Pawn shop loans fall, purchases climb, amid the pandemic

Posted: Jun. 30, 2020 10:01 am

HANNIBAL | Area pawn shops like Rags to Riches in Hannibal and West Quincy Pawn Shop in Taylor witnessed several changes to their businesses while they remained open throughout the coronavirus pandemic, including a substantial drop in loans and customers purchasing greater amounts of specific items.

Lionel Hammond, owner of West Quincy Pawn Shop, said the store’s staff members “haven’t missed a minute.” He cited brisk sales spurred on by the stimulus check and unemployment benefits for some customers. Hammond and Lori Maddox, owner of Rags to RichesPawn Shop in Hannibal, noticed loans had dropped considerably — Maddox said the store was making about 25% of the normal level for loans. During the pandemic, the store’s hours were shortened from noon to five due to a drop in business and to keep employees and customers safe.

“In that period of time, our business had slowed down tremendously,” Maddox said. “I know I was scared — people were scared.”

Maddox said the shop’s main source of income is through small loans — when a person pawns an item, they receive a loan, and the item is returned when they pay off the loan along with interest.

“That’s the meat of our business, so that part of it really took a turn,” Maddox said, noting she had talked with several other pawn shop owners who were experiencing similar situations.

Business is beginning to reach the average level for this time of the year, Maddox said, and more customers are purchasing items like jewelry and tools to resell than they are bringing items to sell or pawn.

Maddox and Hammond agreed that stimulus checks and unemployment benefits were likely key factors for the changes in business. Maddox said gun sales surged 300%, and his shelves are bare because factories overseas are temporarily shuttered due to the coronavirus. 

“When everybody has money, business is strong,” Hammond said.

Staff members at each store are taking extra precautions to fight the spread of COVID-19, and Maddox said some employees are wearing face masks and performing additional sanitation to surfaces.

Maddox and Hammond said they hadn’t seen anything quite like this during their 27- and 29-year careers in the industry, respectively. Maddox echoed Hammond’s sentiment that area pawn shops are ready to serve their customers in these changing times — and she encouraged customers in need of money to stop by.

“I’d hate to think that people are doing without the extra cash they need,” Maddox said. “We just want to always be there for our customers.”





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