St Martin’s Church

Retail thinking benefits church thrift shop

The COVID-19 crisis has prompted the creation of all kinds of innovative online worship, but some church ministries have had to go on hiatus. When our buildings re-open, the shuttered ministries will re-open as well. What about using the down time to take a fresh look at what our ministries could look like in a post-coronavirus world? Here’s one example — a thrift shop revamp that St. Martin’s, Providence, undertook a couple of years ago that’s been a big success.

When’s the last time your thrift shop had a revamp? The Thrifty Goose at St. Martin’s had a fresh start two years ago, and the results have been impressive.

The shop, which has a 50-year history, has a new purpose, a new look — and new reactions. Income from sales has increased significantly, and the shop is attracting new customers.

“The Thrifty Goose and its companion ministry, The Cloak, are important in two ways,” said the Rev. Mark Sutherland, rector. “The Thrifty Goose enables us to participate in the re-purposing of high-quality clothing, and The Cloak gives us a way to channel items not salable in the shop for outreach and support to the homeless.”

The changes began with the appointment of Brigit Timpson as manager. Timpson had extensive retail experience in New Zealand, including ownership of a consignment shop. She and the volunteer team she leads began bringing retail thinking to the Thrifty Goose.

“With the appointment of a manager who brings retail and thrift shop experience, our volunteers are becoming more skilled in assessing real value and pricing appropriately,” Sutherland said.

Timpson explained that after beginning her new role, she and the volunteer team looked through the existing merchandise and “discovered we had many high-quality items in our inventory.

“We started increasing prices for those items, and we started to ‘show off’ the appealing items with different merchandising techniques,” she said. The merchandising is immediately visible in the shop, with items hung on the walls, multi-tiered table displays and lots of manikins modeling clothes.

“We try to create a pleasant, attractive atmosphere that looks and smells inviting, and do this through sound, scent and attention to detail,” Timpson explained.

The team also discovered a new product category that’s creating strong sales: men’s clothing. They expanded the product selection significantly and displayed the clothes like in a high-end men’s store.

“We’re selling lots of men’s clothes,” Timpson said. “We also sell lots of vintage clothes — young adults and students especially like them.”

Selling through other channels also has been highly successful. The team uses eBay extensively; one set of china sold for $1,200 — in one day.

Timpson said the team has worked hard to build relationships with its customers: “We remember what they bought last time and ask them about it, and we find things we think they would like and would go with recent purchases — just like a boutique would do.”

The shop has outfitted people going to weddings with everything from shoes, to dresses, jewelry, coats and bags.

“People really trust our judgment and come to us first now, rather than to any other shop,” she said. “But what I think is really the key to our success,” she concluded, “is that we ‘start dressing rooms’ for people, we take their things on the counter for them and we act like we are Nordstrom’s!”

And through all the retail-related changes, St. Martin’s has continued to donate as much or more to people in need through The Cloak. Regular donations go to five shelters around the Providence area. The rejuvenated shop and continued commitment to outreach are providing a successful combination for the ministry of St. Martin’s.

“Perhaps of greatest significance in the operation is the wonderful evangelical opportunity provided by the Thrifty Goose ministry,” Sutherland noted. “It offers an invitation to members of the community to visit our campus and to experience our friendliness and the openness of our engagement with the wider community around us.”

Church Profiles

We have collected stories about many  of our congregations and their ministries, from stories in our eNews. Take a closer look using the links below.

Holy Trinity Church,  Tiverton
St Mary’s Church, Portsmouth
St Augustine’s Church, URI campus, North Kingston
S Stephen’s Church, Providence
Holy Cross Church, Middletown
St Elizabeth’s Church, Hope Valley
St Matthew’s Church, Jamestown
Church of the Holy Spirit, Charlestown
St James’ Church, Woonsocket
St Michael’s Church, Bristol
St Luke’s Church, East Greenwich
Emmanuel Church, Cumberland
Christ Church, Lonsdale
St James’ Church, North Providence
St Paul’s Church, Pawtucket
Church of the Epiphany, Rumford
All Saints Church, Pontiac (Warwick)
St Thomas’ Church, Greenville
St Paul’s Church, Portsmouth
Church of the Transfiguration, Cranston


Our parishes – online

Are you looking for a service to attend this Christmas?

St Matthew’s Church, Jamestown 24-Dec 4pm Zoom ID 401 423 1762 Passcode 196944 Family service with Pageant
St Matthew’s Church, Jamestown 24-Dec 5pm Zoom ID 401 423 1762 Passcode 196944 Carols and Lessons

During this moment of social distancing, we are seeking new ways of being together for prayer and fellowship. Below is a list of online worship services. It will be updated as often as possible.

Bristol St Michael’s Morning Prayer Tuesday March 17, 9am Morning Prayer
Cranston Trinity Church Holy Eucharist Sunday, 9 am
Jamestown St Matthew’s Daily Offices recorded
Narragansett St Peter’s by the Sea Holy Eucharist Sunday, 8 am and 10:51 am
Pawtucket St Paul’s Daily Offices Morning and Evening
Providence S Stephen’s Evening Prayer Monday, Wednesday 5:30 pm
Providence S Stephen’s Low Mass Monday, Wednesday 6:00 pm    archived video at
Providence S Stephen’s Noonday Prayer Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, 12:00
Providence S Stephen’s Low Mass Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, 12:30 pm
Providence S Stephen’s Morning Prayer Saturday, 9:30 am
Providence S Stephen’s Low Mass Saturday, 10 am
Providence S Stephen’s Solemn Mass Sunday, 10 am