Impact Dash: Consignment Sales Part One

>> Monday, February 22, 2010

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Consignment Sales
Part One: Shopping

Consignment sales are popping up all of the country from churches to local mother’s groups. The basic concept of a consignment sale is families selling their gently used children items at a centralized location. The sponsor keeps a cut of the profits and the families get a check for their sold items and the satisfaction of a clean closet. The primary difference between a consignment sale and a consignment shop is the length of the sale. A typical sale last less than a week, has a larger selection, and boasts lower prices than a shop.

There are more reasons than simple economics to consignment shop. Consignment sales reduce waste by reusing toys, clothes, and shoes. Furthermore, little to no packaging waste is present from these items. Most toys are out of the package and ready for play. But we must not forget the personal benefit of not having to assemble the toys and fight with the torturous twisty ties. After all these are a parent’s arch nemesis.

I remember exactly when my Mommy friend introduced me to the world of consignment sales in February 2008. I was six months pregnant with my daughter and determined to raise her on a limited and eco-friendly budget. My friend Baker said she had just the place for me: consignment sales. I didn’t even know these existed in a context other than my local thrift store. But Baker had been consignment sale shopping since she was pregnant. With her recent decision to be a stay at home Mom, she found it a necessary task to help maintain their current lifestyle. She now volunteers and sells at a handful of sales around the area.

When I walked into the warehouse style building it was liked I had walked into the pearly gates of Mommy heaven. But heaven was a bit overwhelming. Every item imaginable for children, newborn to teenager, was within view. I was an amateur at the time, and just wandered around grabbing what I thought was a good deal and throwing it into a stroller. I remember looking over at Baker and wondering how she seemed to be doing so much better than me. Of course her daughter was six months old at the time and she had obviously been to more than one of these sales. With list in hand, and a sense of focus, she trucked on and ended up with more than one envy-worthy deal. Over the year I have become quite the professional consignment shopper, and can clothe my child for an entire season for about 150 dollars. This includes holiday dresses!

There are some definite tricks of the trade to be a successful consignment shopper. This is not an instance you can go in blindly and wander the racks for the deals as I once did. At least not if you want to come out with items you actually need. Here are a few secrets to effective consignment shopping:

1. Early shopping. Look into early shopping opportunities. For example, a lot of sales will let volunteers, sellers, first time mothers, mothers of multiples, or pregnant mothers shop a day early. Just search the website and register. This guarantees you get the best loot and the crowds are smaller.

2.Map. Obtain a map of the sale layout. This is especially useful in larger sales. This will keep you focused and prevent aimless wandering. The sales are fairly busy so keeping focus is important in the madness.

3. Lists, lists, lists. Pre-plan by making a list of all your needs/wants. For example, in January I look for spring/summer clothes for my toddler including shorts, short sleeve shirts and sandals. Sales are usually bi-annual and seasonal making this task easier. Be as detailed as you can by listing the number of a certain item you need (i.e. five pairs of shorts, two pairs of jeans, white sandals). Use your map to locate where listed items are located and plan accordingly.

4. Research. If your kid loves the kitchen at Susie Q’s, note the make and model and tuck it away. Even better look up the retail price, that way you know if you are getting a good deal. It is not unusual to see a few of the same toy with different prices. Knowing in advance the new price will help you determine if it is a good deal for the condition it is in.

5. Think Big. Big ticket items should be your first stop. I remember when I was looking for a wagon for Lil’ E it was impossible to find. This is a hot consignment buy. Clothing should be your last stop. Just like any good sale, the good stuff goes first!

6. Think Fancy. I buy all of Lil’ E’s special occasion attire at consignment sales. Every Easter, Christmas, or portrait dress has been second hand. The reasoning? These are items your kid only wears once. That means the other kid probably only wore it once as well. They are always in great shape, and they are easy to spot on the racks. I usually don’t pay more than $5-15 dollars for a dress on consignment where at retail prices would cost me no less than $50. Don’t forget dress shoes!

7. Bring a stroller and reusable bags. Carts are not usually provided so this is an excellent way to cart your goodies while shopping. If you are just clothing shopping a large reusable shopping bag is extremely handy. Also beware that some sales charge you for bags, and they are mandatory for security reasons. If you bring your own you can avoid the added cost.

8. Bring a friend, but leave your children at home if you can. The lines can be long during core hours so be prepared to wait. A friend to chat with, or divide and conquer, can be a valuable tool. If you do have to bring your children, be prepared with entertainment such as a favorite book, and a few snacks.

These combined with a little bit of practice can help you to be an effective shopper. It is very easy to be overwhelmed or get wrapped up in the excitement of it all and end up with a huge pile of items you didn’t necessarily need. If you do feel overwhelmed just refer back to your list and ask yourself if you really need it.

Remember to wash all of your clothes when you get home, and wipe down all toys with a disinfectant prior to play.


Susan February 24, 2010 at 12:27 PM  

That's some great advice. I've actually never gone to a consignment sale. I'm not one who likes big crowds. however, if we find out this one is a boy, I'll definitely need to get a lot more stuff!