Consignment shops can be great sustainable places to re-sell or purchase slightly used or even new clothing. In many regards, consignment shops are some of the most sustainable forms of recycling due to the low impact on waste they tend to produce. The clothing goes in a simple cycle, from consignor, to consignee, to consumer.
Of course, what to expect at a typical consignment shop will vary greatly depending on the styles and types of consignment shops in question. They can range from beautiful boutique style clothing stores, hype beast shops, and even true vintage stores. I will say, however, that the vast majority of consignment shops I have seen tend to be more focused on the up-scale designer centric styles. This may be due to the fact that within these boutique types of consignment shops, one may find some great discounts on otherwise unaffordable brands.
In this article we are going to cover some of the tried-and-true basics of what one would typically find inside of a consignment shop regardless of the specific type of products they offer.
What Makes a Consignment Shop Different than a Charity Thrift Store?
I want to start by doing a little bit of classification on what a consignment shop is and what differentiates it from a typical charity thrift shop.
A consignment shop is defined as “a store that sells secondhand items (typically clothing and accessories) on behalf of the original owner, who receives a percentage of the selling price.” This is different than a charity thrift store in a couple of notable ways:
- A consignment shop typically has a carefully curated selection of products.
- You can make money by dropping off your personal items to a consignment shop.
- Consignment shops are typically for-profit businesses, however; in some instances, that is not always true.
The organization within a consignment shop is typically uncluttered and well-structured. This holds true in most shops that I have personally visited. Why are they usually so well organized? It is much easier to keep track of consigned goods inside a more well-organized setting. Remember, many consignment shops can have thousands of different products belonging to hundreds or thousands of different clients at any given time.
If a consignment shop is cluttered and disorganized, it can be a warning sign to prospective consignors. Unless the aesthetic is “organized clutter” (I have definitely seen some consignment shops master this visual) the prospective seller may be left wondering “How are they going to keep track of my stuff?” Consignment stores rely heavily on the community to supply the store with merchandise, so it is important that they gain the trust of a potential client.
Boutique style consignment shops will have a wide array of department store style fixings. Glass showcases, neat tables, and minimalist decor. While vintage consignment shops may have a good display of organized clutter. A shop should fit the vibe they’re trying to portray. I wouldn’t expect a lot of glitter and glam inside of a vintage store, for instance. On the other hand, I would still expect it to be more well organized than a run-of-the-mill charity thrift store.
Like I mentioned earlier, consignment shops will have a well-curated selection of inventory. The inventory will likely match the clientele that the store is delivering to. For example, a consignment shop in Nantucket will likely have a lot of pastel colored clothing or nautical themed home decor. A hype beast consignment shop located in the inner-city will likely have sneakers, casual clothing, and streetwear designer brands.
The products you should find in a consignment shop should fill the void between “new” and “heavily used.” Most stores will not accept items that show major, obvious signs of wear. This is important to note because you are not likely to find basement prices on the new arrivals section of your neighborhood consignment shop. We will go into pricing expectations a little further down in the article.
Couches at furniture consignment shops should resemble new couches. Dresses at the boutique consignment shop should look as close to new as possible.
You will traditionally (or I should say should not see at all) fast fashion brands or inexpensively manufactured items at a consignment shop, if they are doing their job curating products. Low priced retail merchandise just doesn’t have enough markup value on the resale market and therefore has little to no value to a consignment shop.
You should expect a good selection of desirable merchandise at the consignment store. That desirability, of course, will depend on who the target audience is geared towards at that particular location. Like I said, if you are into goth-core styled clothing, don’t be shocked if the local boutique consignment shop doesn’t carry a decent selection of what you’re interested in.
The general rule of thumb when it comes to pricing expectations should be somewhere between retail and bargain basement pricing. Consignment shop inventory as a whole, is typically between 90-95% used. Even clothing or household items that still have the tags and that are un-used should still be priced between 50-80% of retail value. Think about pricing on a department store clearance rack. I have seen some more boutique style shops that stick to near retail value and I have seen others that will go as far as 33% of retail value. The pricing should match the value that they deliver to you, the customer.
Consignment shops are places of discounted merchandise. It is not uncommon to see heavy discounts on sale racks (up to 90% off the original price tag). Usually, inventory is moving at a pretty rapid pace and new inventory is coming in hot. The stores need to make room for new arrivals and will put a good amount of inventory on clearance to make room for new merch. These sales can be great opportunities for customers to get some fantastic deals on excellent quality gems.
Consignment shops should deliver on value to prospective customers. They can justify higher prices than charity thrift stores by delivering on that value. How well the store in question performs on the following bullet points should help to determine the overall value of the pricing:
- Customer service
- Cleanliness of the store
- Selection of the merchandise (curation)
- Overall experience
If the store delivers 10/10 on all of these components, expect to pay a little higher in price.
What Makes Diversity Consignment Stand Out?
Here at Diversity Consignment, we try to differentiate in a few ways that help us stand out from the typical consignment shop experience.
Traditionally, clothing consignment shops have been cis-gendered and specialize in delivering excellent quality to either the female or male customer market exclusively. Here at Diversity Consignment, we have broken down the barrier of that exclusivity and welcome a non-binary shopping experience for all genders. Honestly, most people won’t really even notice this difference upon entrance because the racks are simply organized by inventory type (sweaters, hoodies, jackets, etc.) and size. This may not be the ideal layout for everyone, and we embrace that.
Another differentiator we offer is the products that we curate. In many regards it would be difficult to classify the inventory under one simple classification. We showcase boutique brands, instruments, vintage styles, vinyl records, and most importantly local artwork and custom creations. Really what we try to offer are things that our prospective customers would want to purchase. We try to communicate as best that we can with our existing customers and analyze the data on what is selling to narrow-down our future selections and curations. Again, our inventory is not likely for everyone, and we understand that.
We offer a calendar of events on our website and have a range of interactive activities for you to do while shopping! Swing by some time to shop or consign with us when you’re in the Boston area!
Consignment shops are fantastic places to stay frugal and in-style regardless of the type of consignment shop and what they offer. I would suggest finding one that aligns with your style and values, if possible. Don’t go in thinking you’re going to pay GoodWill prices; the consignment shops work hard to curate top-quality inventory and oftentimes work extra hard to make the inventory presentable.
The secondhand industry is continuing to grow as people become more aware of the impacts their spending has on the local community and the environmental impacts. Do us all a favor and support your local consignment shop!