Clothing Consignment Stores: Sales and Shopping

My mother had a saying, “Bring one inâÂ?¦take two out.” Every time I brought a new item of clothing in the house, she insisted that I consider pitching two items. Personally, I thought her idea of letting go of clothes was completely ridiculous, and when it came to my favorite pair of jeans that she felt needed to go, I didn’t want to hear it! Wasn’t the whole point of shopping to add to my wardrobe?

As an adult woman with limited closet space, I have found my mother’s advice to be helpful if not necessary. Aside from needing room for my new purchases, I have also found my closet in need of a revolving door. As I have changed professions, men, and age, I find that I have items in my closet that are politely ignored every morning when I hang on the closet door in hopes of finding something to wear.

I am a woman known for my carefully-planned, bargain-basement shopping binges, and I cannot find it within myself to let my beautiful, well-cared for clothing go, unless of course, I can receive some sort of compensation for my pain and angst. Fortunately, I have found a source of compensation and solace in the various consignment stores that are located within a respectable distance of my home. I frequent consignment stores to sell the clothes that I no longer can squeeze into, that I no longer want, and that I no longer feel are appropriate to wear. It’s a win-win situation.

I find that consignment sales/shopping is quite therapeutic. It enables me to browse, shop, and spend – it does wonders for my shopping addiction (at least for a day or two), and it allows me to make money or at the least to break even! For those of you who are addicted to shopping, you know that there is nothing better than finding the perfect sale! I cannot wait for the weekend sales fliers, and quite frankly, I have a hard time passing up a clearance rack. The bottom line is – like most women – I have an addiction to shopping.

The word “consign” by definition means “to deliver [an item] for custody or sale” ( In regards to clothing consignment, either definition may apply. The business plan for consignment stores can vary. There are two basic clothing consignment processes. The first type of clothing consignment stores buy from sellers upfront – the profits given to the seller are pre-allocated according to item style (brand), wear, and demand. The buyer presents the seller with a bid amount for the selected items, and the seller signs an agreement binding them to the sale. The second type of clothing consignment is on an after point-of-sale basis, where the seller entrusts the consignment store with their item and takes a percentage of the cut after the item has been sold.

Cash, check, or in-store credit is usually the payment form issued in the consignment industry. On average, the percentage of revenue a seller makes is between 20-40% in this type of clothing consignment, but that percentage is on the lower end and can move upward towards 50% in high-end clothing stores that sell couture, vintage, and the highest end designer clothing. A seller’s demographic area can also play into the seller’s percentage. Of the two types of clothing consignment stores, sellers tend to earn more revenue on the after the-point-of sale stores. This is because their selling price is usually higher than that of upfront buying clothing consignment stores. This type of store takes less risk; they show your items at no cost since they have not put out any money upfront – when sales are made, they make money and are happy to share a larger amount of the net sale with you.

What do you do if an item has not sold? The benefit of dealing with an upfront buying consignment store is that once they’ve selected your item and have paid you out for it, the item is theirs to keep, mark-down, or discard – you have relinquished your claim to the item when you signed it over. For the after point-of-sale stores, the showing period for your item usually consists of 1-3 months (this information is located in the contract you will be asked to sign when you hand over your items for consignment – keep the receipt and a list of the selected items!) If your items do not sell, you usually have 3-7 days to pick them up. Many stores will donate your items if you do not claim them promptly.

For the best outcome, you should educate yourself on consignment sales/shopping before you visit a store. The best part about selling at an after point-of-sale consignment store is that you often have the option to accept your return in cash or trade. Cash is paid out at a lower percentage rate than trade. So you can really make out if there is something that you want to “buy!” Overall, don’t forget that your return on clothing in cash is decent, but you don’t quite create the “fix” for the shopping addiction. Trust me when I tell you that there is nothing like the feeling of finding something you really want and buying it on trade and then still having enough cash to put into your pocket!

To ensure that your consignment experience is positive, follow the basic rules of selling below. If you want to clean your closet out, make some money, and buy some new clothes, then realize that consignment shopping is not just for the weak and the poor! It’s an acquired skill that can become profitable and therapeutic to the chronic shopper! I’m not saying run out and buy someone a birthday gift at a consignment store, but there’s no harm in finding a great pair of designer jeans at a rock bottom price!

Rules for Consignment Shopping and Sales

Resubmit items even after they’ve been rejected. Usually, a different employee will check your items. He/she might have a different opinion about an item. If all else fails, try a different store that might select that style. If you really feel that an item has merit – keep it in your consignment basket a few more times. If after approximately four times it has not been selected, it’s probably not a seller. Either return the item to your closet or donate the item to a friend or a clothing donation center. (Visit Goodwill Industries International, Inc for more information).

