GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY: Convention donations a bonanza for Opportunity Village
Where did all the wares go? Right there, that’s where – those thrift store aisles blossoming into a veritable lair of superior wares, proving that when you share, you care.
Flat-out donations? Even better.
“The Las Vegas Convention Center has been very generous to work with us and get us into the shows,” says Malcolm McCollum, regional retail operations manager for Opportunity Village, which serves people with intellectual disabilities and is a grateful beneficiary of post-convention product donations. Recently, that was courtesy of May’s National Hardware Show, where 650-plus companies showcased mint-new products. And when quantity dovetails with quality, it’s a double blessing.
“Normally, of the items we get donated from anywhere else, about 60 percent of it is retail quality. When you go through the convention center, 100 percent of it is retail quality because it’s all new goods. It’s amazing stuff.”
Stuff? Let’s break that down, here at the organization’s impressively overstuffed Decatur Boulevard store. Deep breath now: barbecue grills, patio furniture, space heaters, bird feeders and seed dispensers, spray bottles, rakes, shovels, fencing material, Tiki torches, tape, plastic sheds and bins, plant holders, flower pots, craft materials, can koozies, mailboxes, fixtures, hinges, door numbers, sprinklers, scratch covers, signs, spigots, hoses, candles, carpet rolls, bug repellant, mousetraps, dishware and cables. Oh – and sinks.
“That’s our standard joke,” McCollum says. “We’ve got everything plus the kitchen sink.” Phew – they certainly do.
“A lot of the shows choose a nonprofit (for donations) as in some ways it’s mutually beneficial,” McCollum says. “A lot of vendors will bring items to a show to sell to clients, but it’s not necessarily worth it to them to pay the freight to ship it home. Or if they leave it, they’re either going to be charged to remove it, or the Convention Center will be charged to throw it away.”
Kudos for the windfall for Opportunity Village – which “canvassed” the convention floor for donations on the second and third days of the hardware show’s three-day event – are also due the Convention Center and convention management company, Freeman Las Vegas.
“They really go out of their way to make sure we get items that are set aside because, unfortunately, as soon as the show shuts down, people have a tendency to grab leftover items and run,” McCollum says. “The Convention Center at the upper north hall got us one of their rooms and made it a secure room for us. We had 34 barbecues in one of those rooms, brand new. And their personnel will assist us if they find out someone wants to donate. It’s a good partnership.”
Such team spirit – an association that goes back more than a decade — suffuses similar initiatives when other shows come to town, such as the National Association of Broadcasters, the Affordable Shopping Destination confab, and the Consumer Electronics Show. “There are a lot of nonprofits involved in CES, but some vendors will come in with 32-inch TVs for display and not take them back, so you get a bunch of those,” McCollum says.
Involvement runs both ways, as Opportunity Village clients have assembled “swag bags” for shows, made cookies as gifts for attendees, and use the organization’s print shop to create handouts that are distributed. Yet the big fish in the donation pond remains the hardware show.
“The show allows us to bring product into the store that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to pick up anywhere else and then sell it or use for the organization, which saves us money if we don’t have to go out and buy something,” McCollum explains. “Ninety-five percent of what we get, we sell. With the amount of money we spend to make (the organization’s involvement) happen, we get a three-to-four-times return on the hardware show.”
Once the items are on the store floor, the challenge is pricing them for the public. “We price it at about half of what you’d get it for at retail,” he says. “If it’s not in a box, you go a bit lower, and if there’s a scratch or dent, then lower. And in this day and age, Google is your friend. And there are a lot of bar codes, so we can pull up the Amazon app and scan the bar code.”
All of it spills over the racks and into the aisles at the Opportunity Village Thrift Store, giving rise to an eclectic shopping experience. “It’s the thrill of the hunt,” McCollum says.
Happy hunting, bargain seekers –who, upon their purchase, double as good-cause benefactors.