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ConsumerWatch: Shoppers Turn To Pawn Shops For Holiday Bargains

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Gold Jewelry. (CBS)

Gold Jewelry. (CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – With only a few shopping days until Christmas, some shoppers aren’t flocking to the malls, but to pawn shops. Nationwide, pawn shops are reporting higher sales.

Pawn shops may have the reputation of being a place where people go to sell off unwanted goods and get emergency loans, but they’re getting makeovers in an effort to convince shoppers that they can be where shoppers to find bargains.

Almost anything is for sale, including jewelry, power tools, musical instruments and electronics. Bargain hunters can find great deals, just as long as they don’t mind buying gifts that were likely pawned off by previous owners during these harsh economic times.

Don Belleville of Best Collateral said his business is up 25 percent over last year. Compared to other brick-and-mortar stores, that’s an impressive increase considering most stores only saw a 2 percent jump.

The growing trend comes as pawn shops are attempting to improve their image.

“We’ve invested heavily into the cabinetry and lighting to create an environment where people who aren’t here to get a loan can have a retail experience that is typical of a high end jewelry store,” Belleville said.

A fancier and more sophisticated atmosphere with the added bonus of negotiable prices make pawn shops an attractive alternative for shoppers who are looking to save a few bucks.

Most pieces in a pawn shop were given as “collateral” on loans which weren’t paid back. Other items may have been sold off to make some quick cash. Despite a product’s past, though, consumers don’t seem to mind.

“Customers will even brag about it, they’ll say ‘Look at the deal I got,’” Belleville explained.

At Belleville’s store, shoppers can find a Tiffany watch for just $1,000 or a refurbished Netbook for $200.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that return policies can vary widely from pawn shop to pawn shop and some don’t allow returns at all.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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