Do wash everything prior to submission. There is nothing that will turn off a buyer more than stains and smells. Be sure that you do not submit an item if it reeks of cigarettes especially. And don’t forget to iron your items. Specific things should definitely be ironed – dress shirts, slacks, polo. Even t-shirts and jeans could use a face-lift. Don’t forget that presentation is everything! (For those of you who are in need of an ironing lesson – visit
to find out how to press the most difficult of clothing items – the dress shirt!)

It’s OK to be a brand name snob – brand names make more money at consignment stores.
Take in a variety of clothing, including a variety of brands and styles. Mostly, consignment stores today care about brands. Be sure that you do not remove clothing tags from your own items so they are still intact when you try to sell them later on. The most popular brands of course will depend upon your regional area.

If you are going to consistently use a specific location for your consignment, learn the names of the staff and develop a relationship with them. It makes sense to be courteous with the staff. After all, if you can develop a respectful partnership with them, you may have a less stringent selection process. They might even put your items through the process before others if there is a wait time. Most importantly, don’t be snippy with the staff if they don’t select your items. . Let them tell you why they didn’t select items so that you can develop a relationship with them while at the same time learning more about what they’re looking for.

You are more likely to have items selected during off-hours. Primarily, this is due to the fact that the buyers are less stressed. During down times like early morning and afternoon hours, more shoppers visit the stores in addition to the sellers. This can cause small bouts of chaos and can create more tension amongst the staff. During stressful times, they are less likely to give on an item and will simply be more selective. Late afternoons and weekends are the worst times to sell so do not attempt consignment late in the day.

Don’t forget to take accessories! Belts are a big seller at consignment stores because they are a very expensive accessory item that most people cringe over when buying them at retail. Most prime condition leather belts will get picked up for around $3.00 whereas ribbon or cloth belts will go for less. Jewelry is also a big winner in the consignment industry. Don’t take in earrings however as they are not usually selected due to hygienic regulations. As with all clothing items, take the time to run a toothbrush over your jewelry submissions prior to selling them – you will receive a better price and have a better chance of having your items selected.

Don’t take items in a garbage bag. If you treat your clothing like garbage, then it is less likely to be selected. Use a laundry basket – and not one that’s cracked. Be sure that the basket is clean and will not soil any of the items. A box is not your best selection because it also looks a bit like a trash item.

Utilize various locations and stores for your consignment submissions – don’t be afraid to take professional clothing to a women’s shop and your clubbing clothes to the teeny-bopper places. It is important to know your audience. If your clients are looking for urban clothing, then be sure to take them items that would be categorized as urban wear. . Call the stores to determine the type of consignment they take (furniture, clothing, odds and ends, etc.) before trotting in there with a basket of clothes. You should also call the stores you plan on selling to in order to find out their purchasing policies. To find the best places for your consignment sales, go to and type in Consignment Shops into the search bar

Don’t take tags off of new clothing that you buy until the day you are going to wear it – new items often fetch a better price. Do take bright colored sales tags off of the item to ensure that your buyer thinks you paid retail, which could raise your price.

Be considerate of the current and upcoming seasons – hold on to off-season clothes. Keep them in a cool, dry place somewhere and be sure to submit them at the proper time. Off-white clothing should not be submitted in the spring and summer months. Keep those on reserve for fall and early winter. Sweaters should never be submitted during the spring and summer, but sweatshirt hoodies are usually a year-round item. Light jackets that might be worn over a t-shirt to a nice restaurant are also usually in demand year-round. Do not take holiday items except during Christmas, Halloween, and Valentines Day, respectively. American-logo items are usually passed over.

Remember that there are different types of consignment stores out there. So be smart and make inquiries before attempting to sell to a store. In general, ladies clothing will sell for less than men’s styles. So ladies – steal clothing from other closets in the house too! Men’s clothing is in high demand at consignment shops because most men do not take the time to make consignment submissions. Men also tend to be harder on their clothes and wear them longer than their female counterpart; furthermore, men’s submissions tend to be deferred more frequently unless the brand and wear is appropriate so be selective! Children’s consignment stores are also available; this can be quite a profitable market for very gently used and unworn clothing items.

Always keep in mind that the above are general rules for improving your consignment sales. You can still throw a bunch of old ratty clothes in a bag and hope for the best, but you probably won’t find the experience rewarding or profitable. Follow all applicable rules above (keep new tags on, wash stains, press items, etc.), and you will have much success in consignment sale business.

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