Rummage Spotlight: Housewares

With Nancy Bohrer

Q: How long have you chaired Housewares?  How has the department changed during your leadership, and what brings you back to manage the department every summer?

A: I’m not sure, I’d guess about 20 years. Susie Swisher is my co-chair. The department has become larger during the time I have been doing this and our product offerings have expanded.  We have been in the same room with Christmas for many years now, which has worked out very happily for me, as I really like the Christmas ladies. So does everyone else!

Q: Can you summarize your philosophy about pricing and marketing the items you offer in the department?

A: I just think about that old supply-demand curve, and remember that more items are sold when the price is less. We offer many things that already have had a long life, or that are only interesting to people if the price is cheap, so our pricing has to reflect that. More desirable items cost more.  If I think a dealer will be interested in something, I start with a higher price. Sometimes we have a number of items that are substantially similar, and I assign various prices to them so that shoppers can enjoy comparing what is a better buy. It’s fun to watch them consider which item to choose. My goal is to get as much sold as possible, and in order to do that you have to price items so people know that they are getting a bargain. Weather always impacts our business. We are not a department where people head first, so we are always at the mercy of getting enough shoppers to make the sales we want to achieve. We depend heavily on impulse purchases, and no one wants an impulse purchase that will make a dent in their wallet.

Q: What makes Housewares unique for and attractive to sale shoppers?

A: We specialize in merchandise that you wished someone gave you for Christmas, but never appeared under the tree, and items that you wished you had from your mom or grandmother’s house. Not too many children are charmed by our offerings, but we really do have something for everybody, even if it’s just a joke present. It’s a fun department to find something to take home to amuse yourself, and if you ask us if we have anything interesting or novel, we will find you something! Keep in mind, though, at busy times, we are trying to push our items that will bring in the biggest amount of money for the many charities that we benefit. If we have enough people working in the department on the day of sale, we engage in a little personal selling.

Q: Is there a typical customer that the department appeals to?  Do you have a large, loyal group of clients that come every year?

A: People just starting out who need a lot of items are a typical customer, but I actually think that the rummage workers are our largest and most loyal group of clients. Our department appears to three types:  the thrifty; those who like quirky housewares items; and people looking for something no longer readily available. Sometimes we get wives whose husbands are here for school, and I try to find houseware items for them that they can use to entertain their friends in an inexpensive and amusing way. We get some teachers looking for items for the sand or water table; they are quite creative in finding items that will amuse the children.

Q: What particular kinds of donations (i.e., brands or types) do you wish you had more of to sell and why?

A: I am always hoping for plenty of donations, and some years are better than others. For some unknown reason, old pots and pans and old bake ware is very popular. So are kitchen gadgets and small appliances. Nicer things in good condition are always best. I always wish that I had more items that people washed or dusted before donating. It would be very nice if  donors could place things they plan to give in it, and clean it up before sending it off.

Q: Can you give readers an idea of the price range for items in Housewares?

A: Ten dollars would be expensive and five cents would be cheap. We have lots of items under a dollar, and many, if not most, are under five dollars. The price range depends on what we receive.

Q: Do you have a favorite sale day memory that sends your spirit soaring when you think about it and reminds you about how remarkable the Kenilworth Union rummage ritual can be for volunteers and customers alike.

A: I am always so happy to see how many Church members and friends are involved on the day of sale; it creates positive energy that translates to excitement on the part of our customers and additional sales. I don’t think any other Church event has better member participation, with the possible exception of Christmas and Easter. It’s gratifying when we have strong sales, and when we seem to have priced the merchandise to sell quickly. That being said, the day of sale starts so early that I think the only time my spirit soars is when it’s over.

I would also like to say that we always can use more workers during the summer. If no one has ever invited you to help out, this is your invitation! You may find it fun. People should also strongly encourage their young people to volunteer. It can help build a teen’s resume, instill confidence by working as an important member of a team, and teach basic business skills.