Everyone knows that Americans are buying a lot more apparel from thrift stores than they did when the economy was booming, but not many people understand the impact this has down the line any better than Marcus and Crystal Gomez.
The Gomezes own a business called California Clothing Recyclers over on Power Inn Road in Sacramento. When used clothing doesn't sell at thrift or consignment stores, they buy it by the pound.
It's a deal that allows the stores to avoid dump fees on the castoffs. The Gomezes make money if they can sell the clothes to exporters for a higher price than they paid for it.
"We bale it, and we ship it to the companies we deal with in Central America and Dubai," Crystal Gomez told me. "It's like a commodity. The prices are always up and down, according to the availability, so it's not a price we have control over."
When they started their business in 1997, thrift stores were receiving piles upon piles of used clothing. Donations were up as Americans, flush with cash, opted to buy new, new, new.
The Gomezes were awash in top-quality threads, but they couldn't sell it for more than 3 cents a pound. Clothing exporters had so much of the stuff they couldn't count on it all selling, so they would end up turning it into rags.
These days, everyone - the Gomezes, their exporters and consumers - are paying top dollar for used clothing because there's not enough supply to meet demand. Americans are hanging onto their clothing longer, and more shoppers are competing for used clothing in consignment and thrift stores.
The Gomezes say their profit margins have narrowed as the supply has fallen. They think they have a way to improve their return: fundraisers.
You see, "institutional" clothing left over from thrift stores sells for less on the world market than apparel donated for fundraisers. If the Gomezes can sell more clothing from fundraisers - fetching a higher price - they might improve their earnings. Recently, a cross-country track coach told Marcus Gomez his team really needed cash, so Gomez had an employee show him how to set up a fundraiser.
"He goes out, and in five weeks, he produces 10,000 pounds," Marcus Gomez said. "He filled a room that he wasn't using in a gym. He got the kids on the team and their parents to contribute. He advertised on Craigslist under yard sales saying, 'Would you donate your clothes to the cross-country team at Concord? I'll come pick 'em up.' ... He ended up with $1,650."
Learn more about California Clothing Recyclers at www.californiaclothing.net.
Sacramento has Daggs
Lisa Daggs didn't achieve the meteoric success she hoped for when she went hunting for fame and fortune as a singer in Nashville in the 1980s.
Don't misunderstand. Daggs made a good living, enough money in fact that she could support a cocaine habit that eventually cost her $1,000 a day. She didn't quit because of money. It was the run-ins with the law, culminating with a felony possession charge that could have had her serving three to five years.
On Nov. 11, 1989, Daggs entered a recovery program and while she was there, she promised God that if he would help her get out of this mess, she wouldn't stop sharing what he's done in her life. Daggs dedicated herself to Christian music, especially songs that help people recover.
"Seven CDs later, I have been able to travel all over the world with Bill and Gloria Gaither and with my own band and in solo appearances," Daggs said.
"I haven't had a day job in 23 years," she added. "I've been singing. That's what has bought the houses, the cars, everything - and supported my daughter through private school."
April 4 will find Daggs performing at home. She'll open and close the Sacramento Has Talent benefit for Access Sacramento. The nonprofit depends on fundraisers like this one to provide about a fifth of its budget. Tickets are available at accesssacramento.org.
Although born in Hollywood, Daggs is indeed a Sacramento talent and a graduate of Hiram Johnson High School. Her bio can be found at www.lisadaggs-charette.com.
Call The Bee's Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193.