A gathering place for moms in Upstate South Carolina
Its consignment season again! You ready to tag? You ready to shop? Do you even know what consignment sales are? Well, I'm a huge fan and I thought I'd share some tricks and tips.
Around our area, there are plenty of consignment sales, each usually occurring a couple times a year – once for Spring/Summer clothes and once for Fall/Winter clothes. I have been to three all in the Greenville area – Switcharoos (www.switcharoosconsignment.com) held at the Carolina First Center (formerly the Palmetto Expo Center), My Child’s Closet (www.mychildsclosetinc.com) held at the Elk’s Lodge on Pelham Road, and Angel’s Attic (http://www.smmcc.org/page.asp?p_key=7FF9B5B9011545FF898468111198916A) held at Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic Church. There are plenty more around this area….those are just the ones I’ve been to and the ones I’ll talk about from experience here. I’ve also been a consigner at Switcharoos, which is something I plan on doing from now on. Yes, it’s an addiction!
What are you looking for?
The first thing to know about shopping consignment sales is know what you are looking for. Are kids clothes the main thing you are looking for? Shoes? Coats? Halloween costumes? Toys? Baby equipment? Whichever one it is, head there first and spend time looking. These sales are held in huge rooms, there are always lots of people, and it can be confusing for a first timer. Last year, I took a friend of mine with me who had never been to a consignment sale. Silly me, I’m taking her to Switcharoos, the biggest one! She walked in and balked, looked all around, and exclaimed “oh my!” I should have warned her! She was so overwhelmed she only found a couple of things to buy before just wanting to go home. So, before you go, go through your kids’ closets and know what they need for the upcoming season. If their toy closets are full, skip that area. If it’s a high chair you really need, go there first before looking through all the clothes.
A good idea is to make a list of what you need. Sure you know you need clothes for the kids. But again, don’t take the “overwhelming-ness” factor for granted! You might totally go blank on what size shoe your kid is currently in or if you already bought a Christmas dress on clearance last year. Or you might want to look for a sweater vest to go over that red checkered shirt for a holiday picture. A list might save you from forgetting the very items you came to the sale for in the first place.
Know what is a good find
Have an idea of what the items you want cost brand new. At a consignment sale, you only want to pay 30% or less of what an item would cost brand new. Last consignment sale, I was looking for a specific double stroller. Before I went, I looked it up on Babies R Us and Amazon websites. I also looked for it on craigslist to get an idea of what it went for used. The one I wanted was $150 brand new and I saw one on craigslist for $70. I liked the idea of being able to see it and play with it in person at the consignment sale. Well, I found one but the asking price was $100. It was in good condition, but if I’m going to pay that much for an item, I’d rather use a 20% off coupon at Babies R Us and buy it new, paying not much more than what this consigner was asking. So no, that was not a good asking price. Now a good find for me – footed PJs from The Children’s Place for just $2 each. This is ¼ of what they cost in the store (I knew they were 3 for $24 there) and while they were not brand new, they looked barely worn. My son loved these PJs when he was still in diapers and I was glad to find them.
Think about the rarely used, but must have items
If we are lucky, we get snow here once or twice a year. So of course we want snow clothes and boots that will fit our children who will be eager to get out and play when or if the time comes. But heavy winter/snow attire is expensive to buy for something that may only be worn once while in that size. This is a prime example of a good item to buy at consignment sales. The first things I look for in the winter sales for my sons are boots for rain and snow, huge thick jackets, and waterproof snow pants. That way, we have them for a fraction of the new cost if we need them and if we never use them, well, it isn’t a huge loss.
Don’t forget about upcoming holidays and events
Consignment sales are a great place to find those adorable Christmas dresses and jon-jons for much less than what you would pay at a boutique. And you know that these outfits were worn just a couple of times too. At some consignment sales, boutique stores sell their last year’s inventory to try to make some profit themselves. I don’t like to spend a lot of money on kids’ clothes, but I do like one really nice holiday outfit. I just cannot bring myself to spend $60 on an outfit for a 2-year-old, no matter how cute it might be. But that $60 outfit a year old (still with tags!) can sometimes be found at consignment sales for just $15 or $20!
