In a city with more thrift stores per capita than most, Ron Barker wanted to try something different.
The retired business consultant set up “Langley Clothes by the Pound” inside a leased 13,000-square foot premises at 6011 196A St. in Langley City two months ago, opening during the August long weekend.
The concept was modeled on other buy-by-weight thrift stores in Canada and the U.S. where buyers pay by the pound, whether they are buying generic jean jackets or Armani suits.
The Langley operation bought clothes and linens from other charities that operate donation drop boxes in the Lower Mainland, then sorted them into bins at the store.
Individuals and wholesalers were welcome to make purchases.
The plan was to have Clothes by the Pound use a portion of its revenue to support meal programs for students in the Langley and Surrey school districts.
But just two months after it launched, customers of Clothes by the Pound were greeted by a notice warning the business was about to fold.
“We … Find We Can Not Continue,” the notice said.
“We Have To Shut Down.”
Barker said the crisis was the result of unexpected expenses and a slower-than-projected buildup of customers.
“The problem is, we didn’t have enough people coming through,” Barker told the Times.
Even though the number of buyers has been increasing, the numbers were not where they needs to be, he said.
“It’s going up, but not nearly enough.”
As well, upgrading the premises proved to be costlier than anticipated, he added.
“It ate up all our reserve capital.”
Two of three paid staff had to be laid off, Barker said.
Clothes by the pound hasn’t been able to make donations to the school meal programs, he said.
But following an emergency meeting with investors, a deal has been struck to keep the store in business, Barker said.
“We’ll be able to keep going for a while,” he said.
“I think we’re good for the next six months.”
The store sells clothes, shoes, linens, purses, hats and belts, but no china, books, furniture or sports equipment.
Barker said the location of the store was determined in part by regulations adopted by Langley City Council to restrict the proliferation of thrift stores and donation boxes in the downtown core.
The regulations did not affect the 18 existing thrift stores or the many donation bins already operating, but new thrift stores like Clothes by The Pound aren’t allowed within 400 metres of other second-hand shops and all new drop boxes are banned.
The restrictions took effect Jan. 1, 2017.
The issue of the growing concentration of thrift stores in the City was raised by the Downtown Langley Business Association (DLBA), whose executive director, Teri James, told council that the association is “in no way opposed to thrift stores,” but feels the community had become over-saturated.
The rule forced the non-profit Fibromyalgia Well Spring Foundation to leave Langley City for Aldergrove after the owners of the strip mall at 206 Street and Fraser Highway raised their rent.
Founder and executive director Cheryl Young said she agreed with the decision to limit the proliferation of thrift stores, but finding a new location nearby was not possible under the 400 metres restriction.
The foundation has found new premises at 2978 272 St. in Aldergrove.