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Consignment Sales…tips for buying and selling

‘Tis the season for spring consignment sales!  If you’ve never shopped at a consignment sale, you are in for quite an experience.  Consignment stores, open year round, are different from consignment sales, which are typically held for only a few days or a weekend and are usually held bi-annually. Consignment sales are a fun way to purchase the next season’s clothing for your child at great prices.  The clothing is gently used and priced by the original owner/seller, whereas at a consignment store the prices are set by the shop.  Many people are familiar with consignment stores, which are similar to shopping at a boutique or small shop only the items are second hand.  There are some fantastic consignment stores in the Bucks and Montgomery County areas and New Jersey.  Consignment sales are held seasonally and are another way to shop for your child while staying on a budget.

While many shoppers go to consignment sales and shops for new kid wardrobes at a good price, they are also great places to pick up those baby items that are only used for a short time period and sold gently used, such as bouncy seats, play mats, bumbo seats, swings, co-sleepers and pack and plays.  High chairs, strollers, baby gates, toddler beds, books, cloth diapers, feeding supplies, and bedding for babies and toddlers are great finds at these sales and also found for good prices.  Outdoor toys are another great buy, since many times these items are only used for a season or two before being outgrown.

Mama’s Little Helper has a listing of area consignment stores and consignment sales.  Check out both lists and check out a few this spring to discover some great bargains.

Consignment sales can be overwhelming if you’ve never been to one.  Here are some shopping tips to help get you started to a successful shopping experience:

  • Know your kid’s sizes, including shoe size and bring them written down, especially if you are shopping for more than one child. Remember that you will be most likely purchasing clothing for the next season.  If your child is currently on the border of a size it may help to buy the next size larger.  Sometimes bringing your child’s measurements is easier, especially since sizing from different manufacturers varies. Bring a tape measure with you to compare your child’s measurements to the items you are interested in purchasing.  Good measurements to have include length from back of neck to hem for dresses, pants length, inseam, waist, hip, and chest.  Land’s End has a great sizing chart that may be helpful for obtaining and understanding your child’s measurements.  If you are unsure of current shoe size, stop by a shoe store to have your child measured before the sale or trace your child’s foot onto cardboard and bring it with you to “try on” shoes without the child present.
  • To make shopping easier, leave your kids home, if possible.  It really makes it much easier to shop.  Consignment sales are often huge and crowded.  I’ve been there when kids have been lost and that isn’t a good experience for anyone.
  • If you can, bring a laundry basket or large tote bag(s) to hold your items while you shop.  Those blue Ikea bags or reusable grocery bags are great too.  I’ve even seen people shopping with a clean large plastic trash can on wheels!
  • If there are particular items you are looking for, it helps to make a wish list.  Sales floors are often crowded and it can be easy to be overwhelmed.  A list adds a bit of order to the trip and may help you stay on budget.
  • Is there a special occasion coming up (Holiday, photos, wedding) that you will need dress clothes for your child?  Consignment sales are wonderful places to pick up dress clothing, shoes and accessories.  They are often only worn once, so can be resold for like-new at a fraction of the original cost.
  • Shop early, shop often!  Going on the opening day will give you a better chance of finding items that are on your wish list.  Many times the last day of the sale is the discount day when most items are half off the listed price.
  • Consider volunteering to work at your favorite consignment sale.  Typically, volunteers get to shop first on a special night before the sale opens to the public.  It’s a great way to get the first pass at the goods for sale.  If you cannot volunteer, but are considering consigning some of your things for the sale, there is usually a sales time set aside for consignors to shop after the volunteers, but before the sale opens to the public.
  • Make sure you have money!  Check the rules of the sale you are attending ahead of time to learn what forms of payment they take so that you do not have problems making your purchases.   Many sales are cash only, so if you are like me and use a debit card for everything, be sure to hit the ATM on your way to the sale.  Using cash also makes it easier to stick to a budget!
  • Be aware of brands and pricing of items.  You do not want to overpay for an item that you could get brand new on sale or at Marshall’s.  I’ve often found what I thought were great buys only to be disappointed to find out I could have purchased an item new at Kohl’s on sale.  Typically, if an item is in like-new to good condition, expect to pay about 25 to 33% of the original price.  Many times there are items for sale that are new with tags.  Expect to pay a bit more for brand new items.
  • Once you have picked out the items you are interested in buying, really check them out in good light, if possible, or even with a flashlight. Check seams and underarms for holes; look for stains that are unacceptable, zippers and snaps that work, or worn out knees/elbows.  Usually the consignment sale’s rules restrict torn or stained clothing from being sold, but sometimes they slip in, so it helps to carefully inspect before you buy, since there is usually a no return policy.  For purchasing toys, be sure all parts are included and in working order.  I’ve had the experience of not carefully inspecting toys only to get home and find parts broken that were not obvious.  If an item is taped shut, ask a salesperson/volunteer to open the item to let you inspect it.  Be courteous and do not take apart taped up boxes or packages!
  • If you are looking to purchase a car seat, check the expiration date on the bottom of the seat.  When buying, you are taking a slight risk that the seller is honest and that the seat was never involved in an accident.

