Pawnshops 'Inundated', But Facing Hard Times

<p>With gas and food prices climbing to unprecedented levels, many families are turning to pawnshops to cover their bills. Unfortunately, pickups are down and people aren't buying, putting smaller operations at risk of closure.</p>
June 23, 2008, 8am PDT | Michael Dudley
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"As the price of gas and groceries continues to rise, more families are turning to pawnbrokers to bridge the difference between income and expenses. While plenty of people are pawning items, hardly anybody is buying.

Bob Moulton, owner of National Jewelry & Pawn in Durham, said sales are off so much that some shops are at risk of closing. Many customers are pawning items just to make their mortgage payments, pay other bills or buy groceries.

[T]he current economic woes mean some customers aren't able to ["pickup", or buy their own items back, with interest, within 30 days]. Moulton said pickups are down 8 percent from last year.

That, in turn, has affected the bottom line at some pawnshops.

Plus, pawnbrokers say most customers have spent their tax refunds and stimulus checks already, so that won't help their shops find extra business.

Beck said things have gotten so bad that he's begun turning away merchandise, especially tools.

Pawnbrokers also are seeing a lot of customers pawning gold -- jewelry, coins and even teeth and bridgework -- to take advantage of high gold prices, which have risen to nearly $900 per ounce. (That's up from $325 per ounce five years ago.)"

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Published on Saturday, June 14, 2008 in The News & Observer
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