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Back to Basics: How to Sell to Consignment Shops

We got tips straight from the pros.
Gift of Garb in Los Angeles. Photo: Gift of Garb

Gift of Garb in Los Angeles. Photo: Gift of Garb

"Basic" may have adapted a negative connotation in recent years, but there's no shame in seeking advice on theoretically simple sartorial conundrums. In our latest column, "Back to Basics," we're here to guide you through life's most common (and important) fashion and beauty concerns.

Everyone's out here trying to make a buck, and if you shop as much as we do, you can eventually turn those high-end purchases into cash with the help of consigning. If you find yourself with a sizable discard pile as you're updating your wardrobe for fall, make the most of your past-season pieces. We turned to the pros — from consignment shop owners to online merchants — to get their best tips on how to make some serious money off of the designer items you no longer need.

Know Who You're Selling To

Before you start to clean out your closet, research the consignment shops you're interested in, since every business has its own preferences when it comes to brands and styles. One shop may only consider pieces that you would typically find at Barneys, while another might be open to contemporary or fast fashion brands. The same goes for trends: Ina Bernstein opened her first consignment store Ina in New York City more than 20 years ago and has found the popularity for clean, minimal apparel by Helmut Lang and Calvin Klein come back after a wave of demand for avant-garde designs from Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons.

You can usually find a list of in-demand designer names and items on each consignment shop's website, or simply pick up the phone and ask. And while you're at it, double check if they only take appointments with consignors or can meet anytime during store hours. For online consignment shops like The Real Real and ThredUp, you're conveniently provided with a shippable bag to send your things for evaluation.

Make Sure the Goods Are Somewhat New and In Top Shape

Consignment shops stock newer pieces than vintage and thrift stores do. The owners that we spoke to generally take items that are no more than two years old, but if you think what you're offering is truly timeless — say, for example, a leather jacket, high-end jeans or a designer handbag — there could be a chance of selling it.

But no matter how new an item is, it has to be in near-perfect condition and ready to wear — no stains, rips, tears or undone seams. This, of course, could vary among consignment shops, but a good rule of thumb is this: "Look at your goods in terms of if you would pass it on to your friend, and if so, that's a great resale," says Jenna Bray, ThredUp's senior brand director. "And if you wouldn't, donate it instead."

Ina in New York City. Photo: Ina

Ina in New York City. Photo: Ina

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Original Packaging Can Increase Value

Boxes, dust bags, garment bags — keep them all! Even bring receipts if you still have them on hand. The more original packaging you can provide when selling to a consignment shop, the higher it can value your item. It also helps with the shop's authentication process, especially with handbags. "Anything protective helps keep the item in great shape and so it stays in better condition, as well can up the resale value," says Rati Sahi Levesque, chief merchant at The Real Real.

Plus, it's an expectation from the customers who will purchase your designer piece, according to Abby McLucas, who owns Gift of Garb in Los Angeles. "[Our customers on eBay] assume that what they buy always comes with those things," she says.

Don't Expect To Get Paid Right Away

As opposed to buy-sell-trade stores like Buffalo Exchange, Beacon's Closet and Crossroads, consignment shops work on a different schedule when it comes to paying for the goods you bring in. A consignment shop will typically price your wanted items for a percentage lower than retail value. Then the items hit the sales floor, where a time period is given (30, 60 or 90 days) for it to actually sell. Once that time is up, you can still keep selling but for a price — whether through a fee or reducing the price tag.

If your piece sells, then congrats! You get a cut, which can also vary depending on the store. Some shops give 50 percent, others even more if the item is expensive. (ThredUp has an extensive tier system for their seller earnings.) This can also come in the form of a check or store credit. And if you expect a certain price for what you're trying to sell, McLucas suggests being up front about it to save time (and avoid misunderstanding) for both parties involved.

Gift of Garb in Los Angeles. Photo: Gift of Garb

Gift of Garb in Los Angeles. Photo: Gift of Garb

Make Consigning a Regular Habit

"The sooner you consign from when you purchase item, the more you get in the resale market," says Levesque. She suggests consigning every quarter, as opposed to yearly. Not only will this prevent an overcrowded closet, but you can expect a steady stream of cash money for your regular efforts. Not to mention the great relationship you'll be building with your go-to consignment shop, too.

Consider Resale Values Before You Buy New

When you're shopping for new things, take note of the resale value. The Real Real offers an app called Real Book, which provides information on just how much things are worth in the secondary market. Keeping that in the back of your mind can help you make better decisions on what to buy while getting more bang for your buck in the long run.

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