Century-old nonprofit Goodwill on taking thrifting online

NEW YORK — Goodwill is expanding its online presence, promising high tech features from digitized receipts to personalized alerts.

The 120-year-old Maryland-based nonprofit organization this month launched GoodwillFinds, a shopping venture that is making roughly 100,000 donated items available for purchase online and expanding Goodwill’s internet presence that until now had been limited to auction sites like ShopGoodwill.com or individual stores selling donations online via eBay and Amazon. GoodwillFinds aims to offer 1 million items online in the next year or two.

Spearheading the venture is Matthew Kaness, newly appointed CEO of the online shopping arm who has 20 years of retail experience. GoodwillFinds is a separate entity from Goodwill Industries International Inc., but will support the larger organization by helping fund its community-based programs across the U.S., provide professional training, job placement and youth mentorship. It should also increase donations, while also helping to expand its base of customers.

The Associated Press spoke to Kaness about the online experience and why the venture’s timing is right. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Question: What makes this venture different from the existing Goodwill online experience?

Answer: Access to shopping and thrifting on Goodwill will be unparalleled for the first time online compared to going to your one store location or trying to go through a sea of items on Amazon and eBay. The second thing is that because of technology, we’re going to be able to personalize the discovery, the recommendations, the notification, the email alerts, everything that you’re accustomed to when shopping at other brands.

Question: How will a greater presence online amplify Goodwill’s mission?

Answer: We are going to be elevating the global story around the impact that Goodwill has. Last year, Goodwill provided social services to 2 million individuals across the country. And then last year, all the Goodwills diverted 3 billion pounds of goods away from landfill based on the donations received and sold.

Question: Why is the timing right?

Answer: There’s a reason why secondhand is growing eight times faster than the overall industry. Consumers, in particular, younger consumers, Gen Z, generally love thrifting from a fashion perspective and from a retail store shopping perspective. They really care about the impact that their dollars have on the environment. That, coupled with the incredible value that all families of households for 100 years have found, especially at this time of economic hardship.

Question: Will this increased shift to online hurt the Goodwill physical stores?

Answer: When you are a store-based company and you’re only selling a little bit online through marketplaces, you don’t know who your customer is. You have to reacquire that customer over and over again. There are so many online competitors that are keeping your customers from getting to your store because they’re making it so convenient for shopping secondhand online. This is is going to massively expand the audience and the customer base for each one of our Goodwill members.