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Pawn shops see the ebb and flow of an uncertain economy attempting to rebound

Posted at 4:17 PM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 19:33:31-05

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Most people know pawn shops as a place to buy and sell items of value, but they do serve another purpose for a growing number of customers?

“Not everyone really understands that the core business of a pawn shop is lending,” Cyndee Harrison, the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the National Pawn Brokers Association, said.

Early on in the pandemic, lending went way down, and fewer items were on the shelves.

“So in the beginning, it was really surprising, and people, maybe for the first time, were shopping at pawn shops to put their hands on things that they needed,” Harrison said.

Several new customers are now stuck at home and looking for used tools, guns, and sporting goods at places like Daily Pawn in Fort Collins.

“So, we were selling all sorts of electronics and game systems -- anything you could do in the house,” Daily Pawn co-owner Nathan Dechairo said.

But with the ebb and flow of the COVID-19 pandemic came a dramatic shift in the needs of those pawn shop customers.

“That was great for a while, but then we saw a lot of people really needing money. It kind of flipped the other way, where a lot of people were coming in needing to borrow money or pay or sell us their items to pay bills,” Dechairo said.

Either way, business is busy with a whole new kind of customer seeing the need for these shops.

“We’ve seen a big uptick in people coming in. It’s also the holiday season, which is normal where we see some extra people coming in that normally wouldn’t. But I think there’s even more coming in,” Dechairo said.

In good times and in bad, this is an industry with its pulse on the community.

“Pawn shops are great economic barometers,” Harrison said.

But while it can help you get a TV gun or money, there’s no crystal ball on these shelves.

“It’s so hard to predict the future in the pawnshop. We see a change daily. Sometimes we’ve seen some really big sale days, followed by big cash needs stage or loans,” Dechairo said.

The holidays are an important time of year for pawn shops too. This year, however, the bump in business has been a bit different.

“We’ve really had to adapt quickly,” Dechairo said.