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Metro Detroiters turn to pawn shops for hard-to-find items amid pandemic

Posted at 6:37 AM, Dec 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-10 08:48:43-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — 2020 has been the year of the coronavirus and also been a year of scarcity. Think about how toilet paper and paper towels were snapped up.

Stores couldn't keep up with the demand for computers and home office equipment, which has some people turning to pawn shops for hard-to-find items.

In fact, your local pawnbroker will tell you whether it's good times or bad.

If you want a unique look at the economy. Check out your local pawn shop.

"We've seen major changes in retail sales. Shortages and selling out of multiple items," said Mark Aubrey, owner of Motor City Pawn Brokers. "It really is a good economic barometer."

Owner Mark Aubrey says he's seen a lot in 2020.

"It's been a pretty wild year, as you could guess," he said. "At the beginning of the pandemic, when families were adjusting to pandemic life, sales soared. Everything from laptops for homeschooling to handguns to drums."

Musical instruments were a big hit. Obviously, electronics, televisions and game systems. People were stuck at home.

Aubrey says with stimulus money and extra federal unemployment cash, luxury handbags and jewelry were hot items too. But people were also coming in to pay off loans used to bridge the gap when their jobs went away.

"The first thing they did was they came into our shop to redeem their loans."

It's a similar story at Garden City Pawn.

"During the summer and fall, we ran out of video game systems, computers, laptops, bicycles and tools," said Garden City Pawn owner Thomas Blaine.

So much so that he says they had to go and find new products to sell!

"We really have never had to go outside to look for inventory. So we definitely pivoted this year."

If you're wondering about the quality of the items or think it's junk, Blane says you're wrong.

"We really try to make sure the items that we have are very very good condition," said Blaine.

Now sales are down to normal levels and more people are coming in to pawn merchandise. It's a sign that people are hurting without a new round of stimulus checks.

"We know when the economy's doing bad," said Aubrey. "Obviously, when people need more money, and we have lines for lending."

And they know when the economy is doing well. Both Blaine and Aubrey say check out your local pawnshop if you're in the market for hard-to-find items or jewelry and handbags or other gifts.

They want to point out they are local businesses and when you want to shop local, put them in the mix.