Are consignment shops the best way to sell clothing?
Selling Through Consignment Shops
TDS Reader Solutions
I'm looking for ways to generate some extra cash to buy clothes and was wondering if consignment shops are really worth it? I have several nice, very well taken care of suits and such that I just don't fit into or wear anymore and I am considering taking them in to see if they'll sell, but I wondered if it was worth my time? Anyone out there do business with consignment shops and have any comments?
I have sold many items of clothing in consignment shops. It's a great way weed your closet of items that you no longer fit into or have grown tired of, and also gives you a little money. Be sure to have a look around at what is for sale while you are there. Here are some helpful tips:
- Make sure everything you take in is clean, pressed and in good repair; no missing buttons, stains, etc.
- Call the consignment shop ahead of time to see what they are looking for. Do they want particular sizes and styles of clothes, or prefer men's, women's or children's items. Also ask them if they are taking clothing for the current or upcoming season.
- Try to deal in depth with only one shop. This cuts down on your traveling time, allows you to get to know the staff and most importantly, lets the staff get to know you. When the staff know your clothes have sold in the past, they are more likely to take most of what you bring in.
Get It In Writing
Be sure to get the terms in writing! I just had a bad experience with a shop that charged an "administration fee" in addition to the percentage cut. (And she didn't mention this when I asked for the terms over the phone.)
Also, check the shop out. I wouldn't do business with any shop that I wouldn't frequent myself. And finally, shops that are computerized keep more accurate records.
All Shops Not Created Equal
I have used two area consignment shops. One was a larger store that occasionally advertised. I used that shop first with marginal results. The terms of the contract were very rigid and the shop was so packed with clothes mine did not have a chance to be seen. I then tried a shop in my local town, much smaller and with a friendly owner and more flexible contract. This turned out to be a good match. I have sold all the clothes I sent there and have even bought items I needed or my daughter needed. Clothes not sold are routinely donated to a local shelter by the owner. I like the personal service of the smaller shop. Basically, visit a few shops in your area. Ask to see their contracts and policies. Visit a few times to check for customer traffic. Notice how the clothes are displayed. Ask about sale policies. If you find a match, make sure you carefully read the contract before signing to eliminate any misunderstandings. Good luck.
I highly recommend these shops, I do it all the time. There are a few things to look out for. Beware of the shops that do not give you the prices they are going to charge for your items. Make sure you know how much you will be getting, ie, 33% 50% of the sale. Find out if it is a 30, 60 or 90 day consignment. Also concern yourself with "location" of the shop you are looking to consign. I go to the "boutiques." They are pricier so you will find these in your richer towns. (It pays off) If you are not satisfied with the price that you are offered, find another place. I consign my childrens' clothes all the time...in fact I buy them from shops.
Also when taking your clothes, go over the items with the owner, so you are not told at a later date, "this had a tear in it" or "this had stains". Know your clothing! Most of all, do not act like you do not know what you are doing.
Want more money? Yardsales are famous for selling clothes cheap. Like I said, know your clothes. Pick up clothing for .25 or 1.00 then go consign it!! I made an aditional $85.00 just in one month last summer.
In the fall and in the spring, churches have their consignment sales, for only 3 days. You get money quicker, and usually get 75% of the sale. I am an "at home mom" so I have to think of ways to "circulate" my childrens clothes, and make money at the same time.
Try Auctions Instead
A great way to sell nice clothes and not pay a commission is through E-bay auction site. I have personally bought many items of clothing and plan to sell some soon, too. If you have a scanner, it's always better to post with a picture of the items. I never stop unless an item is listed with *pic*.
A Bad Experience
When I tried this once, I brought in a lot of things and the store people said they were not able to sort through my items while I was there. However, they very nicely offered to save me a trip back to pick up non-salable items. They said after they sorted through the items, they would take anything they could not sell to the thrift store for me, so I would not have to come and pick it up (I had to sign something that said I agreed to this).
It turned out that some of the nicest things were "not salable" and had been "taken to the thrift store" (including a designer suit). No money for me off these items of course. Tell them that you want to donate any unsalable items to your church!
Donation Is Better
I have done business with several consignment shops and have generally found that the only one to benefit is the consignment shop. You generally get 50% of the selling price, and they have the right to price it and reduce it at their own discretion. Ultimately, this could mean you get no more than you would have selling it at a yard sale yourself. Also, many consignment shops have the policy that if an item does not sell in 30 or 60 days, they give it to charity. A good deed, but of no benefit to you.
A better option, without going to the trouble of having a yard sale, would be to gather together many unwanted and unused items around the house and donate them to Goodwill. You will get a tax deductible receipt showing how many items you donated and you determine how much each item was worth to take off of your taxes. Keep in mind that in order to benefit from this, you must itemize your taxes. Also, you must be reasonable with the values you assign and keep a record of how you assigned the value, just in case you are ever audited.
From A Consignment Shop Owner
For over 7 years, I owned a consignment shop and, therefore, believe I can comment on this question. The return a consignor gets from her clothes depends on several factors, primarily the store's volume and the clothes themselves. The store must be able to attract enough buyers, first of all. Many consignment stores go in and out of business quickly, so I wouldn't consign with a store in business for less than three years. Moreover, I would examine the consignment terms and make sure to receive a receipt for the items brought in, as well as a statement at the time of payment showing what sold. There are lots of loopholes making unethical practices possible in the consignment business--deal only with established, reputable firms.
Further, no one wants out-of-style, stained, buttonless clothing. Don't even try to sell clothing through consignment unless it is in pristine condition and less than two years' old. Selling shoes? Polish them. Selling jewelry? Clean it. I used to say that you need to detail your things as you would a car you're about to sell. Make your things desirable. That's NOT the job of the consignment shop. The store's tasks are marketing, sales, providing payment options, collecting sales tax, staffing a convenient location, etc., but they are not a dry cleaner.
Take time to look around the store before consigning. Check merchandise condition, how merchandise is displayed, and the prices of comparable items. The store will not price your things more or less than the price of similar items already in the store without good reason (hard-to-get size, for example). It's possible to make quite a bit of money consigning; consignment will always net a higher return than a garage sale for finer pieces. By selling to individuals outright (through ads in papers, out of your trunk at work, etc.), you may be able to do better, but the work and expense involved often is not worth it.
NOTE: Before donating anything valuable to charity, check out exactly how much goes to charity and how much goes to the individual owner...the public is woefully ignorant to the fact that charity thrift stores are most often fronts for the benefit of the individual owner, and only a tiny percentage of net profit benefits the charity. Knowing that, I generally sell my things through consignment and make charitable contributions directly!
Tamara in Kansas City, MO
Reviewed February 2018
Take the Next Step:
- Don't miss these 9 secrets to a successful consignment store sale.
- Discover dozens of additional ways to make extra cash by visiting the Dollar Stretcher Library.
- Start saving for your future today. Consider these 11 ways to save $1000 while living paycheck to paycheck.
- Stop struggling to get ahead financially. Subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!