I am always bewildered when I meet someone who hasn't been introduced to the fine art of consignment shopping. Years ago when I was working in the corporate world, consignment shops were my best-kept secret. I always dressed to the nines in top designer outfits, most of them purchased from consignment shops. In fact, many of the items I would purchase were barely worn or still had the original price tag on them! I used to pity the gal who thought I spent thousands on my wardrobe. However, every once in a while I would share my little secret.
Now, its 13 years later and I am a mother of two, and those designer duds have been eagerly exchanged with maternity wear, baby onesies and now (sigh) clothes for a tween. Consignment shops have been a way of life for me, and I am proud to announce my bargains to all who care to listen. Not only are consignment shops a great source for finding items to purchase, they are a great source of additional income if you want to unload any of those gently used items, games, toys, DVDs, clothes and accessories that the kids just had to have and then barely touched once they brought them home.
For those of you who aren't familiar with consignment shops and how they work, it's quite simple. Consignment shops carefully inspect items and accept only those that they think are saleable. They do all of the work, including display, storage, ticketing, sales and merchandising. When your item sells, they pay you a percentage of the sale. It's that simple. It's common for you, the consignor, to receive about 40 percent of the sales price of your item. Not bad, considering all you did was bring it to the shop! If you are thinking of consigning some items, be sure to call or stop into the shop to find out what sort of items they take and if they have any specific times that they accept items.
Haylen, 4, of Wheeling at Bird's Nest in Shadyside
Resale shops are slightly different from consignment shops but serve the same purpose. Rather than keeping track of each item that sells and paying you a percentage of that sale, the shop owner inspects all of your items when you bring them in and offers you a lump sum to take them off your hands. That's that - it's a done deal. You take your money, and the shop re-sells your stuff.
For shoppers, consignment and resale shops are a bargain hunter's paradise. Most shops seek out only clean, quality, brand name clothing and items. The best part for me is the thrill of the hunt and the find! Because most stores receive new merchandise daily, you never know what you are going to find. You may find a great Halloween costume one day and a party dress the next; so, it's smart to frequent them often. If you see something you like, you better grab it quick, because the odds of that fantastic item being available the next day are slim to none.
Consignment shopping is now more fashionable than ever. With the "green" movement and the idea that recycling is the only way to go, more and more people from all walks of life, regardless of income levels, are finding the true value in consignment shops.
LOCAL CONSIGNMENT AND RESALE SHOPS
Bird's Nest, 3985 Central Ave., Shadyside, resale, children's clothes, shoes, toys, furniture and accessories; maternity; women's clothes, accessories
Let It Bee Boutique, Centre Market, Wheeling, consignment, children's clothes, shoes, toys, furniture and accessories; maternity
Bullfrogs & Butterflies, 2153 National Road, Wheeling, consignment and new, children's clothes, shoes, toys, furniture and accessories; maternity
Kallie's Kloset, 737 Market St., Wheeling, resale, children's clothes, shoes, accessories Clothes Collection, 1143 National Road, Wheeling, consignment, women's clothes, shoes, accessories
As for me, the excitement of consignment shopping is still about the hunt and the find. I love not knowing what I will discover on my next shopping excursion. I may come up empty handed or find that one item I have been searching for forever. Usually, I come home with something new to me that I proudly claim as my latest treasure. If for some reason I change my mind about it, as we girls often do, I simply consign it!
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Additional Consignment Shopping Tips
Ask for help! Since store owners have meticulously looked over all of the items that have been consigned, don't be afraid to ask for help. They know where everything is in the store and on occasion may know if something is arriving in the shop. They may also know if clothing items have been tailored or if something is a larger fit.
Check out all sizes. Especially when it comes to evening wear and tailored suits. Many people get these items altered to fit. A lot of formal evening wear is sold in large sizes because they customize the fit for each customer. Also, clothes often shrink after repeated washing and drying.
Ask about store policies: Most consignment shops have an "All Sales Are Final" policy. Look items over thoroughly and make sure all items are in working order or free from flaws before you leave the shop. When buying lighting or electronics, ask to plug it in or test the item.
Expect to see a major price difference between brands. Consignment shops should be pricing their clothing between 1/4 to 1/3 of the original retail price, taking into account condition, age, popularity of brand, etc.
Ask about sales or markdowns. Most shops have frequent markdowns in order to recycle the daily inventory that streams in. Ask the shop owner in their sales are or how often mark-downs occur.
Don't try to haggle over the price of an item! Asking the shop to take less undermines all of the pricing decisions that have been made and often offends the shop owner. Haggling with a shop owner is basically telling them that they don't know how to price and they don't know their market. A successful consignment shop that has a good reputation is regularly marking down their merchandise and keeping the items going in and out of their store quickly.
Never purchase a garment without trying it on! As you know, many people have clothing altered and there is no way for the shop owner to know if the consignor doesn't tell them.
Bring a measuring tape with you! For large items for the home, you want to make sure the item is going to fit in your home or through doorways. Remember, once you buy it it's yours to keep.
Beware of knock offs! All too often people purchase knock-offs or designer copies and these items end up in resale shops. Sometimes consignors don't even know that the items they purchased from the internet aren't the real deal since they paid a pretty penny for them. Unless you really know your merchandise or have some proof of authenticity, buyer beware!
- Kara Ferraro is a publisher and freelance writer with two elementary-aged children. She is always looking for clever, budget friendly activities to do with her family and ways to save money.