Goodwill opens new concept store in Dinkytown

  • Article by: JOHN EWOLDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 22, 2014 - 10:58 PM

Gina + Will seeks out young shoppers with social marketing.

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Gina + Will customer service supervisor Amy Svensk prepared clothing in preparation for Saturday’s grand opening of Gina + Will in Dinkytown.

Photo: ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com,

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Gap has Old Navy. Coke has Diet Coke. Now, Goodwill has Gina + Will.

No longer content to serve all ages under one roof, Goodwill-Easter Seals of Minnesota developed a store for teens and young adults.

Called Gina + Will, the first location opens Saturday in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota. It’s the nonprofit’s attempt to capture the leading edge of the millennial generation, the group as big as the baby boomers and whose tastes have transformed the nation’s malls in the past few years.

To get their attention, Goodwill is embracing the latest merchandising ideas and marketing tactics. It’s also spending about 30 percent more per square foot on the store than at the typical Goodwill location.

“We’re looking at a new mindset and a different demographic,” said Jason Seifert, chief financial officer at Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota.

“We want them to come and see us for the first time, not just as a store with inexpensive clothing but as a cool, clean place to shop.”

Minneapolis architectural firm HGA outfitted Gina + Will’s walls in grape, lime green and turquoise, added teardrop pendant lights, and included a selfie wall for taking pictures outside the dressing room.

“It’s a long way from the old Goodwills with gray carpet, white walls and a blue stripe near the ceiling,” said Lynne Dahl, Goodwill’s director of store design.

For Goodwill, the step represents an embrace of a strategy known as brand segmentation that other retailers and makers of consumer goods have been using for decades. But there’s also risk because tastes and trends change quickly among teens and young adults.

Goodwill is using social media rather than print and broadcast media to promote the new store. And it enlisted a team of 10 “student ambassadors” from Social Lights, a Minneapolis-based social media agency.

Gina Van Thomme, a university senior from Faribault, Minn., is part of the team and has been promoting the store on social media for several days.

“I’m getting my network involved, asking them to ‘like’ the store,” Van Thomme said. At a preview event earlier this week, she found the clothes fashionable and affordable.

“I used to shop at the by-the-pound store, but here I won’t have to dig. That will be super nice,” she said.

Shop and share

To spread the word, the store comes equipped with Enplug, a big-screen TV that displays posts from customers and the store.

“When people use one of our hashtags on Twitter or Instagram, either #GWFinds or #GinaPlusWill, Enplug runs it through filters and they appear on the screen for a few seconds,” Goodwill spokeswoman Mary Beth Casement said.

Goodwill also plans to track when customers post items using their Twitter or Instagram handle, @GinaPlusWill. On the low-tech side, a shop-n-share chalkboard will have questions such as “What’s your favorite brand?” posted to stimulate and engage shoppers.

“It’s designed this way because our customers want to feel like they own the process,” Dahl said. Goodwill used focus groups to solicit millennials’ opinions throughout the process.

  • related content

  • Information on Gina + Will

    Friday August 22, 2014

    Gina + WillName: A riff on Goodwill, but “Gina” and “Will” are not based on real people. The names suggest...

  • Goodwill is expanding its specialty stores to include Gina + Will in Dinkytown, a store just for college students and young adults. ] (ELIZABETH FLORES/STAR TRIBUNE) ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com

  • Gina + Will wants to become the store for college students and young adults on and near the University of Minnesota campus.

  • Gina + Will General Manager Danielle Stager helped to get the store ready for its Saturday opening.

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