A well run consignment shop is a thing of beauty. For buyers, it provides the thrill of the hunt and the exhilaration of getting a deal. For sellers, the thrill is making money on things you no longer needed. Do a little research before you consign your goods and you can make those consignment checks bigger.
Like any other retailer, each consignment shop has its own style. Make a list of shops in your area by talking to friends and searching on the internet. A retailer’s website should list consignment policies and give you some idea how they market goods above and beyond their bricks and mortar location. Although a well-designed website does not always guarantee a well-run store, it does show that the owner is a professional who pays attention to detail and appearances.
A store visit is next. While you’re browsing and reminding yourself you’re there to sell, not buy, think about these questions:
- What’s your first reaction? Is the store appealing from first glimpse?
- Is the merchandise well displayed?
- Will the items you’re selling fit in well with the other merchandise?
- Is the staff friendly and helpful if you ask questions about merchandise? Are they knowledgeable? Or are they overly attentive to the point of annoying or disengaged and unwelcoming?
- Does the pricing seem fair to both buyer and seller?
- Are there other customers browsing?
- If it’s a store that does markdowns after 30 and 60 days, have many items have been there long enough to reach discount dates?
Once you’ve narrowed the list of contenders, it’s time to talk to store management and get explanations of all their policies:
- How many items can be consigned at one appointment?
- Do they provide pick-up service and is there a fee?
- How long is the consignment period?
- Are there automatic markdowns?
- Can you reclaim unsold merchandise at the end of the consignment period? Don’t assume this is the case. Some stores require items to be donated and some stipulate that unsold good become property of the store.
- What is the consignment commission?
- Are there any other fees?
- How often are consignment sale checks mailed out?
- Who sets the prices and how are they set?
- Do they market merchandise online by posting images on their own website or listing items on Craigslist?
- Who are their primary customers and what are the best selling categories of items?
If you like what you’ve seen and heard, make a consignment appointment. You may decide to divide your stuff between two or three consignment shops so you can capitalize on each shop’s specialty. Keep a list of what you’ve left at each shop, and make sure the list provided by the store includes matches yours.
At the appointment, be open-minded. But don’t be afraid to decide not to leave things if the price the owner suggests is too low for your liking. Be realistic, your goal is to turn things you aren’t using into cash, but if you’re really disappointed with the pricing for an item or two and the owner isn’t flexible, take them home and think about it. And don’t be surprised if you come away from an appointment with things the shop owner declines. A good shop owner knows her clientele and will only accept those things he or she knows she can sell.
Mark the date your consignment period ends on your calendar. Visit the store shortly before to see how much remains and make an appointment to either pack up unsold merchandise yourself or to have larger pieces picked up by professionals, unless you prefer to donate them. Non-profits will often offer pick up service with enough advance notice.