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Old to Me, New to You! The Art of Consignment Buying and Selling

By Mary Lou Harris June 07, 2019 Beauty

Over the years, I have purchased my fair share of clothing from second-hand sources, varying from the Goodwill store to upscale designer consignment shops. In doing so, I have watched dramatic changes in this market.

Thrift shop type stores we have known for a couple of generations continue to serve their purpose, fundraising through donations and providing employment and reasonably low-cost availability of family clothing and housewares. An expanded role for consignment buying and selling continues to grow alongside them.

In recent years though, retail consignment clothing shops serving specific clientele are gaining in number, and online sources with sleek web pages have also sprouted up.

What’s the Difference?

In general, consignment shops and online outlets may require items to be purchased new within the last few years and show minimal or no signs of wear. Items with the tags intact can be of higher value.

Consignments are usually purchased by local shops that are interested in reselling to a specific clientele. They may be geared to the market of younger women or to those searching for an affordable rebuy of a couture item for a special occasion.

I happened upon a high-end consignment shop while visiting Seattle some time ago. I overheard a customer ask the clerk if she would let her know when the previous owner of her just-purchased dress offered more items.

This wise customer had found a source for her style and size at a decidedly lower price than the original couture item.

Aside from the desire to spend less, there are several reasons to acquaint yourself with retail and online consignment merchandise.

Buying Out-Of-Season

As a frequent traveler, I sometimes need to pack a specific item for an event when the season where I am is not the season where I am going. As a result, there is nothing on the retail stores’ current clothing racks to suit my particular need.

Seeking a rather dressy item for a recent event taking place in a warmer climate, there was nothing seasonably available in my nearby department stores. Local consignment shops were not yet making the transition to spring and summer either.

This is where the Internet came in handy. With only a couple of online searches I found an online consignment store that had multiple dresses in the season, style, and size that I needed.

They also had a reasonable return policy. When the dresses arrived, they were as advertised. I kept one preferred item and returned another. The paperwork and mailing was, thankfully, minimal.

Discover New-to-Me or -You Labels

Through consignment shopping you will find the well-known chain-store labels, and if they are a favorite of yours, great. Other times, you may see labels unknown to you. This happens to me occasionally – to find a new label in a fabric and color I consider appealing.

I’ve found lines of clothing previously unfamiliar to me, and one label in particular had such great quality and fit that I ordered a new item or two directly from their online store.

Turn the Table and Become the Seller

I love the items in my closet. I love the fit, the colors, the style. As a result, I am not a good candidate to sell to consignment outlets. My favorite wardrobe items are threadbare before I am willing to say goodbye to them.

However, not everyone develops that close a relationship with their wardrobe. There are a number of reasons others sell their clothing for consignment.

Some tire easily of their wardrobe, others realize too late the fit just isn’t right for them, or they have gone up/down in size. All those items in the consignment shops come from somewhere and someone. Perhaps it was a spur of the moment purchase that has hung in the closet for six months, tags attached.

Whatever the reason, many women turn over their wardrobes frequently. All the better for those of us who are discerning shoppers!

If you have thought about selling any of those up-to-date, barely worn items in your closet, you will likely find a buyer. In addition to your local consignment shops, online sites have some consignment options as well. ThredUp and Tradsy are among them.

Here are some thoughts before you head out the door, or to the mailbox, with those beautiful clean items over your arm or carefully bagged or boxed:

  •  Check with your local shop regarding the dates and times they receive consignments.
  • Be understanding that they may take some of your items but reject others. They know their market and what will likely sell quickly.
  • Be prepared to hear a price quoted that is less than you expected to receive.

Feel Good That You Are Participating in Re-Use

Consider the amount of goods that are manufactured and transported to our retail stores and online outlets every day. Whether you are in the market for new, or downsizing your current wardrobe, the consignment shop is one thoughtful way to do it.

You are likely already recycling in many ways. Consider adding one more by checking out consignment buying or selling prospects near you or online.

How do you participate in reuse of materials? Have you purchased or sold wardrobe items through consignment? How did it work for you? Please share a story you have about a favorite item you purchased through consignment!

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The Author

Mary Lou Harris is a proponent of active living, community volunteerism and inquisitive travel. After a post age 60 retirement from a career in public service, she expanded those interests to include ultra-trail running, hiking and extended-stay travel. She can be contacted through her website or on Twitter at @stillarunner.

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