Tips For Consignment Shop Buying and Selling:
By: Marianna Orso
Getting a steal on a name brand or designer piece of fashion or a unique piece of jewelry, pair of shoes, or an accessory item, can be a major score for serious shopper’s. Making money off unwanted, gently used items in your wardrobe and closet (of a designer or brand nature, of course), can also be a real high for a seasoned shopper as well.
This is where consignment shops come in and seem like a wonderful idea, for all parties involved. However, being new to the world of consigning, requires one to consider and weigh certain factors, whether your buying, selling, or doing a bit of both.
When selling in conjunction with a consignment shop, consider the following beforehand:
1) Think About Payment Types:
Are you more comfortable with upfront payments (where a shop buys the items out right) or are you okay with profit sharing (where the store, splits a percentage of the proceeds with you, such as 50/50 or 60/40)?
2) Find a Specialty Store:
You’ll make more money, if you zone in on a specialty store for your items. For instance, a sports equipment store will pay more for your apparel and accessories, than a general consignment shop. When I wanted to sell my stuff, I focused on a store specifically for women’s clothing and accessories, to help me score a better price on my cast off’s. General shops are better for knick-knacks and stuff that can’t be categorized in specialty shops.
3) Know What Sells:
Consignment shops specifically look for stuff that sells quickly and easily. A nearly unworn pair of designer jeans or clean baby clothes? Perfect. Your old athletic cleats? Not so much. Before you take your stuff over to the shop, consider whether you’d buy the same item used or not.
4) Clean Your Items Up:
You’ll get more money for each of your items, if they’re in good shape and pristine condition. So, make sure it’s cleaned professionally (clothes, bags, and shoes) and steamed if necessary (clothes). If you’re missing buttons, parts, lace, and pieces, it’s best to consider how much the repair will cost and if it’s worth investing the money in. Check over your items for stains and other marks, since consignment shops will probably decline marked up and worn-looking items.
5) Read The Contract Carefully:
If you decide to sell using the profit-sharing method, you’ll receive a contract. The contract gives you information about the percentage for sharing, how the items are priced, how long your items will sit on store shelves, and when and how you can arrive to collect your money. It’s important to know the details, so you aren’t disappointed by the outcome later on.
6) Don’t Always Go for the Instant Money:
Sometimes, a consignment store will split up the way that you sell your items. If you want instant money for an old shirt you don’t care about, take the cash. But, if a store owner offers you a paltry amount for a baby crib you know is worth a lot more, ask to go a profit-sharing route and you’ll probably score bigger bucks in the long run.
7) Remember The Difference:
There’s a difference between thrift stores and consignment shops, in quality of merchandise and pricing, so consider that whether buying or selling. There are also pawn shops, consignment sales, and the classifieds, as well as online outlets such as eBay and Poshmark, where you can sell your wares. So, be well versed and know each market and who it caters to, before buying or selling.
8) Consider Traffic Of The Store:
Consider how heavily trafficked the store is and remember location, location, location! Stores that are highly trafficked do better. If you are looking to sell Chanel, Dior, or other highly coveted and highly expensive luxury designers, consider a shop in a wealthier area. Consider your audience!
As for buying at a consignment shop, consider the following before making a final decision on any buy:
1) Determine how carefully the goods are treated and protected:
Ask what type of insurance they have particularly, if you are purchasing or even selling valuable items like jewelry, antiques, or artwork. If the store owner has no theft or fire insurance, think twice about buying or placing your products with that store. Check to see, if the store has fire alarms and water sprinkler to protect the items in case of fire. Choose a store owner who is willing to protect your items (whether buying or selling), even to the extent of providing locked cases for valuable products.
2) Know your products well:
Be sure that you know every little bit about your purchase, beforehand. Inspect the quality of your merchandise, making sure that there are no stains or tears, if you are buying clothes or cracks on fine jewelry items. Before, you hand over payment, to the store owner, point out the items you are interested in and see if they’re in pristine condition. This way, he or she cannot tell you later on, “Opps, sorry. We won’t accept returns for that item, since it has stains on it, etc.” Especially, if the product has remained unsold on their shelves for six months or more.
3) Shop with a List:
Think about what you need and write it down. Stick to the list and consider that some things change from season to season. Try to get pieces like shoes, accessories, and jewelry that are interchangeable and think about key pieces of clothing, that can be mixed and matched to make several varying outfits for different occasions like, work, special events, or casual days.
4) Review Your Closet Before Shopping:
When shopping resale, a list is especially important, as one can rarely return garments bought at such stores. If you happen to purchase a virtual duplicate of an item in your closet or a color that makes you look like death warmed over, you’re stuck with it! Yes, you can re-consign the item, but you’ll only recoup a fraction of your losses. Better to not buy the wrong clothes in the first place!
