City News

How good are Goodwill stores?

With gas and food prices on the rise this summer, shoppers have been looking for any way to satisfy their shopping bug without taking another big hit to their wallets.

Many have turned to Goodwill stores to find inexpensive clothes: In the second quarter, sales at Goodwill's 17 Charlotte-area stores were up 5 percent, Goodwill spokesman Bo Hussey said.

How good are the bargains, though, and how hard do you have to work to find them? Overall, In The Bag found the clothes we wanted were easy to find, and the stores were bright and clean – not your stereotypical “thrift” store.

The clothing was also clean, although some pieces had small, inconspicuous stains. The nicest surprise was that many of the clothes were store brands such as Ann Taylor, Banana Republic and Aeropostale.

South Boulevard

The scene: Located at 6607 South Boulevard near Archdale Drive. Clothes were organized on racks by type and color.

The selection: This store offered a balance of casual and office wear. There was an abundance of mens' khakis, long- and short-sleeved men's shirts and casual women's shirts. When we visited, the store also had several unscuffed handbags and furniture pieces. On the downside, the selection of jeans was small, and we couldn't find any average-sized men's jeans.

The prices: Ranged from about $2.50 for T-shirts to $7 for suits.

Details: 704-552-2878

Sardis Road

The scene: Located at 1909 North Sardis Road next to the Colonnade Office Park. The store layout is similar to the South Boulevard location, just larger.

The selection: This store had both casual and office clothes, with a heavier emphasis on office clothes. On the casual side, it had the largest selection of men's and women's jeans (eight racks) of any Goodwill store we visited. On the office clothes side, there was a significant selection of men's suits, slacks and women's blazers. On the downside, the housewares, furniture and children's clothing selections were spotty.

The prices: Ranged from about $2.50 for T-shirts to $7 for suits.

Details: 704-841-8600.

Freedom Drive

The scene: Located at 2901 Freedom Drive in the shopping center at Alleghany Street. The main store is divided into two parts – one for clothing, the other for furniture, toys and other miscellaneous items. A Goodwill computer store is in the same shopping center, a few doors away.

The selection: The store was the largest we visited, and the sheer amount of clothes makes a visit worth the drive for patient bargain hunters. Clothing was heaped on tables in no particular organized manner. We found every type of clothing we wanted, except suits. Also on the downside, the search took significantly longer than it did at the other stores because of the way the clothes are displayed.

The furniture section offered several grills, which we didn't see at the other locations we visited. The computer store had more than a dozen complete computer systems as well as monitors, keyboards and other separate parts.

The prices: The best we found. Clothes were $1.39 a pound, meaning a pair of shorts cost us $1, when they would have been about $2.50 at the other Goodwill stores. In the computer store, complete systems were about $300, while stand-alone monitors were about $20.

Details: 704-394-6017

Nichole Monroe Bell covers retail and shopping in The City. Reach her at 704-358-5103 or nbell@charlotteobserver.com.

With gas and food prices on the rise this summer, shoppers have been looking for any way to satisfy their shopping bug without taking another big hit to their wallets.

Many have turned to Goodwill stores to find inexpensive clothes: In the second quarter, sales at Goodwill's 17 Charlotte-area stores were up 5 percent, Goodwill spokesman Bo Hussey said.

How good are the bargains, though, and how hard do you have to work to find them? Overall, In The Bag found the clothes we wanted were easy to find, and the stores were bright and clean – not your stereotypical “thrift” store.

The clothing was also clean, although some pieces had small, inconspicuous stains. The nicest surprise was that many of the clothes were store brands such as Ann Taylor, Banana Republic and Aeropostale.

South Boulevard

The scene: Located at 6607 South Boulevard near Archdale Drive. Clothes were organized on racks by type and color.

The selection: This store offered a balance of casual and office wear. There was an abundance of mens' khakis, long- and short-sleeved men's shirts and casual women's shirts. When we visited, the store also had several unscuffed handbags and furniture pieces. On the downside, the selection of jeans was small, and we couldn't find any average-sized men's jeans.

The prices: Ranged from about $2.50 for T-shirts to $7 for suits.

Details: 704-552-2878

Sardis Road

The scene: Located at 1909 North Sardis Road next to the Colonnade Office Park. The store layout is similar to the South Boulevard location, just larger.

The selection: This store had both casual and office clothes, with a heavier emphasis on office clothes. On the casual side, it had the largest selection of men's and women's jeans (eight racks) of any Goodwill store we visited. On the office clothes side, there was a significant selection of men's suits, slacks and women's blazers. On the downside, the housewares, furniture and children's clothing selections were spotty.

The prices: Ranged from about $2.50 for T-shirts to $7 for suits.

Details: 704-841-8600.

Freedom Drive

The scene: Located at 2901 Freedom Drive in the shopping center at Alleghany Street. The main store is divided into two parts – one for clothing, the other for furniture, toys and other miscellaneous items. A Goodwill computer store is in the same shopping center, a few doors away.

The selection: The store was the largest we visited, and the sheer amount of clothes makes a visit worth the drive for patient bargain hunters. Clothing was heaped on tables in no particular organized manner. We found every type of clothing we wanted, except suits. Also on the downside, the search took significantly longer than it did at the other stores because of the way the clothes are displayed.

The furniture section offered several grills, which we didn't see at the other locations we visited. The computer store had more than a dozen complete computer systems as well as monitors, keyboards and other separate parts.

The prices: The best we found. Clothes were $1.39 a pound, meaning a pair of shorts cost us $1, when they would have been about $2.50 at the other Goodwill stores. In the computer store, complete systems were about $300, while stand-alone monitors were about $20.

Details: 704-394-6017

Nichole Monroe Bell covers retail and shopping in The City. Reach her at 704-358-5103 or nbell@charlotteobserver.com.

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