Value Village presents itself as a store that supports organizations in the community, competing with non-profit thrift stores in the South Okanagan.
That image was recently shaken by a court ruling south of the border.
In October 2019, a Washington State judge found Value Village employed deceptive marketing to give the illusion to both donors and shoppers that through supporting Value Village, they are directly supporting charitable organizations.
Instead, what the court found was that Value Village and parent company TVI Inc. offer licencing deals to charitable organizations for the use of their names and images, or they purchase items donated to those organizations to resell in their own stores, instead of giving those organizations percentages of the profits, as many people have been led to believe.
In Penticton, it was nearly a decade ago that Value Village opened the doors for their third store in the Okanagan, and a number of local charitable organizations felt the effect.
South Okanagan Women in Need Society (SOWINS) executive director Debbie Scarborough spoke to how the store’s opening affected their organization.
“At the time I was hired we had our own thrift store WINGS,” she said. The WINGS thrift store closed in 2013.
“We had been open for maybe nine years, it had been running in the red, and the staff directly attributed that to Value Village. So we made the difficult decision to close it, and laid off two staff and the volunteers who worked there. It made the difference to our clients, who had access to free clothing. ”
The South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation, along with their partners, have operated the Care Closet thrift store in downtown Penticton since 1990.
“It’s another business out there that provides clothing and all sorts of things as the Care Closet does, but Value Village is a for-profit organization so there’s a lot of difference there,” said Carey Bornn, the foundation’s executive director.
There was an effect when the store first opened, but over time it has lessened according to Bornn.
“The Care Closet is different, it’s run by volunteers. There is a manager that’s paid, but it’s volunteer-run,” said Bornn.
Bornn added that the Care Closet’s location makes it accessible to downtown pedestrians, which is not the case for the Value Village. He said the thrift store’s good reputation in the community also helped it minimize the effect of sharing potential customers with Value Village.
The local branch of the Salvation Army hasn’t felt much of an effect from Value Village themselves, either negatively or positively.
“Like any other competitor, we just need to make sure we offer the best to our clients and allow our customers to choose who they support,” said Al Madsen, the business manager for the Salvation Army. “We haven’t received any support from the local store.”
SOWINS hasn’t received any support either.
“They’ve made no monetary donation or other contribution that I can think of, since I’ve been here,” said Scarborough.
According to the documents of the Washington court case, Value Village reported annual profits of over $1 billion. According to their 2018 Community Impact Report, Value Village paid $160 million for all goods bought from their nonprofit partners. A disclaimer later in the report states that, “shopping at Value Village does not directly benefit any non-profit organization.”
Value Village stores in Canada operate under a subsidiary, Value Village Canada, and it is not known how the Washington State ruling will affect Canadian stores. TVI Inc. has been named in a number of cases in civil court in B.C.
When Value Village opened in Penticton, the Western News reported the store would be supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Okanagan. In writing this story, the Western reached out to Big Brothers Big Sisters on multiple occasions but did not receive a response by the time of publishing.
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