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Posts Tagged ‘Consignment’

I am doing two posts on buying and selling items on consignment. The first was from the perspective of a consignment store owner with tips about selling your items. This is the second and it includes tips from someone who frequents consignment shops often and is on buying items.

Bonnie Flamm is a residential interior designer who frequents a consignment store in Newport Beach, California, on a weekly basis. She believes that by shopping at consignment stores you find the best deals and the most unusual items. She purchases items for her clients, but also the majority of her own home furniture comes from consignment stores.

Bonnie has been shopping in consignment stores for the past ten years and there are four consignment stores that she frequents regularly. She advises that value and uniqueness go hand-in-hand when it comes to consignment stores, but you must have vision as they are typically overcrowded.

Karla: What sorts of items do you normally find in consignment stores?
Bonnie: Consignment stores can feature a wide variety of items, ranging from books and clothing to designer furniture and genuine works of art. The consignment stores of yester-year were full of outdated, worn out stuff. But the beauty of some of today’s consignment stores is that they get a lot of brand new, designer quality furniture; furniture from houses that were “staged” by interior designers in order to sell; and unique, one-of-a-kind finds, including art work and sculptures. I myself bought a beautiful real bronze statue of a little girl reading a book who sits outside my front door on a bench. I paid $500 for her, which would have been an easy $1,500 if I had paid retail.

Karla: What was your best find ever?
Bonnie: In 2002 I was in a consignment store doing my usual browsing when I happened upon a very unusual and stunning dining room table that just happened to be the perfect size for my own dining room. When I inquired about it, I was told by the store owner that it was actually a stained hide and, just as interestingly, it had just come from country singer LeAnn Rimes’ home. She had just gotten married and had moved east (something I fact-checked later.) For some reason she decided not to take her furniture with her even though it was all brand new, so she put it on consignment. I bought it for $1,000 – which was $200 less than it was priced.

Several months later, I was in a design showroom and saw a side table made out of that exact same, distinctive hide. The showroom manager said that it did have a companion dining room table and she showed me the catalogue it came from. Sure enough, there was my new dining room table and it turns out that it was quite a steal as it retailed for $6,000!

Karla: How do you find a really great consignment store? What is it about the one in Newport Beach that makes it your favorite?
Bonnie: A quick internet search should provide your readers with some Consignment stores in their area. Once you find them, several weekly visits are needed to see if they offer quality and uniqueness. The quantity of the items for sale is also relevant because while the stores are full and you need to look, sometimes even hunt, you should not feel overwhelmed with “stuff”.

The one I go to in Newport Beach is my favorite for two reasons. First, because they consistently get unusual items and second because they get a lot of brand new furniture items from a wide variety of design sources and manufacturers.

Karla: Are there things you should not buy from a consignment store?
Bonnie: I would be wary of buying lighting from a consignment store unless they have the same kind of “test drive” policy that the one I go to has. At the Home Consignment Center in Newport Beach, you can take an item home for two days. If you find that it doesn’t work out, you can return it without any kind of re-stocking fee.

Karla: Are there certain brand names you look for with your clients in mind?
Bonnie: I do not look for brand name items per se, but you can find some very famous brand named furniture from Consignment stores, and the picture I sent you is an example of the kind of quality you can expect to find at a really good Consignment Center.

Karla: Any other juicy tips you would like to share with Simple Living Family readers?
Bonnie: Yes, do not be afraid to ask for a price reduction. It is expected, since the name of the game at a Consignment center is to move as much inventory as possible in as short of a time as possible. That typically means that after a two-week stay, most items can be bought at a discount of 10% or even 20%. But do not ever wait on an item just to get a further price reduction because the chances are that it will have been sold.

For more information about Bonnie or her business, please see her website at www.bonniejoydesigns.com.

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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.

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