CONSIGNMENT AND RESALE: A MANIFESTO

It’s been forever, I know. I’m sorry. Things have been really busy around here. What with the holidays and work and a weird compulsion I suddenly developed to slog through all six seasons of Gossip Girl in five weeks, I could hardly find the time to do anything productive. You know you love me, xoxo.

To be honest, I’ve had a bit of writer’s block lately. I’ve been racking my brain to come up with a topic with which to christen the blog this Year of Our Lord 2015. (I wanted it to be both interesting and useful, so you can understand why it’s taken me two months.) The topic I kept coming back to was one that I’ve had multiple friends ask me about: the world of shopping and selling second-hand. I’ve come to understand that this is something people may find intimidating and confusing. But fear not, I’m gonna tell you what I know.

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I would say somewhere between 50-60% of my clothing was originally owned by someone else (like a Saudi Arabian princess) (true story). Certainly the most valuable and unique pieces that I own are ones I’ve bought second-hand. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Why spend your hard-earned dollars on mass-produced, mediocre mall wares when you could score something way more awesome?

Well, turns out there are a few reasons, and they’re all psychological. That’s right, you’re crazy. Here are the concerns I hear most often:

1. I’m overwhelmed and I don’t know where to start.
I hear you. Walking into a consignment or resale store can be intimidating, as they’re often organized differently than mainstream retail stores. Since the merchandise is all unique, racks are usually organized by item type and then subdivided by size. The good news is that you can look through all the size small sweaters at once, for example.

2. I can’t find what I’m looking for.
Here’s where you’ve got to redefine your expectations. If you’ve developed tunnel vision looking for the perfect LBD or a pair of great fitting jeans, you may miss out on the best of what’s actually there. These stores don’t often deal in basics, so if you’re looking for classic wardrobe staples it’s probably best to buy new. Instead, keep your mind open to the novelties.

3. I don’t know if I’m getting a good deal. 
The short answer here is yes, you probably are. Resale shops price clothing well below retail price– as they should, because it’s often (though not always) used. I would advise against buying brands like H&M, Gap, Banana Republic et al. secondhand– in fact, many stores won’t take them because they simply don’t retain their value after they’ve been worn. (Why buy these brands used when they go on sale frequently enough as it is?) Instead look for higher quality/designer items. This is your chance to score something you might not normally be able to afford. Most stores sell their merchandise at less than a third of retail price, and the luxury items are often priced to sell at even less.

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A recent (lucky) find.

Now that you’ve got your neuroses in check, let’s move on to the process of selling your clothes. I’ll first point out the distinction between consignment and resale. Consignment stores will pay you for your clothing if/when it sells, while resale shops will offer you cash or check immediately. While resale is obviously the route to instant gratification, I have found that these stores tend to offer a bit less because they’re assuming a risk if your pieces don’t sell.

In the spirit of actual research I checked in with an employee at one of my favorite SF resale stores: Wasteland, in the Haight.

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Erica gave me the following tips on selling your unwanted clothing:

  • Shops are looking for modern, on-trend pieces from luxury brands or designer vintage. They tend to eschew major brands.
  • Leather is always in style. Certain pieces like moto jackets do well, often regardless of season.
  • No low-waisted jeans. High-waisted pants and skirts are on-trend.
  • No basics, betches. Basic items simply don’t sell as well, unless they’re designer or super high quality.
  • Stores do their shopping ahead of season. Start spring cleaning now!

Another thing to remember is that while shops can appear fickle about the items they accept, they keep track of the items that do and don’t sell and often base their buying decisions off of these trends. You may find that working with multiple shops is the best way to sell more of your unwanted goods.

Happy shopping, and selling!

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