Goodwill Suncoast slashes prices for new prom dresses

Goodwill Suncoast has gathered 300 new prom dresses — originally priced at $150 to $1,000 — to sell for a song.

"We'll sell them for $35 to $200 in hopes the poor economy won't keep girls from going to their prom this spring," said Michael Ann Harvey, vice president of marketing for the St. Petersburg-based nonprofit that recycles secondhand goods.

These, however, are new dresses donated by local boutiques in a collection anchored by inventory acquired from a defunct Ocala prom-wear shop.

Goodwill will sell the collection in two evening events. The first is 6 p.m. March 5 at 4102 W Hillsborough Ave. in Tampa. The second is 6 p.m. March 6 at 3365 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg.

In a related sign of the times, SteinMart, the Jacksonville-based off-price apparel chain, is staging a Give and Receive benefit for the Salvation Army Thrift and Family Stores from March 5 to 7. Customers get a 20 percent discount for every clean, gently used garment brought in as a donation.

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Ritz Camera, a Beltsville, Md., chain that also owns Boater's World, on Monday joined the ranks of retailers in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The company owns nine stores in the Tampa Bay area that operate under the Ritz or Wolf Camera flag, plus six Boater's World stores.

Claiming assets and liabilities of less than $500 million, the company blamed the switch to digital photography, gas prices and an economy that, among other things, reduced boaters' time on the water.

Ritz said suppliers prodded the company to bolster its reserves, which cut credit lines available for inventory.

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Relentless layoffs rocketed job security to the top concern among consumers in January (46 percent, up from 15 percent in October), surging far ahead of rising prices, financial markets and home values.

But consumer sentiment surveys by comScore, a firm that tracks online consumer behavior, demonstrates that averages can mislead and layoffs vary by income.

Only 5 percent of those earning $100,000 or more and 11 percent of those who had been earning $50,000 to $100,000 said they had already lost their job. But 23 percent of those earning $50,000 or less said they had.

That does not square with the nation's unemployment rate of 7.6 percent, which reflects only people actively looking for work.

If it's any consolation, twice as many of those earning more than $100,000 (20 percent) are "extremely concerned" they are about to lose their job.

How do people relieve stress while hand-wringing over the state of the economy? Most (52 percent) browse the Internet, while 50 percent watch TV.

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Trying to reverse its shrinking shelf space in grocery stores, the American Egg Board is fighting back. It unleashed a white paper showing its products earn some of the highest profit margins in supermarkets (up to 40 percent for fresh eggs) while trying to erase a perception that fewer people eat eggs.

In fact, the nation has 278 million laying hens, almost equal to the human population. The average hen produces 259 eggs a year while the average American consumes 254. That's the most consumption per person since 1985. But it's below the 402 eggs swallowed in 1945.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

Goodwill Suncoast slashes prices for new prom dresses 02/23/09 [Last modified: Monday, February 23, 2009 11:43pm]

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