Islander is Value Village”s new CEO

By Clayton Park

  • Monday, November 24, 2008 8:04pm
  • Business

By Clayton Park

Savers Inc., the parent company for the Value Village thrift store chain, announced the promotion of Ken Alterman to chief executive officer late last month.

Alterman is a 48-year-old Mercer Island resident who joined the company as vice president and general manager in 2002 and was promoted a year ago to president.

He takes over the CEO reins from Tom Ellison, who has decided to focus on his role as chairman of the board. Ellison, a 48-year-old Bellevue resident, is the son of company founder Tom Ellison, who opened his first thrift store in Redwood City, Calif., in 1954 under the name Salvage Management Corporation.

The privately held company moved its headquarters to this area in the mid-1970s and was known for many years as TVI Inc.

Today, Savers Inc. has grown to nearly 200 stores throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. Its thrift stores also operate under the Savers and Village des Valeurs names.

The company also operates a Shop N Save thrift store in Everett, following its acquisition of the Seattle-based regional Shop N Save chain last year.

Savers Inc. employs more than 8,000 workers, including 130 at its headquarters, at 11400 S.E. 6th St. in Bellevue.

The company operates 16 stores in Western Washington, including Value Village stores in Redmond, Renton, Kent and Burien. Each store employs approximately 50 workers.

Alterman said Savers Inc. plans to add at least 10 new stores and about 500 workers this year. The new stores will be located in the United States and Canada.

While none of the new stores slated for 2005 openings will be in the Puget Sound area, Alterman said his company is actively seeking a site for a new Value Village store on the Eastside, preferably in either Bellevue or Kirkland, which would open within the next two years.

“We’ve looked at a number of opportunities, but it hasn’t been a good fit yet,” said Alterman, who said his company prefers to operate stores that are at least 20,000 to 25,000 square feet in size.

Savers Inc. expects to add 50 to 70 new stores over the next five years — growth that follows several years of operating in a “holding pattern,” during which the company focused on maintaining profitability, improving existing operations and implementing a new management trainee program, Alterman said.

The company also refinanced last year, which, combined with two consecutive years of record profitability, have left Savers Inc. in “great shape” in terms of capital, Alterman said.

The company generated more than $430 million in revenues last year, surpassing the nearly $400 million its cash registers rang up in 2003, which was “the best year in the company’s history by a long shot,” Alterman said.

With the opening of the new stores this year, “We’ll be approaching a half-billion (dollars in revenues) in 2005,” Alterman said. “We’re looking at strong double-digit growth in revenues and profits” this year.

The company’s growing revenues are also translating into increased payouts to its nonprofit partners, which in the Puget Sound region include The Northwest Center, which helps the mentally disabled, Community Services for the Blind and Big Brothers of King County.

The nonprofit groups collect the secondhand goods, including clothing and household items donated by the public that Savers Inc. purchases for resale in its thrift stores.

The company also has stepped up its marketing efforts in the past couple of years, including television and radio ads to promote its stores as a source for affordable back-to-school clothes and Halloween costumes.

“Our stores are very popular with high school and college kids and also for families on a budget,” Alterman said.

Clayton Park can be reached at clayton.park@kingcountyjournal.com or at 425-453-4224.

Reprinted from the King County Journal

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