When we think of online shopping — and there are a lot of us who are doing just that this holiday shopping season — our thoughts likely turn to places such as Amazon, eBay or some other popular retailer.

Chances are Goodwill isn’t high on the list. But Michael Meyer is doing his best to change that.

Meyer, chief executive officer of the Frederick-based Goodwill Industries of Monocacy Valley, is the brains behind the local Goodwill’s 116,000-square-foot E-Commerce Center, which is not only creating jobs but brought in an additional $4 million this past year for the charity’s mission of helping people find meaningful employment.

And while that sounds impressive, Meyer believes that number will increase dramatically in a few short years. Clearly, this is not your grandparents’ Goodwill.

The way the e-commerce center works is pretty simple: Donated items are taken to the Goodwill warehouse on English Muffin Way where they are sorted, with the unsellable items tossed away. The good items are inventoried, photographed and then posted on the website, shopgoodwill.com. Then, much like you would with eBay, customers can go online to bid on an item. And, as Meyer told our reporter last week, this can bring out the true value of an item.

Meyer said an item has a 30 percent chance of being sold in a Goodwill store, but a more than 90 percent chance of being sold online. Plus, the audience online is a lot larger than the number of people who might see an item in a store. And, the average price of an item sold online is more than four times higher than that of one sold in a Monocacy Valley store.

In essence, the way donated items were sold in the past wasn’t the best way to squeeze out an item’s value. While it might have been a dream scenario for a bargain hunter, it was far from the best way to help a charity fund its programs.

From what we’ve seen so far, this approach could very well change the landscape of charitable giving. That’s smart, considering how rapidly shopping habits are changing.

A Marist College and National Public Radio poll taken in August found that three-quarters of adults in the United States shop online. And as many as 25 percent of them do so at least once a month.

If a business expects to compete for your shopping dollar, and against powerhouses Amazon and eBay, they must have an e-commerce site online. If it’s where the shoppers are, merchants really have no other option than to compete there as hard as they might in a brick-and-mortar setting.

Meyer and Goodwill Industries of Monocacy Valley are doing just that.

It’s important, though, to remember the difference between Goodwill and, say Amazon. Goodwill’s profits provide job training and help people gain employment.

“For every two items sold on our platform, it equals one hour of training,” Meyer told us. “Not only are we creating jobs but we’re also taking the net out of the sale item and [putting] that back into job training programs.”

Yet another reason to visit Goodwill when you’re doing your online shopping.

(2) comments


Been in the Walkersville store lately? It smells horrible and I couldn’t even wash that smell out after multiple washings of the clothing. Going online is an even worse gamble.


This is good news for some folks but bad for others.

Those who rely on fining bargains at their local Goodwill store are out of luck. If they have a computer, Internet access, and a credit card that isn't maxed out they can shop online, but they will be bidding against potentially millions of other people.

Many items that would have been affordable will be out of reach.

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