Are you interested in consigning items at a local sale?  Being a consignor has some great advantages.  Besides getting rid of kid-related clutter in your house, saving items from a landfill by recycling them and making some money off of them, you can shop at the sale early, before the public, to get some great deals.  Here are some tips for being a consignor at a local sale:

  • Check out the consignor agreement or rules for the sale you are interested in participating.  Sign up early for the sale, since many sales limit the number of consignors due to space constraints.  Each sale has its own rules regarding what can be sold, how it should be tagged, how it should be hung on a hanger and so on.  Read the Rules!!  Not following them means your items will not sell.  The rules will also cover what percentage of the sales you will make and what the consignor fees are, if any.
  • Consignors are usually assigned a number for selling.  It helps to keep the same consignor number from sale to sale.  When signing up to consign at a sale again, check to see if you can keep your number.  That way, if you pick up and keep your unsold items at the end of the sale, you can easily relist them at the next sale without having to re-ticket them.
  • At the end of each season when you are sorting through your child’s clothing, sort the items into piles…one to keep, one to donate, one to sell.  Be picky about the ones that you sell.  Make sure they are in good condition, not torn or stained.  Think, would you buy the item used?
  • Found some great items but they have stains?  Try treating the stain and washing the items again.  Many times this works.  Also, iron or steam out the wrinkles of your clothes.  Button the buttons, zipper the zippers.  A nicer presentation will sell more easily.  Clean up shoes and tie the laces.  Selling used toys or baby goods?  Wash them too.  No one wants to buy a toy covered in juice or crayon.  Often toys are easily cleaned up with a magic eraser sponge or soap and water.  Keep in mind the condition of the items that you are willing to buy and be sure that your sale items are in just as good condition.
  • If selling a two piece outfit, it helps to make sure both pieces are attached well so they will not separate during the sale.  Safety pin the pieces together and wrap a rubber band or twist tie around the two hangers to keep them attached.  When selling toys with many parts, place the parts in a sealed plastic bag and tape it shut.  Clear packing tape works great to keep toy parts together that do not fit in bags.  Use plastic bags (such as Ziploc) to contain onesies, socks, underwear, shoes, or other small items.  Tape the bags shut so that buyers are not tempted to take the contents apart, resulting in loss sometimes.
  • Price your items to sell.  Set aside your emotions for a cute outfit, as the buyer will not know that the sweater your little one wore in his first photo was special to you.   If an item is priced too high, it will not sell.  Also, consider the brand.  A Circo brand tee shirt that was $4 new will not sell for more than $1 usually.  On the other hand, a higher end sweater that cost $25 will not sell for $20.  A general guideline for pricing is 25-33% of the original selling price, depending upon brand and condition.  Selling a new item with tags could fetch 50% or more of the original price.  Always keep in mind when pricing, “would I pay that for this item?”
  • If you are unsure of how to price used toys, baby equipment, outdoor equipment, and so on, check out prices on Craig’s List or Ebay to see what used items are going for currently and use them as a guideline.
  • When packing up your items to take to the sale, it helps to have a hand truck and those stretchy jump cords.  Use plastic totes or boxes and stack them.  It makes it much easier on your back to bring in your items.  Many sales also require that you distribute your items on the sales floor.  Having your items sorted by size and sex ahead of time makes the distribution process much faster.

This list of tips is certainly not inclusive.  Please feel free to leave your own tips for buying and selling at consignment sales in the comments section to help others out.  Happy Shopping!

Mama Diane

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