People turn to pawn shops for gold, household items
By Michelle Dallal
During a time of rising unemployment and uncertainty, pawn shops in West Seattle and White Center are surprisingly reporting fewer people selling items for quick cash and more people buying items and paying off their loans.
People have been coming into Dave's Jewelry and Loan asking for tools and lawnmowers, said Michael Reibman, owner of Dave's Jewelry and Loan in White Center. Reibman also says he saw an uptick in business after stimulus payments were distributed.
"I've had a tremendous amount of gun business. I guess sales are up," said Reibman. "I've had a lot of people buying tools to fix their homes."
He said business is up 50% since Gov. Jay Inslee announced Washington’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order in early March. Despite all the shoppers, Reibman still has plenty of inventory and loans to give out, he said.
“We get a few people that want to borrow a little money to make it to the next check,” said Reibman. “We are anxious to loan money here at Dave’s Jewelry.”
Bellevue Rare Coins, located in West Seattle, is seeing an increase in purchasing as well. After being closed during the stay-at-home order, the store reopened April 11 with approval from the state.They received an essential business exemption from the state as a financial institution. They accept valuables such as watches, jewelry, diamonds, coins, gold and silver.
However, they have yet to see many customers pawn their valuables in exchange for cash.
"That has shrunk significantly," said Eric Hoolahan, CEO of Bellevue Rare Coins. "Right now, what we are seeing is a huge incline in people buying gold and silver or investing in gold and silver."
"We do know that gold is a protection or an insurance against inflation. We will see the price of gold rise as we see inflation spike."
Bank of America Corp. raised its 18-month gold-price target more than 50% above the existing price record in late April.
Hoolahan said many of his clients believe gold will outpace the stock market.
"I do have a lot of clients that believe that. It's very interesting to see a shift in our customer base from people that were selling various items to us to now where it's primarily people looking to buy or invest in gold and silver," said Hoolahan.
The West Seattle location has been doing well in sales; just as the other four Bellevue Rare Coins locations, they're making more sales than purchases, said Hoolahan.
Bellevue Rare Coins has started offering for customers to call ahead to make purchases for in-store pick up. All five of their locations are open with safety precautions in place -- including customer capacity limits and cleaning and disinfecting measures.
In the upcoming months, Hoolahan expects people to pawn items again.
“People will start to come out and start to need to sell things more often here in the near future,” Hoolahan said.
Ian McGlamery, manager of Capitol Loans, a pawn shop located on E Pine Street, speculated the same thing.
"People are not pawning a bunch of stuff right now, not yet, that'll come later on in August or September when they run out of their money."
Capitol Loans has halted retail. Despite still offering loans, most of their customers are coming by to pick up their belongings, McGlamery said. Those customers have paid off their previous 90-day loans with their stimulus checks and tax returns.
Even though the pawn shops in West Seattle and White Center are seeing increases in customer purchases, pawn shops in other areas of Seattle are seeing hardly any business at all.
Barney's Jewelry and Loan, located in Pioneer Square, said they are struggling for business.
"It's been quiet on both fronts, retail and loan side since the shutdown," said Kevin Halela, operator of Barney's Jewelry and Loan. "There's just nobody around. It's been a ghost town. … I have lots of inventory, just nobody coming in."
Barney's Jewelry and Loan is still open because it lends money, but for Halela, there are no customers to lend money to except the regulars who have still been trickling in.
Halela said that he keeps the shop open in the hopes that it could be worth it to come in that day.
“I figured coming in could make a day, could not make a day, I don't know.”
Pawn shops have experienced a surge in purchases during this COVID 19 pandemic. It's really not a surprise. People need things to do to help expel their energy while the government continues their stay at home orders. Pawn shops sell things that can be used as an outlet. www.GemcoCoins.com