GUEST COMMENTARY: Alaska’s second-hand economy funds itself and heals society

The new millennium has introduced many new ways of spending, saving, and earning money. We have the sharing economy, the gig-economy, the on-demand economy. The Salvation Army specializes in what is often referred to as the second-hand economy, an increasingly important part of the larger, mainstream economy.

The second hand economy is just what it sounds like: the buying and selling — or donating — of durable goods and services. Craigslist, yard sales, thrift stores.

Our Thrift Stores are one of the most visible functions of The Salvation Army. You can see the familiar red shield over storefronts all over the world and in 14 communities around Alaska.

The second-hand economy is worth billions of dollars. A recent study in Canada found that it is currently responsible for contributing nearly $34 billion dollars to our neighbor nation’s GDP. This is about 15 percent of the value of new goods purchased. There are many benefits of the second-hand economy.

For one thing it keeps local money in local pockets. Every dollar that a consumer uses to purchase an item from someone nearby on Craigslist or, say, from their local Salvation Army thrift store, is a dollar that doesn’t go to an Outside vendor.

Similarly, every item that is purchased at a garage sale, or your local Salvation Army thrift shop, is an item that doesn’t need to be barged in. This again saves money and time for the consumer but has the added benefit of reducing the potential for environmentally harmful waste. Likewise, that which doesn’t have to be shipped in doesn’t need diesel oil to be burned on its way to purchase here.

The potential for job creation is enormous. In Canada, some 300,000 jobs can be traced to the second-hand economy. Here in Alaska, hundreds of people work in thrift stores around the state including those operated by The Salvation Army.

There is an extra economic value added when people shop for or donate goods at a Salvation Army thrift shop. In Anchorage, Salvation Army thrift store proceeds fund homeless and rehabilitation services. Alaska spent over $217 million in 2010 on drug- and alcohol-related criminal justice services. Every purchase and donation to a Salvation Army thrift store goes towards keeping someone away from a dangerous substance and defrays the direct cost to society of their rehabilitation.

Outside of Anchorage and Wasilla, Salvation Army thrift store proceeds support the local Corps Community Centers in towns throughout Alaska. Services like food pantries, after-school programs, meal deliveries, senior services, and emergency disaster response are all made possible in communities throughout urban and rural Alaska through thrift store sales.

So that ironic t-shirt you bought at your local Salvation Army thrift store helped provide someone in your town with a job, protect the environment, boost your local economy, lower state spending, and save someone’s life.


And thank you.

Thomas Brown is the Communications Manager for The Salvation Army Alaska Division. The Salvation Army has been in Alaska since 1898. More information about The Salvation Army in Alaska can be found at their website:

03/03/2016 - 9:37am