As you know, I am a big fan of consignment stores. Not only do they tend to be great places to score deals, but they can also be a way to recoup some of your original investment in clothes you no longer like or wear. If you are interested in using a consignment store to purge your closet – and free up some cash – here is what you need to know.
Almost all reputable consignment stores take a 60% cut of whatever price your pieces end up selling for. It may seem like a lot and, indeed, in some cases, I would recommend trying to sell certain items directly (e.g. through Kijiji or Craigslist) because it be not be worth it otherwise to sell at all. [Personally, I do not use eBay for a variety of reasons, so I have no experiences or tips to share save to say that I have heard too many horror stories to count. Use at your own discretion.] More on that below.
Consignment stores take a variety of items, from clothing to accessories, personal care items to household goods, but it varies from place to place. Generally, they accept seasonal clothes at the same times of year that you will see the equivalent in regular stores – i.e. spring stuff in early January, summer stuff around April/May, fall stuff in August, and so on. Check ahead of time to verify what is being accepted. Most will have limits of what they accept, both quality and style-wise. Things should be in new-ish condition (no rips, stains, pilling, etc.) and fairly recent; some stores may accept vintage/retro pieces, but it’s best to ask to make sure.
There may be different policies about pricing. Some stores may discuss with you prices when you bring your items in; others may set the price without your input, subject to any concerns you express beforehand. In terms of pricing, generally, I can’t say that I’ve deduced a particular formula being applied. Prices are usually (obviously) lower than what the item’s retail price when new, but in some cases not significantly lower (or even higher) than a sale price you might find in the regular stores. Suffice to say, however, that I have never made a profit selling anything at consignment.
Generally, items will be accepted for consignment for a finite period such as 6 weeks. Each store will have different policies about what happens to clothes that do not set within that time. For example, at one of the consignment places I use, unsold items can either be renewed for another period (in the discretion of the store), or placed on the half-price clearance rack for a few days before being either set aside for donation to charity or returned to the consignor (if so requested in advance). Always ask about this in advance to avoid any nasty surprises.You will receive your 40% cut at the end of the consignment period, usually in cash.
One caveat: I have never consigned any high end designer items, so I cannot speak to that process, although I don’t think it’s substantially different in the basic premise. As I mentioned above, I prefer to sell my designer bags personally, usually through Kijiji. It can be a frustrating process, but you do end up coming ahead usually in terms of money … if you are able to sell at all. Kijiji can be very hit-and-miss for that, especially lately. However, if you are not pressed for time, and are able to sell at your leisure, I would definitely recommend it at least as a first step.
Here are some useful tips for selling through Kijiji. First and foremost, always take good, clear photo(s). Provide accurate measurements of size and condition (realizing that the latter is subjective – hence the need for photos). Clearly stipulate any other conditions you may have – pick up only, firm price, etc. – recognizing that you will likely get at least a few inquiries that will ignore those conditions entirely. As for price, this is the trickiest bit. This may be a controversial opinion, but I will say it anyway. Most apparel – and bags are most definitely included – lose a large portion of their retail value the minute you take them out of the store. With the exception of a very select few brands (Chanel, Hermes), no bag, shoe or piece of clothing will retain its value once bought, much less used. Some things depreciate faster and to a greater extent than others; shoes are a good example. Some things will retain more of their value longer (like bags), but this always depends on the brand as well. The proliferation of Coach is a good example; Coach bags are less likely to hold their re-sale value now since they are much more widely available than before. I foresee Michael Kors being the next brand to go that way, for similar reasons. But, generally speaking, the fact that you paid $x for the item you are selling will mean very little … certainly to the buyer. [The psychology behind this market-place behaviour is simple. To the seller, the item represents the cost x that they paid for it, plus any additional sentimental value that the item may have accrued in the meantime. As a result, the seller will almost always think about what they are losing in selling (i.e. the item), rather than what they are gaining (i.e. money), because the latter will almost never equal what the seller has invested, financially and emotionally, in that item. For the buyer, the reverse is true. The buyer has no particular emotional connection to the specific item, and they will be primarily concerned with what they are losing in the transaction (i.e. money) rather than what they are gaining. Never having owned the item before, they will not necessarily value its possession as highly as the seller, or as high as the cash in their pocket. Hope that makes sense.]
While I would never recommend selling something for a lower price than whatever makes you comfortable with the transaction, it is important to be realistic. For example, even if an item is brand new, you need to give the buyer a reason to buy from you – rather than the store, which offers additional safeguards and the possibility of returns or exchanges; this may translate into as high as 25% or more off the retail price as a starting point. For used items, the “discount” might be closer to 50%, depending on what it is and its condition. Of course, you have to be prepared for lowball offers, some laughably awful. I used to get offended by these, but I realize there is no benefit to getting worked up about them. Some potential buyers might be looking to annoy you, others might be genuinely uninformed about the retail cost of the item, and others might simply be trying their luck. Either way, you have to maintain perspective and look at the transaction from a purely financial point: would you get more satisfaction from keeping the item, or from enjoying the purchasing power of whatever money is being offered? Another consideration, for me, is whether the price I am being offered is higher than what I could get for the item elsewhere (i.e. at a consignment store).
In terms of the types of items I would try selling directly first, rather than consigning, I would include bags and shoes as prime examples (especially high end brands). You may not always be successful, but if you are, you will likely make more money doing it. I would also include big ticket items like wedding dresses and other special occasion apparel, provided you have good photos (it is sometimes hard to see the appeal of an item when it’s on a hanger). I have found that regular clothes tend to be harder to sell on Kijiji, and I prefer the convenience of a consignment store in that regard.
Have you ever sold anything? Do you prefer consignment or direct selling? Got any tips?