Pawn shop business spikes as patrons seek to make ends meet

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CHICAGO (NewsNation) — It’s Monday morning in the East Dallas section of Dallas. P&J Pawn Shop has just opened its doors, and already customers are streaming in.

Patrick Wade has worked here for 34 years and now owns the place.

“We have close to 100 chains here,” he told NewNation’s “Rush Hour” Wednesday. Lending a helping hand has forever been part of pawning, but in the last few months, Wade has watched the industry do a 180.

In the past, for example, pawning was a luxury for many of his customers. “They do it just out of fun to then go gamble, or go on a vacation or do something special for their loved one. And that’s when I love it the best,” he said.

But with inflation at a 40-year high, most are now here out of necessity to make ends meet.

Patrece Ward has been loyal to P&J for 20 years and was bringing in a TV she was hoping to make some fast cash on when she spoke to “Rush Hour.”

“Maybe about $160-$170,” she said of how much she expected back. “I’m hoping to just cover the gas that I need for my vehicle, maybe food, or whatever I  need to get through until my payday!”

Times are hard for Ward and her four kids. While pawning used to be a way for her to upgrade personal items, it now feeds her family. “Getting rid of a television as opposed to not eating,” she said.

And she’s not alone.

Jeremy Bonsu told “Rush Hour” he just sold his gaming system for $50. “It’s probably gonna go straight to my tank, let’s be honest,” he said with a laugh. “Times are not easy, not as easy as has been. But yeah, extra cash will definitely help … and I got a lot of other stuff. First thing that came to my mind was, Well, I have an Xbox,” he said.

And for “AJ” Johnson, it was a watch he struggled to part with. “The amount of money I had to work with was so sufficient probably two years ago, but since then things have gone topsy-turvy,” Johnson said.

According to the National Pawnbrokers Association, 30 million Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and 20% don’t have a bank account at all.

“Well, if you don’t have cash and you don’t have a credit card, guess what? I’m the next best offer,” Wade said.

In the world of pawning, you have three options: Go in as a customer looking to shop; sell an item for cash; or pawn it, meaning you exchange your item for a loan, the store holds onto it, and you hope to buy it back in time.

“Sales are down this year over last year. Matter of fact, in June I predict we’ll be down about 30% from where we were last year. But loans are much higher,” Wade said.

Not only are they higher, they’re almost double, and the merchandise Wade is seeing come through his doors is much grander than what he’s seen in the past — from diamond heirlooms to designer purses.

“We did not used to have them. Five years ago, we did not take purses like this,” Wade said of one designer handbag.

For Wade, the pawn shop keeps his lights on too, but he’s looking forward to the day when business starts to turn.

“We’ll see the good times again when people are just buying for fun!” he said.

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