BFA Thrift Store makes changes. By Laura Lewis, Reporter. Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 5:23 pm (Updated: November 15, 5:27 pm).

From The Brunswick Beacon. Copyright © 2016 The Brunswick Beacon.

Changes are under way at the Brunswick Family Assistance Thrift Store next door to BFA headquarters in Twin Creek Plaza at 4600 Main St. in Shallotte, including more creative merchandise displays.
The Brunswick Family Assistance Thrift Store stands to benefit from suggested improvements, according to an assessment by a University of North Carolina at Wilmington group charged with evaluating nonprofits.
Since that assessment, some of those changes have been implemented at the BFA Thrift Store, located next door to BFA headquarters in Twin Creek Plaza at 4600 Main St. in Shallotte, including new management, reduced employee work hours and rearrangement and pricing changes of merchandise.
The study by UNCW’s Quality Enhancement for Nonprofit Organizations (QENO) was conducted last April and recommends ways to improve the BFA thrift store.
On April 18, Andy Atkinson and Kerri Erb with UNCW/QENO met with BFA staff, former board chairman Ken Papaj and former executive director Fred Stephens, who continues to serve as a consultant for BFA after his successor, Lou Nistler, abruptly resigned in August after 48 days on the job.
“A review of finances revealed a slight downturn in revenue and increase in expense from the Thrift Store operations,” reads a follow-up report provided by Stephens to the Beacon in September.
“We were asked to visit the thrift store and make recommendations for improvements in efficiency and effectiveness,” the QENO report continues.
After reviewing staff salaries, schedules and financial statements, Atkinson and Erb cited “very few controllable variables aside from staff hours in the expenses category.”
Report findings stated there needs to be “clear job descriptions” for thrift store staff “with clear differentiation of duties and goals.
The assessment also found there were “possibly too many staff on shift simultaneously,” though the team acknowledged it was a slow day the day they visited, and about two-thirds of the staff “should suffice with clarity in roles.”
The QENO evaluation also found the store could benefit from a “dedicated floor/operations manager,” as long it’s the right person with proper skills, knowledge and abilities.
The study also found many items appeared to be “overpriced for a thrift store.”
“Goal should be to move inventory, a dollar made vs. five dollars taking up space,” the report reads. “Keep in mind that your cost of merchandise in zero.”
The QENO study also found “furniture and accessories are much cheaper and more accessible with Amazon and other retailers offering new, or nearly new items, compared to older styles priced at nearly new retail for something similar.
It also suggested “more thorough research on price points.”
While the BFA store operates as a thrift store, that “doesn’t mean it cannot look neat and professionally operated,” the report reads.
The store was described as cluttered with potentially hazardous arrangements, including chairs stacked with crime-scene tape and rugs and blinds in aisles.
“The outside entrance does not present a welcoming appearance, with various items randomly placed along window and entrance to Thrift Store,” the report reads.
A walk to a consignment shop next door “gives a glimpse of how more space utilization could be compared to a cluttered one,” the report reads.
The assessment also described many items in the thrift store as “very outdated and of little value,” including eight-track tapes, random remote controls and wires, hotel toiletries, floral vases and random knickknacks and non-matching items.
The evaluation suggested better placement of “quick sellers” including clean, quality toys, clothing and accessories for children as well as better storage and online marketing of larger items to free up space, better clothing and shoes organization and more “stuff the bag” sales to move slow-moving items out of the store.
It also suggested “more efficient purging of non-selling items,” including a disproportionate amount of holiday items and coats and a better system for people to drop off items.
Employees at the store Tuesday, Nov. 15, said many of the recommended changes in the QENO study have been implemented with positive results.
“It’s made a huge difference,” store employee Mike Burroff said.
He and fellow part-time store employee Diana Carter said customers are all the time commenting on how the store has more room, with more efficient arrangement and creative display of merchandise.
Burroff said he lost two hours in employee work reduction at the store, which he deemed minimal.
“We have done a lot of sales, though,” he said.
Stephens and BFA’s new executive director, Stephanie Bowen, said the changes have been necessary to defray expenses and expand space.
Stephens told the Beacon in September the thrift store had not been as profitable as it “could and should have been.”
“Our goal really is to move in the right direction — to keep revenue up and costs down,” Bowen said.

Laura Lewis is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or