas at the counters, will add a hand-washing station at the front entrance and limit the number of people in the store at one time.
Shroder said it will all be quite a change because the store might have as many as 70 customers waiting when the doors open for the day.
"It's going to slow the process down and some people like to shop for an hour or two when they're in the store. So that will also slow down how many others can come in," she said.
"We really will notice a difference, I'm sure, in our sales as well."
Schroder said the planned opening date is May 22.
No donation pick up
Similar policies are being put in place at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Charlottetown. That store isn't planning to open until May 26.
Normally, the store offers in-house pickup of donations, but those are on hold for now, said manager Paul Molyneaux. The drop-off process will change, too.
"We're going to do donation by appointment only, so people will have to call in, give us a rough idea, and what they're bringing in, and then we'll book a time for them," he said.
"We'll try to find out what items they're bringing, in, what condition they are, find out if anyone has been around anyone who's been sick, or have any symptoms of COVID," he said.
If those people are sick, Molyneaux said they will either quarantine those items for a period of time, or ask the person to hold on to them.
Molyneaux said he expects staff will be able to handle four drop-off donations per hour.
When customers arrive, it will be recommended they stay in their cars. They can expect staff to be wearing personal protective equipment.
"We've invested in tons of gloves and face masks as well and plenty of disinfectant, hand-wash stations, that kind of thing. So we expect to run through a ton of gloves and hundreds of face masks on order and a few on hand right now," said Molyneaux.
The store will also be limiting its hours, reducing the number of people allowed inside the store at one time to 10 and attempting to limit their trips inside the store to about 15 minutes.
'Going to take a while'
"We're also hoping that people can look more than touch," he said. "It's kind of a hard thing to do because … if there's a desk there your first instinct is to pull out the drawers and see how everything's working."
The restrictions the store is putting in place, along with other public health restrictions that still exist in the province, will have an impact on business.
"It's definitely going to take a while to get back to where we were. Basically from April … to June previous years we would get a lot of the cottages opening up, people from off-Island coming over and going through the cottage, updating their inventory, and either we were getting stuff or they were coming in to buy stuff," he said.
"We also missed on, I would assume, a lot of university people that were done for the year and then heading away for a couple of months. They would be looking for places to donate desks and that kind of thing."
But he said Islanders are eager to get back to the store.
"The phone's ringing off the hook so there's lots of interest," he said. "People are ready to come out and shop."