Thrift shops. Second hand stores. Garage sales.
When it comes to saving money, buying used and second-hand items are the smart saver’s bread and butter.
A great way to not only save, but EARN a bit of extra cash is through the world of consignment.
Like a thrift store, pre-loved goods are resold at a fraction of the price they were purchased for.
However, unlike thrift stores, consignment stores pay the seller for their goods.
There are various types of consignment businesses ranging from children’s clothing and gear, to sportswear and household goods. So take a look through your closet, declutter and trade in your forgotten-about items for quick cash.
How to get paid
There are usually two ways consignment stores will pay sellers for their goods:
- Cash upfront
- Payment upon sale
My preferred method is to get the cash upfront. Most stores will have a set price list for their items like "shoes," “high chairs,” etc.
A consignment store will make you an offer based on the name brand, demand and quality of your item. Usually, they will offer somewhere between 25-50% of the price they will sell your items for.
The percentage is usually higher if you choose to take store credit ‒ but if you don’t need to buy anything, take the cash.
Payment upon sale
Another method of payment is a deferred system where you will be asked to come back to collect the commissions AFTER your item is sold. Usually, you will be given a login to an online system where you can see how much your item is sold for.
The benefit to deferred payment is that the commission percentage is often higher for the seller, however there are times your item may not sell until it is deeply discounted.
Receiving 50% commissions of an item that has already been discounted several times may not be as profitable as receiving 30% off the full price you could have received if the money was paid upfront.
There are also times when your item doesn’t sell at all, which means you are given the option to take back the item or have it donated.
Before choosing a payment method, think about whether you need the money now or if you would rather risk deferred payment for a potentially higher payout.
6 ways to maximize your consignment profits
Here are some general tips and tricks to maximize your consignment profits:
1. Research stores in your area
Before raiding your home, look up what consignment stores exist in your area.
Doing a quick online search for consignment stores in my city resulted in a dozen different options, ranging from furniture and vintage items to children’s clothing and household goods.
This quick research should give you an idea of what to search for as you collect items from your home.
2. Sell quality products
As you gather items, ensure they are in good to excellent condition.
As cute as your baby’s first wool coat is, nobody wants to buy a soiled piece of clothing. The fact of that matter is consignment stores are quite picky and only want items in clean and excellent condition.
If there is a small stain, spot clean it with detergent and let it soak for a day or two. But if the stain remains, don’t consider it for consignment.
3. Straighten up
If the items you find are clean, but need a bit of dusting or have a few loose threads hanging off them, dust and cut them before taking them in.
Just because you received a perfume that wasn’t to your taste this Christmas doesn’t mean another person won’t appreciate it.
Don’t forget about things like belts, scarves, hair accessories and beauty products that are in unused condition. My local women’s consignment store takes everything from unopened tubes of mascara and nail polish to shampoo bottles.
I also tend to collect a ton of free deluxe-sized samples when I buy my beauty products, which I can often sell for a small profit.
5. Know what to sell
Before heading to the store, find out which items the consignment store accepts. If it’s the middle of spring, it’s not the time to take in winter boots.
However, sometimes in the middle of winter, clothing stores might accept bathing suits and maxi dresses due to people heading south for vacation. Check out the store’s website or call ahead to get the full scoop on acceptable items.
6. Unload properly
Figure out how each consignment store accepts items and if you need to make an appointment beforehand.
Some clothing stores prefer all clothing to be brought in on individual hangers while others might want it folded in one large bag.
Some furniture consignment stores may also want to see an item beforehand and may require you to send photos of the various items you are interested in consigning to determine whether they are interested or have room in their store for your items.
This will save you the trip of bringing items they are not interested in.
6 things to remember to boost your consignment savings
Shopping for things you need at a consignment store can be a really great way to stretch a buck and find unique items.
I appreciate how discerning most consignment stores are as it makes me feel confident that whatever I am buying is in great condition and on trend.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping consignment:
1. You can still buy brand new
Occasionally, I will find items with the tags still on them, especially when it comes to kids clothing and toys. These brand-new items can make great gifts for baby or wedding showers and no one will ever know you paid a fraction of the price for them.
2. Exchange and return items
Most consignment stores also have some sort of return or exchange policy. Their policies are usually more restricted than big box stores, however the prices still make it worthwhile to shop.
3. Get an added discount
If you have items on consignment, there are often benefits to shopping in store. Sometimes, they will give you a higher store credit percentage than simply taking the cash for your items, or you can save a portion of the tax when buying something from their inventory.
4. It’s not always the best deal
There are occasions when buying at big box stores are more cost effective than buying used. Shopping end-of-season clearances can often make brand new items seem more cost effective than buying through consignment.
5. Know when to buy new
I typically buy kids shoes brand new since they go through so much wear and tear.
If I buy shoes on consignment for my son, there is usually little chance they will last long enough for me to pass them down to his brother.
The only exception is infant and crib shoes which are more cost effective to buy through consignment since they are usually in brand-new condition at a fraction of the price. (Let’s be honest, baby shoes are typically more for show than practical purposes.)
6. "Consignment" doesn’t mean “cheap”
Although people might associate cheap or low quality with "used" goods, I find the opposite is true.
Since accepted items must be in great condition, they typically have proven the test of time as worthwhile pieces. Many of the clothes that are still standing in my closet after years of serving me are high quality, name brand items that I purchased through consignment.
Wrapping it up
Next time you need to buy something, check out the inventory at your latest consignment store before heading to the mall.
You might just find that unique, pre-loved piece that perfects your closet or home.