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September 16, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Consignment Shop Fashion: A Guide to Thrifting

By Anne Christen More Blogs by This Author

Consignment shops have earned a reputation that has forced some to change their business practices or even close their doors. A few of these shops have been accused of selling fraudulent items and not paying those who consign with them. Customers also complain that many consignment shops maintain higher prices on used items than traditional retail store do on new ones. With retail still a weak field, many box stores have responded by offering desirable items at highly discounted items.

But consignment stores serve a purpose, especially for people seeking thrills at the opportunity for a deal. While you might be able to find some great deals at the clearance rack, the items you find are bound to be leftovers from the previous season. Chances are that if you’re shopping in October, you don’t need a yellow tank top for $5. Also, if you’re in need of money and have furniture or clothing pieces of your own to sell, consignment stores can fluff your pockets with extra cash. The trick is to be savvy in any dealings you have with a consignment shop, whether you’re shopping or selling.

Name Brands

When you hit the consignment stores, don’t expect to find a pair of Prada shoes for $20. Designer footwear can retail for up $1,000, so expect to pay about $250, even for used items. That’s a lot of money for an article of clothing, meaning you might want to change your shopping frame-of-mind. Choose to bargain shop to find attractive, gently-used items you can afford rather than a Chanel jacket or pair of Michael Kors jeans. If you happen upon one of these garments within your budget, snag it. Otherwise, look for pieces – whether name brand or not – that are simply in good condition and meet your personal criteria for a bargain.

If you do find a garment or accessory with name brand tags, ask the store’s proprietor what he or she knows about it. Previous lawsuits involving consignment shops from around the country prove that shoppers are sometimes misled by fraudulent sales, so not every garment with a Louis Vuitton or Coach label is authentic. You can avoid being scammed by asking simple questions. “When did this come into your shop” or “Is this from a reputable seller” respectfully show that you’re a smart buyer. If you don’t like the answers to these questions, steer clear of the garment and look for something else.

A Subtle Difference

Understand the difference between a consignment shop and a thrift store so you know the types of items likely to be available from each. The former is more particular about the items it accepts for selling, often scheduling appointments with potential buyers and limiting the number of pieces they bring in to make the selection process go more quickly. As a result, items are more comparable to what you find in retail stores – some things even still have the tags on them. But a thrift shop is usually run by a charitable organization and most of the items that they accept are donated. Therefore, selectivity is not as high as with a consignment shop, although prices are likely to be even more affordable.

Study Up

If you plan to sell items with a consignment shop, it's important to do your homework. The Internet can help you find a store’s Better Business Bureau report as well as valuable information like customer complaints and disputes. Don’t ignore what you read; if customers have had previous problems with an establishment, find another store with a better reputation. Many consignment shops are run by ethical business professionals who want to sell your items as quickly as possible. But not all of these people are honest, so you’ll need to be armed with as much information about the store as possible.

While doing your investigative work, take time to read the rules and regulations of selling with the individual consignment shops in which you’re interested. Most of them charge different commissions - ranging anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of an item’s sale price – and typically discount items after 30 and 60 days respectively. Have all of this information at your fingertips before you sign a contract so that you know exactly what you’re getting into. Once you do commit to a store, keep copies of your paperwork with a detailed list of those items you consigned in case a problem or dispute does arise.

Persistence Is Key

Stay in touch with the consignment store, and ask questions about your items. Don’t wait for a full 30 days to pass before you receive an update; call once weekly and let them know you’re checking in to see if your merchandise has sold. This is the best way to stay abreast of the store’s activities and to know whether or not you’ve made any money.

Thrifted Fashion Statements

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