More than 1,000 pawn shops across the U.S. are participating in the country’s first "Pawn Friday" today, which positions the nation’s treasure-filled outposts as ideal sources for holiday gifts. Items from Rolex watches to Xboxes are on sale for the event, according to pawn retail platform Pawn Guru, which is hosting the event.
Ann Arbor, MI-based Pawn Guru markets itself as the only app where people can buy and sell through their local pawn shop, according to a press release emailed to Retail Dive. Customers can log on to the website and enter their zip code to find out local Pawn Friday deals, which in some areas includes 20% off all electronics, jewelry and luxury watches.
Pawn shops generate $6 billion annually and are an important source of fast cash for some 30 million under-banked Americans, according to Pawn Guru, founded in 2014.
For many people, pawn shops provide the mise-en-scène in popular entertainment, but for millions of Americans without access to credit lines they are a real-life way to tide themselves over when money’s tight. Pawn shops provide short-term loans in exchange for valuable items as collateral, as well as buying items outright.
That fills their shelves with valuables of all sorts — including musical instruments and amplifiers, camera equipment, computers and jewelry — and draws consumers of all kinds to their diverse inventory. And that makes them retailers of possibly unique, probably unusual and potentially quite valuable gifts at the holidays.
Interest in pawn shops has been piqued by the cable television show "Pawn Stars" about a large Las Vegas-based pawning enterprise. But the space has also been discovered by great numbers of bargain- and treasure-seeking millennials frequenting their local pawn brokers, making it natural, and overdue, for the stores to cater to customers online, according to PawnGuru co-founder Jordan Birnholtz.
Pawn shops offer benefits to both buyers and sellers, he said. Their proprietors only buy merchandise in working order and buyers can check out the merchandise for themselves, so shoppers can feel more confident about the value of their purchase than when they buy online. And they can walk out with their find, without waiting or paying for shipping. The site works to facilitate deals between buyers and sellers, determine the value of an item and provide contact information and up-to-date product information about items for sale at nearby shops.
But Birnholtz insists that these shops have value beyond win/win retail.
"Pawn Friday will be an awesome shopping event for consumers looking for great deals, but it’s purpose is much larger than that," he said in a statement emailed to Retail Dive. "Our goal is also to raise awareness about the role pawn shops play in the lives of the 30 million Americans who regularly rely on them."
The event also speaks to the enduring popularity of special shopping days like Black Friday, which is expected to draw a record number of online shoppers and be composed of nearly 50% millennials and Gen Zers. While some skeptics remain, saying that Black Friday is losing popularity to Cyber Monday, others claim that Black Friday shoppers will be spending more than ever. Either way, this move could signal the entrance of more non-traditional retailers looking for a slice of the sales.