Also keep in mind other holidays. Not only can you find an array of Halloween costumes (also think about dress up clothes for kids like princess dresses and fireman outfits when browsing the Halloween section), but you can find regular Halloween, Christmas, and maybe even Thanksgiving t-shirts for kids to wear to school. My son loved his jack-o-lantern t-shirt last year and I loved his “I love Mummy” shirt for Halloween. Both were just about $3!
For summertime, I have found patriotic onesies, t-shirts, and jon-jons that make great outfits for the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, and maybe even Election Day. Also for summer, I’ve found Braves and Greenville Drive t-shirt jerseys for in case we make it to any games. And of course you can find cute beach themed outfits for those beach trip photos!
Know your children’s sizes
This sounds easy enough, but at consignment sales with a lot of different brands and stores represented, it can be hard to know exactly what size to look in. Boutique clothing often runs small, with a 2T outfit fitting more like an 18 month size on most children. And don’t forget we never know when a growth spurt will hit our kids! Also, some kids wear a different size shirt than pants. My older son has a tiny waist, but is a little tall for his age, so he’s a size bigger in shirts than pants. A good idea I have seen shoppers do is to bring a tape measure. First, measure your child or some of their clothes that fit them well at home (do this with shirts, pants, dresses, etc.), then measure the clothes you find when shopping the consignment sale. Keep in mind how they might grow and you’ll find some good fitting clothes.
Grab and sort later
Bring something to put all your finds in. A stroller (without the child in it!), rolling basket, or a big laundry basket with a belt attached to its handle (this makes for easy dragging) will all work. After you are finished making your clothing picks, find a place to sit and sort. This is the perfect time to do that measuring I mentioned above. You can also look closer at each item to make sure there are no stains or tears. And you can compare items. Did you get too many khaki pants? Do you really need that Christmas dress for $20? Here is your chance to see which pieces you really want and compare their prices.
Prepare for lines
The first two nights before the sale starts are volunteer night and consigner night, which means volunteers and consigners get to go before the sale opens to the public. The lines are usually insanely long. The last day of the sale is usually half price day, which brings large crowds and lines too. Just be prepared. Stand in line with a friend and you can take turns taking items back you decide you didn’t want (there are usually also racks at check out for you to return items to and volunteers who will put them back). Chances are you will make friends with people around you. I’ve know people who arranged playdates with new friends they make standing in line!
Be a consigner!
Once you visit a consignment sale, you’ll probably be interested enough to be a consigner yourself. Visit each sale’s website for detailed consigner information. Some have online processes to enter your items for either free or a fee. Some you have to make tagging appointments and label everything there. Either way can take a while, but it can be fun. Once your child is through with clothes, equipment, and toys, set them aside for consignment. Everything must be in good condition. Clothes cannot have stains or rips. They must be cleaned, ironed, and on hangers. Toys and equipment must work and be clean. Pricing is usually left up to you. I always like to price items how I think I would pay for something. The guideline is about 20 - 30% of what you paid for it.
Every sale is different, but most breakdowns are 65/35 split meaning you get 65% of the selling price. Personally, I like Switcharoos for their online tagging system. I can go through items at my leisure at home and then get the labels in the mail to attach. Because everything is online, I can check my sales each evening during the sale. They also allow you to determine which of your items you want in the half off sale and what will be donated if not sold at the end of the sale.
So as you can see, there is an art to consignment sale shopping! Once you go, you’ll either love it or hate it! But there is no denying you can find some great deals as a consignment sale shopper. Give one a try. I guarantee you’ll find it an experience regardless! I’m off to Switcharoos this weekend and My Child’s Closet next month. How about you?