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Consignment stores can stretch your budget. Some also will sell your gently used clothes and other items.

Consignment shopping and selling makes good economic sense with ever-growing kids who are, let’s face it, ever-growing out of their clothes. Consignment stores offer an alternative to the throw-away society by reusing clothes, shoes, toys and furniture that are just too good to toss.Here are consignment shopping and selling tips from store owners.

Consignment Store Shopping

Shop ahead for the best seasonal selections. Start shopping two to three months before the season begins. “Usually, we buy for winter in August, but we also try to have things available when you still need them late in a season,” says Lise Esper, co-owner with husband Matt of 2nd Chance Resale and Consignment in Bear, DE. “For example, I have people buying Halloween costumes from August through Halloween.”

However, according to Julie Segal and Jill Segal Baim, co-owners of Twice as Nice Children’s Consignment Boutique in Narberth, PA, “Our merchandise changes daily so it’s always a good time.”

The same holds true at Worn Yesterday in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia. “People drop in weekly, sometimes three times a week,” says owner Davida Levin. “You never know what’s coming in.” Her store, which sells maternity and kids’ clothes through pre-teen sizes, changes over its merchandise Feb. 1 for spring-summer clothing and Aug. 1 for fall-winter.

Call ahead to see what’s available. “We recommend that you call or e-mail, especially for something specific,” says Esper. “In fact, we print out a ‘wish list’ several times a week, and match items up as they come in.”

Even if shoppers don’t call beforehand, store owners say they have a good assortment of sizes and styles in their shops most times. Kids can try on clothes in most consignment stores.

How do prices compare with retail stores? “It varies, usually about 50 percent or less of the original cost,” says Judy Kennedy, owner of Room To Grow in Medford, NJ. “Most of my consignment pieces are under a third of the original retail price,” says Levin. “Brand new items are a little higher than a third of retail. “We sell a lot of new things from stores that over-order.”

Segal says, “Twice as Nice’s merchandise is less than half of the retail price. New stuff with tags is still going to be considerably reduced.”

What are return/exchange policies? Most consignment stores accept no returns or exchanges, unless the item was damaged before purchase.

However, 2nd Chance Resale and Consignment “offers seven days to return for cash back, and after that store credit,” says Esper, However, equipment (such as baby furniture) needs to be returned within three days.”

Other shopping tips: We get a lot of new clothes through closeouts, and new toys too. It’s a gold mine, so look often,” says Kennedy.

“Make a list beforehand, and be willing to mix and match,” says Esper. “Also, children’s sizing is just like women’s sizing. There is no consistency between brands. Measure the inseam of pants that fit for comparison.”

Consignment Store Selling

What brands do consignment stores accept? Each store is different. Room To Grow favors boutique clothing, while 2nd Chance Resale and Consignment takes most brands. Twice as Nice falls in the middle, preferring mid-range merchandise, such as the Gap, to high end. Worn Yesterday buys only from manufacturers and stores.

All clothes must be new to gently worn, and clean without any spots or other damage. Everyday clothing, especially toddler sizes, sells best.

Some stores also sell toys and furniture. “We check every piece of equipment as it comes in for all current recalls and safety guidelines,” says Esper. “High chairs and pack-and-plays are especially popular; I could buy them five times a day and sell them the same day.”

When is the best to bring in items? The same rules apply for selling as for shopping — merchandise is accepted anytime, but a few months before the season begins is best. Some stores require appointments, some do not, but all say phoning ahead is appreciated, especially if sellers have large items to carry in. Bringing clothing in separate from toys and equipment is also helpful.

What percentage do you get, and how soon? Sixty days is generally the norm for displaying consignment merchandise, though Room To Grow shows items for an entire season. The percentage split on sales is typically 50 to 60 percent store / 40 to 50 percent seller.

 To Find a Store

  • Online: Go to Google or superpages.com and search for “consignment” plus a city and state and what you’re looking for, such as “children” or “’women’s.”
     
  • Phone Book: Check the Yellow Pages under “Consignment”

Stores will pay clients only for consignment items that sell, generally by check either monthly or quarterly. Sellers are also responsible for checking in at the end of the contract period and picking up unsold items – otherwise stores will donate merchandise to charities.

An exception is Second Chance Resale and Consignment, which buys the majority of clothes outright and offers a 50-50 split on equipment. “It’s more consumer-friendly to pay people up front,” says Esper, “and it’s a lot easier given the volume of clothes we have to take in to meet the demands of our customers.”

Pamela Barroway is a local freelance writer.

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