Local News

Tough economic times boost pawnshop business

Posted February 23, 2009 11:12 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT

— The nation's deepening recession has boosted business at Triangle pawnshops. People are selling their possessions for cash to pay bills.

"As long as you have an ID, you can get quick cash here,” said Jim Slaughter, with Zebulon Jewelry & Pawn.

Some Wake County pawnshops report a 25 percent or more increase in business. With such a heavy influx of merchandise, shop owners say they must be careful not to buy themselves out of business.

"Now, at best, you are going to have to roll your numbers back,” said Dave Beck, with Plaza West Jewelry & Loan.

The most popular item at pawnshops is gold. Slaughter says the market for the precious metal seems solid.

Another familiar offering is tools from out-of-work construction workers. There are so many, some pawnshops turn some of the items away.

"How many circular saws can you use?” Beck asked. The tools started coming in heavily about four to six months ago, Beck said.

In addition to buying people's goods, pawnshop owners hear a lot of sad stories at the counter.

"This world out there right now, it is tough," Beck said. "Sometimes it is a matter of someone trying to keep the lights on."

Some of the pawned watches and jewelry have been in families for years.

"It does make you aware that there are people who are struggling,” Slaughter said.

With pawnshops, customers can also borrow against their goods and pay off their loans and fees to get the goods back.

Pawnshop owners say they try to turn away very few items. Slaughter said a man recently brought in an air compressor. The shop already had four for sale, but he bought the compressor anyway to help the man out.