Penny Lane Bargain Outlet employees Kelly Michaud and Jenny Nemeth can still smile

Penny Lane Bargain Outlet employees Kelly Michaud and Jenny Nemeth can still smile

Doors closing at Summerland charity shops

Penny Lane Bargain Outlets had raised $2 million for community since opening in 2011

Rock-bottom prices on clothing and furniture added up to $2 million for charity, but sluggish sales and lack of inventory has the doors closing for good at two Summerland charity shops.

The non-profit Penny Lane Bargain Outlets were established in 2002 to offer discounts on goods from liquidators and raise money for local community groups.

“We had a good eight years that we really did well with, but in the last three – and I can’t really blame it on the economy – it’s just been tough making a go of it,” said Orv Robson, who chairs the board of the Summerland Charity Shops Society.

Robson said the arrangement the shops had with Sears to source product ended in October 2012, and inventory from new suppliers has been substandard.

“The stuff we were getting from them was basically unsaleable. A lot of it was picked over and we just weren’t getting the quality and the material that would have the value to it,” he said.

So rather than see its legacy tarnished, the society moved instead to close the stores and work to convert its assets into some sort of foundation that will allow it to give in perpetuity. Robson said the board is still working out the details.

In the meantime, both stores will be closed by May 31 and it’s hoped the locations can be leased to generate steady revenue for the society’s charitable work. A breakfast club at Summerland’s elementary and middle schools will be funded for another year, Robson said, as will two counsellors at the high school.

The society, conceived by the late Art Sewell, has helped 60-plus local organizations with $2 million in donations. Three full-time store employees and a handful of part-timers will be out of work, Robson added.

“We gave it a good run for 11 years and we were pretty pleased with the results over those 11 years,” he said. “We can’t go on forever.”

Customer Irene Gray said, who took advantage Friday of close-out sale prices at the clothing shop, said she’s visited the Penny Lanes since they opened, and will be sorry to see them go.

“You get some really good buys,” she said. “Everything is so much cheaper here.”

Gray said the closures will leave a big hole in downtown Summerland.

“I think it’s sad. There are two stores that are going to be empty,” she said. “It’s going to hurt the community, I’m sure.”