savers, inc. business model

Bargain hunting turns 50 this year, as international thrift store chain Savers, Inc., also operating as Value Village in the Pacific Northwest and Canada and Village des Valeurs in Quebec, celebrates five decades of frugal fashions and second-hand stuff.

Expanding from a single store in 1954, the privately held Bellevue, Wash.-based company, formerly known as TVI Inc., currently operates nearly 200 for-profit thrift outlets throughout the United States, Canada and Australia, employing 7,000 associates. Key to Savers success is their unique business model which benefits non-profit organizations by purchasing and reselling donated items, allowing customers to enjoy endless shopping adventures in search of hidden treasures. In 2003 alone, Savers sold roughly 136 million recyclable items to more than 29 million customers.

Our 'triple bottom line business model has proven successful over the years because everyone wins," said Tom Ellison, chief executive officer of Savers and son of company founder Bill Ellison. Savers non-profit partners have a sustainable source of funding; we look after the environment by recycling goods; our retail stores provide career tracks and jobs within the community and our customers win because they find amazing bargains on our shelves every day."

Charitable Organizations Benefit

With second-hand stores booming as everything old becomes new again, and with a solid business model to stand on, Savers plans to expand by approximately five percent in 2004, and add 50 to 70 new stores over the next five years. Under the current business model, charitable organizations solicit used clothing and household items and deliver them to Savers, who pays a bulk rate for the goods. Reusable items are then bargain priced and displayed on Savers retail floors, while items not suitable for resale -- roughly half -- are shipped to developing nations and fabric wholesalers for resale and recycling. In their 50 years of operation, Savers has paid more than $1 billion dollars to their charity partners, which currently consist of 120 organizations throughout the United States, Canada and Australia.

Last year alone, Savers paid more than $100 million to our non-profit partners, and shipped 160 million pounds of reusable goods to developing countries," said Ken Alterman, Savers newly appointed president as of January 2004.

We try our best to ensure everything salvageable is put to good use. Even clothing that is no longer suitable to wear is shredded and recycled into rags."

Savers History

Savers enjoys a rich history among the second-hand industry, as Ellison family members helped build the Salvation Armys thrift store organization in the 1930s and 1940s. This led Bill Ellison to open a California thrift store in 1954 under the name Salvage Management Corporation, known today as Savers.

The senior Ellison spent the next decade managing thrift stores for charitable organizations before opening a store of his own in Redwood City, Calif., followed by Renton, Wash. In the mid-1970s, the company moved its headquarters to the Seattle area, where Tom Ellison joined the family business as a truck driver in 1974 shortly after graduating from high school.

From there, the company grew quickly and was operating 15 stores by 1980, including a presence in Canada. In 1995, Savers reached the 100th store milestone, and two years later successfully entered the Australian market.

Today, because of their strong business model, Savers is the nations leading for-profit thrift chain organization. To mark the prestigious anniversary, throughout the year Savers will implement special anniversary sales, promotions, contests, and rotating store signage reflecting fashions throughout the decades. To learn more, visit

About Savers, Inc.

Savers, Inc. operates 200 Savers, Value Village and Village des Valeurs stores. Savers, Inc. stores employ more than 7,000 people in 23 states, 10 Canadian provinces and Australia. Visit for more information, including a list of store locations.

Author Information

Gina Cohen