My sister Casey has always been the “smart sister.” She was the one who got good grades, made logical decisions and never fell for style over substance. So when Casey called to say she was working on a new project that will benefit her children’s school, her community at large as well as families in need, I was hooked.
Casey’s project is a community-wide consignment sale where the sellers get 60 percent of the sale price, the school gets 40 percent and everybody gets a chance to buy children’s clothing and accessories (not to mention strollers, baby monitors and changing tables) for a fraction of the cost.
Best of all, any items not sold are donated to nonprofit organizations such as Head Start and Off the Street Club. So yes, when it comes to consignment sales, everybody wins.
Consignment sales are not new, but the economic downturn coupled with the public’s growing interest in recycling, reinventing and getting “steals” has created a consignment sale renaissance.
Consignment shopping can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not prepared, so I went to the experts to find out the best tips and tricks for selling and buying on consignment.
Quality over quantity
“When it comes to furniture shopping you want to look for the best quality you can find,” says consignment expert, Melissa Sands, of Vintage Promotions, (http://vintagepromotionsllc.com). Sands advocates looking for solid wood items that are made in the U.S. or Europe, as those items tend to be higher quality and often more valuable.
“Don’t be afraid to open drawers, flip things over and examine the workmanship.” Says Sands. “If an item feels cheap and light, it usually is.” Sands also suggests staying away from things “made in China” as you can often find those items anywhere.
Keep expectations in check
If you’re interested in selling your items on consignment, do some due diligence to ensure you get a fair price. Research comparable items online to get a sense of pricing but don’t be disappointed if your item is sold well below what you originally paid. Another potential pitfall is taking things personally.
Traci Burton, who owns the Etsy shop, “Truth or Wear” (www.etsy.com/shop/truthorwear) cautions sellers to take the emotion out of their transaction “Most consigners are picky because we know our audience, we know what sells and we know what doesn’t,” says Burton. “Just because I don’t buy your item doesn’t necessarily mean your item is junk, it just means it isn’t right for my business.”
Earn bragging rights
“There is nothing shameful about buying or selling on consignment,” says Gilat Zamost, owner of My Best Friend’s Closet (http://mybestfriendsclosethp.com) in Highland Park. Zamost is from New York, which has a rich history of consignment shopping, so she was surprised to come to Chicago and find only a few stores.
“When I first opened my store, a friend asked if she should come through the back door. She thought consignment shopping was something you didn’t want your neighbors to know you did. But as my shop became more popular and people saw the amazing deals they could get, people started bragging about how little they paid for what would normally be quite expensive.”
Zamost also recommends shopping local consignment stores because it’s eco-friendly and boosts the community. “My store, as well as many others, donates unsold items to local charities,” she said. “It’s our way of giving back to the community that supports what we do.”