So, before you set out on your next resale “treasure hunt,” take a few moments to review your closet and jot down what you’d like to buy to round out your wardrobe. Perhaps, you have a few wardrobe “workhorses”, that are on their last legs and you’d like to replace them. Or maybe, you’d love to find a casual dress or two to wear on the weekends, during the summer. Write these things down on your list and be as specific as possible. The more you set the stage for what you’re hoping to buy, the less likely you’ll be to purchase items, that will hang in your closet unworn.
5) Do You Want to Wear It Right Away?
As you look through the bulging racks of “goodies” at resale shops, keep a few questions in mind. A favorite one, of mine is:
Is this really me, where will I wear it?
One of the main reasons for questions like this, is to avoid buying things, “just in case.” On many occasions, I’ve bought garments or items at consignment or boutique stores, because I might wear them to some mythical future event. For example, I rarely wear formal attire, but I purchased a few very formal pieces, because they could potentially come in handy should, I ever need to attend a more formal event. However, such an event never came around and I eventually ended up reconsiging, my formal items back to the local consignment shop.
Other Powerful Questions To Always Ask:
Querying yourself as to whether you want to wear something right away, also helps you to gauge whether you actually love the item or if you’re just considering buying it, because it’s a “good deal or name brand.”
Which brings me to another powerful question to pose to yourself: Would I buy this at regular price?
One of the reasons for shopping resale, is the opportunity to buy quality pieces at low prices. But, remember, “It’s only a good deal, if you’ll actually wear it!” Asking yourself if you’d be willing to pay full price, allows you to consider the utility of the item in question, for your wardrobe. A “yes” answer is a step in the right direction, but there are some other important points to consider.
Here are a few other powerful questions to ask yourself when considering a resale (or retail) purchase:
• Do I love this item on me?
• Do I feel comfortable in it, both physically and emotionally?
• Do I already have something very similar in my closet?
• Do I see myself wearing this within the next week or two (i.e. does it fit my lifestyle)?
6) Sizes Vary, So Try Everything On:
Since returning consignment purchases is rarely an option, it’s critical that you examine your prospective buys, as closely as possible before buying. Most importantly, you should always try on all of the garments you’re considering and preferably in a fitting room (I personally wouldn’t shop at a resale or retail store for that matter, that doesn’t have fitting rooms!).
Sizes vary widely in general and you can never be sure how a “pre-loved” garment was cared for. Hot washing machines and dryers can shrink the clothes a full size or more, so the size 10 in your hands, may be closer to an 8 or even a 6. So, for these reasons alone, I always recommend trying on a variety of sizes, when resale shopping. Laundering creates more wear and tear, so don’t hesitate to try on a garment that’s marked at a size (or even two), smaller or larger than your regular size. Vanity shopping, can be your worst enemy, so forget numbers.
Also, worth mentioning is the common habit many women have of cutting the size tags out of their clothes. I participated in this phenomenon, until I started resale shopping! When there is no size tag, the resale store personnel have to guess at the size and their guesses are often way off. So, if you find something that appears as if it might fit you, by all means try it on. If something fits you and you love it, who really cares what size it is.
7) Factor in Alterations
Also, don’t forget about when shopping at resale stores. Even, if potential alterations may cost more than an item you’re considering buying, it can be still worth it. For example, if you find a quality wool skirt, that’s a bit too long or a tad too large in the waist, you may not want to pass it up. Simple alterations like this don’t cost much and can go a long way towards creating a wardrobe workhorse for you. Just consider the full cost of the garment including the alterations (a rough estimation is fine) and make sure the price still seems reasonable to you. And of course, make sure you love the item and that it fits your lifestyle needs.
That said, if you have to completely re-work a garment, in order for it to fit you properly, it’s probably time to walk away, even if you’re looking at a designer piece, that’s being sold for a “steal.” Trickier alterations can be difficult to execute well, even by an experienced tailor. If the tailoring doesn’t work out, you’ll be out the money you paid for both the garment and the alterations and you won’t be able to return the item to the store!
8) Don’t Settle:
Never ever settle! I’ve often suggested that everything you buy or keep should be something you utterly adore. Resale buys are no exception! You should still love the things you purchase at thrift and consignment stores. Who cares if something only costs $5? You shouldn’t buy it, if it’s just “okay!”
Check out, Althea’s Boutique, located at 455 Main Street, in the heart of Farmingdale Village! Owner, Gary Lovisa, is very helpful and would be happy to help answering all of your questions and to fulfill all of your consignment shops needs! Happy Shopping, Fab Farmingdale Mom’s!
Update: Althea’s, after writing this piece, has since closed as of this coming week. Other, upscale consignment shops, include Revival Boutique in Roslyn.