How Consignment Works


I am often asked about how I can afford to thrift as much as I do, they suggest my wardrobe is massive and bursting at the seams. I buy a lot of clothes, that we will admit up front. But I am buying clothing at a fraction of the retail price so you need to change your way of calculating. I only buy secondhand knowing that I get bored of things and change my style frequently. I also have the ability to open up my closet on any given day and pull out a ton of pieces that are not screaming my name.

Most people are not able to be this brutal as most people think of how much they spent and have an emotional attachment to things. The most emotional attachment I have ever felt with clothing is my inability to wear it after experiencing something traumatic or unpleasant in that outfit. For instance if someone broke your heart and the red dress was their favourite, you’re not likely going to want to wear it again because it will remind you. I have had a few items that have been tainted by experience so I need to remove them from my closet.

Don’t get me wrong I do donate a lot of items, but many items are still in great condition and worthy of generating extra cash. In working at a consignment store I know exactly what to look for and what will sell to our clientele. Each store has its own processes and requirements, so I can only speak to our way of doing things. Let me tell you a little bit about how consignment works.

Lightly worn items are brought into the store clean, pressed and ready to go on hangers. These are items that are in style, in season and purchased within the last two years. My job is to analyze each item that is brought in to decide if it is suitable for resale, quality and if we would potentially have a buyer for it. Once I decide to keep an item I change it over to our hangers and double check that there are no stains, rips or flaws. Once I have processed all the items I return the hangers along with any “no thank yous”.

As you can imagine some women are very attached to their clothing and should not consign. A common misconception is that we are a thrift store where they will make money by doing the store a service in bringing their unwanted items. This means we have women bringing in garbage bags of clothing they assume we are going to love and give them top dollar. This is just not how it works… At least not in our store.

Items that arrive in bags more often than not, are wrinkled, have fold lines, stains, tears, wrong season and very dated. Since our store is just down the street from Value Village you can make an educated guess that they were simply on route to donating these items. Our customers are looking for clothing that is currently at the mall stores, or may have been last season. They want current styles that they see in magazines but they do not want to pay the price of retail. How could I blame them?

We must be brutal in what we will accept because our customers expect it. They want that risk free experience not often found in thrift stores. We do the work for them, ensuring the items are clean and ready to wear. Sometimes shoppers wear the items from the change room all the way home because they were dissatisfied with their own clothing. We do not haggle prices, they are set low and at a rate we know they will sell. Our prices drop every two weeks by 25% which creates a competition and gamble among regular shoppers. Shoppers can wait for the final 75% off price, but more often than not, the item will sell at full price, sometimes 25% and maybe even 50%. Shoppers learn very quickly that items do not last long in our store so if you really like it, buy it. Don’t wait!

The consignor receives 40% of the selling price when an item sells. The money is placed directly onto their account which can be used in the store at any time towards a purchase or taken in cash once it reaches $10 or more. Some consignors use it as a savings account, others as their clothing allowance. This is a great way to rotate your closet! You don’t make a big pile of money, you won’t be able to get your $200 back from consigning your Coach bag, BUT you are getting some cash for an item you no longer want without the hassle of Kijiji and other classifieds websites. With consignment you are sharing money with the store.

Some items sell right away and I make a higher profit, others will sell at 75% off and I might make a dollar or two. It is a gamble in itself but every dollar helps in the grand scheme of things. You aren’t wearing the item, so pass it along. After two months we contact the consignor to collect any unsold merchandise unless they choose to donate it on to charity. We used to offer a free donation service but it was abused greatly and we ended up with several garbage bags full of clothing every day filling our tiny work space. We found we were being used as a dumping ground for people who were too lazy to deliver their unwanted soiled items to the local charity shops. In no longer offering that service we are able to donate quality rather than quantity.

When you know what the market is looking for, you can turn your thrifting into a new source of income. When you can buy the item cheap enough in the first place you might be able to turn a profit by consigning depending on the value of the item and its quality of course. Or you can use it as a way to keep your spending on par with the money made from consignment.

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