Rogue Valley bargain hunters will have at least one less place to shop by the end of April, and maybe two.

Rogue Valley bargain hunters will have at least one less place to shop by the end of April, and maybe two.

The Salvation Army will close its White City thrift store at 2400 Antelope Road on April 30, and the future of the Phoenix store, at 4149 S. Pacific Highway, is uncertain.

The Medford store, at 922 N. Central Ave., will remain open and its operating hours will expand, Jackie Agee, the Salvation Army's local development director, said Thursday.

Agee said Salvation Army officials hope to negotiate an agreement for substantially lower rent that would allow the Phoenix store to remain open.

"We're still trying to salvage it," she said.

Agee said the stores have been losing money for several years, and most recently the three stores together have lost about $25,000 every three months.

"That's money that's being taken away from our (community service) programs," she said, noting the stores originally were opened with the goal of earning money to provide additional funding for Salvation Army programs.

She said thrift stores don't necessarily prosper in hard times, contrary to what people might think. Part of the problem is that donations are down substantially, especially for big-ticket items such as furniture and appliances that are moneymakers.

"During hard times, people hang on to those things instead of getting new," she said.

She said the thrift-store sector of retail sales has changed dramatically since the Medford store opened years ago. The number of secondhand stores has grown, and many nonprofit organizations now run their own little stores to raise money for their mission.

That means each store has to try harder to attract customers. Donors also have more places to unload their castoffs, and some take their treasures to organizations they support.

Agee said the Salvation Army may have overreached in trying to operate three stores in the relatively small Jackson County market. There's just one Salvation Army store for the entire Salem area, and six for all of metropolitan Portland.

"Here, we have three stores," she said.

Judith Stevens of Phoenix, a regular shopper at the Phoenix store, said she hoped it would remain open.

"I go there at least once a week," she said. "When we have donations, everything we have goes there."

Stevens said the Salvation Army store helps bring more shopping traffic to Phoenix. "It's a terrific store and the people there are wonderful."

One of the Salvation Army's chief competitors seems to be faring better during the deepest recession in more than 70 years. Southern Oregon Goodwill Industries recently opened a new women's fashion store, called Sequel, at 515 N. Fir St. in Medford, in addition to the stores it already operates in Ashland, Central Point, Medford, Phoenix, Rogue River and White City.

Diane Raymond, Goodwill's marketing director, agreed with Agee that donations are down.

"If people can get away with wearing a suit for another year, they're doing it," Raymond said.

She noted that some people who might have donated clothes and furniture to thrift stores in the past now are selling their stuff at yard sales to try to earn a few extra dollars.

Despite the drop in donations, Raymond said Goodwill stores are doing well, and seem to be attracting customers who might not have visited thrift stores in the past, along with others who want to be associated with good causes in their community.

"We make sure when people donate, that we make them aware of how their donation helps (the community)," she said.

Goodwill operates 13 stores in a seven-county region that includes Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Douglas and Lake in Oregon, as well as Siskiyou and Del Norte counties in California.

"We've had to be very astute in looking at our stores," she said, noting that Goodwill recently closed its Myrtle Creek store.

Agee said the Salvation Army's White City closure will leave three people out of work, and three more jobs would be lost if the Phoenix store closes.

The food pantry that was operating in the White City store will continue to operate, but a new site has not been arranged.

She said the decision to close the White City store was difficult, because the store is a community service in itself.

"We've been struggling with this for over a year," she said.

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 541-776-4492, or e-mail bkettler@mailtribune.com.