Salvos Stores is reporting significant growth in the number of customers purchasing donated goods from its stores as a way to reduce the impact of their purchases on the environment and broader society.

A new digital innovation hub developed by the charity is providing ways to meet the needs of Australians who purchase products from its online platforms. The Salvos largest corporate donor is now an online bed retailer which donates millions of dollars in returned mattresses each year.

Salvos corporate partnership manager, Brian Hallet said the organisation’s funding model has evolved as new customer niches emerge including treasure hunters and collectors, as well as environmentally conscious consumers who want to give products a ‘second life’ and traditional customers in need of assistance to meet day-to-day expenses.

“The Salvation Army provides a wide range of community outreach programs throughout Australia ranging from homelessness, domestic violence support, addiction counselling to youth support,” Hallet said.

“The demand for our services has surged in the wake of COVID-19, so to fund these services we have turned to our innovation hub to help us maintain our revenue streams across digital platforms during lockdowns.

“We have a presence on eBay supported by a team of staff and volunteers that look for higher-value donated items to retail online including gaming consoles, jewelry and even Lego sets. This means that if we are given a rare Beatles album collection or an antique Lalique glass vase we want to be able to auction it off to the widest audience to ensure that donation can help as many Australians in need as possible.”

Revenue from their digital platforms such as eBay and their own web store is increasing and new business models developed by online retailers have become one of the charity’s largest sources of revenue.

“Digital retail and supplier channels have become increasingly important to us, particularly in the wake of the pandemic,” Hallet said.

“Our largest donor company, Ecosa, has developed an e-commerce model which allows consumers to try a mattress for up to 100 days before returning for any reason. Our partnership with Ecosa sees us picking up any returned mattresses and distributing them through our retail network.

“We collect over $2 million worth of Ecosa mattresses annually which may be anything from a week to just three months old and are now able to provide high-quality, clean mattresses to our customers. 

“It would be unusual for us to accept a second-hand mattress from a household donor for hygiene reasons, but the reassurance of the quality mattresses returned after a trial is sufficient to mean we can stock this product throughout our national network of stores.”