I am going to be doing two posts on buying and selling items on consignment. The first is from the perspective of a consignment store owner with tips about selling your items. The second will be from someone who frequents consignment shops often with tips on buying items.
Claudine Thiem is a mother of two who owns a children’s consignment store in Erie, Pennsylvania. She will also be opening a furniture and home decor consignment store soon.
The name of Claudine’s store is Milestones Quality Children’s Consignment (www.milestonesconsignment.com). She started her store from scratch five years ago in a 500 square foot space. Two moves later, it is now housed in a 5,200 square foot building with over 1,400 consignors.
Claudine is a member of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Stores (NARTS) and she attends their conference every year. She says that their website, www.narts.org, is a great nationwide resource on consignment.
Karla: When I make an appointment with you to consign some items at your store, what should I expect?
Claudine: You should expect to be greeted with a smile and to be taken care of immediately. I want my consignors to feel like I appreciate that they have taken the time to prepare their items for the store. I try to foster a relationship with my consignors, so I believe appointments allow me to provide better service.
Every consignor is different, but I am always glad to explain my selections if desired. I would say that on average, I select only about 30-40% of what a first time consignor brings in. We then work together to get that percent up for future appointments.
Karla: Why do you often have to wait four to six weeks for an appointment?
Claudine: I currently have over 1,400 consignors and I do anywhere from 30 to 40 appointments per week. The wait time is created because everyone calls for an appointment at the same times – the week after checks are mailed out or at the beginning of a season. I would love consignors to plan ahead, but I understand that they are all busy moms! A lot of times it is an accomplishment just to make an appointment in the first place. We constantly try to find ways to keep the wait to about two weeks if possible.
Another thing to note is that I am the only one who does intake in my store right now. This provides for consistency, but does limit the number of items consigned to about 1,200 per week. This supports my sales right now, but hopefully I will have the need to do more appointments as by business grows.
Karla: I see from your website that you can bring in up to 50 items. Do you count an outfit of a shirt and pants for example as one or two items?
Claudine: An outfit is one item. We encourage consignors to make outfits as much as possible, and we allow outfits to be made from two or three different brands as long as the pieces are the same size.
Karla: What types of items are the best sellers in your store – clothing, shoes, accessories, baby equipment, toys, children’s furniture, children’s videos or books? Are there certain brands that are the most in demand?
Claudine: The best (and fastest) sellers are the baby equipment and furniture. Toys do extremely well also, especially between Halloween and the end of the year. The vast majority of our sales, however, is clothing. We sell double the girls clothing than we do boys clothing, and some of the high-demand brands are Gap, Gymboree, Janie & Jack, Hanna Andersson, Nike, Adidas, Carter’s, and Justice. Winter outerwear is always a winner in our neck of the woods, no matter what the brand.
Karla: How much do you normally pay for items? For example, what is the dollar range you would pay for a baby snowsuit? What factors do you use when making that decision?
Claudine: We consign the majority of our items, so most consignors make 40-50% of the selling price after the item sells. A baby snowsuit that might be priced at $20 would earn $8 for the consignor. We do buy accessories, books, videos, and lower-brand clothing (from discount stores) outright for typical garage sale prices of $0.25 to $1.00.
Karla: Are there any other selling tips you would like to offer Simple Living Family readers?
Claudine: Many parents feel overwhelmed at the prospect of preparing their items for consignment. They think it is going to take a lot of time to get things ready because we ask that items be brought in “ready to display.” Clothing should be on hangers and wrinkle-free, while toys should be clean and complete. The three biggest tips I would give your readers are:
1) Before consigning with a particular store, take the time to read through the store’s consignment guidelines. If possible, walk around the store before your appointment to see the kinds of items the store accepts.
2) Be selective. Take the time to prepare only your BEST items (new with tags, higher-end brands, full outfits, outerwear, bigger ticket equipment and toys, etc.). These will bring you the most return for your efforts.
3) Keep a bin or a section of a closet just for consignment items. As your children outgrow an article of clothing, wash it, iron it if necessary, and hang it. Collecting items a little at a time is so much easier than trying to find that big block of time to do everything the night before your appointment.