Breaking the Glass Ceiling


Pawnbroking in the U.S. has evolved from its original European roots; where minority Jewish and Italian moneylenders offered loans to individuals and small businesses who needed funds but didn’t have access to local banks.
Today, with the success of reality shows like “Pawn Stars” on the History Channel, Pawnbroking is no longer viewed in a negative light. As a result, more pawn shops are Photo Courtesy of Flickr, livinginmonroviaopening across the continental U.S. and have also now become a popular internet business. Pawn shops no longer only grant loans for pawned items but now they also provide a number of other services such as check cashing and auto equity loans; big business has entered the pawn industry fray.
One example of a successful pawn corporation is Cash America which began in Texas in 1983 as a single pawnshop and now has over 900 locations in the U.S. and Mexico as a result of franchising. In fact, many of the larger corporate pawn brokers became successful due to franchising. EZCorp, also a franchise, started with 16 stores in 1989, and now employs an astonishing 6,000 individuals worldwide.
However, even with pawn’s new found success, it is still a white male dominated industry, with few women or minorities in upper level management positions, which undoubtedly is a throwback to practices from the Middle Ages, which at the time was controlled by the Catholic Church. Though the face of the pawn industry is beginning to change. According to the National Pawnbroker’s Association, more women have entered the industry in the last ten years and are changing the way pawn brokers are perceived in the market place. Per recent studies more women are now becoming pawnbrokers and female pawnbrokers are better able to build a rapport with their customers who are members of the opposite sex.


In a recent in depth survey, the consumers of the pawn industry were measured and it was found that pawn customers consist mostly of women (59%), with a high 22% being of a non-white ethnic group. It also found that of the four types of credit covered in the research (home credit, pawnbroking, payday lending, and online payday lending), the charges for pawnbroking were the most standardized, and were generally expressed as a percentage of the loan per month, which was more clear and consistent for the consumer.
Women pawnbrokers bring a unique perspective to the business. They are typically better listeners, spend more time with clients, and have been found to better meet their client’s needs. Although still in the minority, more women are filling leadership positions at both the National and State levels and are now influencing the industry as board and team members with organizations such as the National Pawnbroker’s Association. The amount of women pawnbrokers has grown in the last decade, as well as their contribution as promoters for the industry on a regional, state, and national level.
As needs grow for consumers to have quick access to cash and loans without having to go through the hassle of bank applications and possible credit ramifications, there are more opportunities for women and minorities in the pawn broker world. According to Reuters, the so-called “rich” or more affluent American, is now using high-end pawn brokers to pawn paintings, sculptures, artwork, jewelry, and other assets for “personal asset lending”.
Small mom-and-pop businesses who need ready cash can now privately pawn items online to obtain loans with interest rates as low as 3%. Pawn brokers have clearly become more acceptable by the public at large who now appear to overlook the old “money lender” stigma. Especially now armed with the knowledge that brokers are both federally and state regulated which offers them greater protection from getting ripped off. The pawn industry is one of the most controlled in the country. Most regulation has been initiated, sponsored and supported by pawnbrokers. Regulatory agencies include the Office of Consumer Credit and Law Enforcement on a local and national level.
Pawnbrokers have state, regional and national industry associations which work at self-policing the industry. In the case of public companies, the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission oversee their operations.
According to a recent government report on the access to credit, more and more consumers are choosing pawnbrokers as their primary access to credit. The reason for this shift is believed to be because of the convenience and the ability to access credit quickly and the consumer possibly having no or limited access to other sources of credit. The main reason reported by consumers for using pawn services was customer service. They felt more comfortable with a lender they had already used and done good business with.
Although the American consumer has been more accepting of the idea of pawning assets, it is still wise to check with the National Pawnbroker’s Association as well as the Better Business Bureau to determine which pawnbrokers are more credible than others in your specific area.


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