Consignment Shops: The New Black for Back-to-School Shopping

Have you shopped for “Back to School” yet? My spending frenzy began last Friday, during freshman orientation. My son is a college student this year, and between tuition, books, room and board, parking fees, non-essentials, essentials, and miscellaneous fees, my budget is on life support! A $32,000.00 gorilla is on my back and come August 18Th, the ape better be fed.

Last August, my quest to earn a few extra college bucks (and avoid a future stint in the poor house) led me to an often overlooked source for raising back-to-school revenue – Consignment Shops!

According to NPD, a global market research firm, 2009 saw a dramatic drop-off in back-to-school “spending intentions”. Moms and dads are holding on to their hard-earned dollars; frugal living is vogue. But, while traditional retail sales are declining, consignment shops are seeing huge increases in sales.

As we prepare to send our little, and not-so-little ones back to school, consider stimulating your economy by cleaning house. Instead of giving away electronics, furniture and clothes, try consigning those items; you’ll be surprised at the amount of cash you earn.

Ten Q & As to Get You Started

  1. What is a consignment shop? Think of a consignment shop like a garage sale, but without the typical headaches of dealing with bad weather, making change, haggling with customers and keeping an eye on shoplifters. Traditionally, consignment shop owners sell your unwanted stuff with the understanding that the consigned items belong to you until the items sell.
  2. What types of items can I consign? Browse through home fashion magazines and think about trends; these are the types of items that sell quickly. Stay away from trying to sell grandma’s console TV or mom’s disco boots from the 70s. :)
  3. Can I consign my daughter’s broken IPod? In a word, no. Items should be clean and in good working order. Ask yourself if the item is worth more than five or ten bucks. If it is, chances are someone will buy it.
  4. Do items have to be new? No, gently used items are great. Make sure that whatever you bring has all its pieces, and that clothes are clean, pressed and free of holes. If you’re bringing large items like couches or bookcases, they shouldn’t be worn-out or scratched. It’s also a good idea to test electronics before trying to consign them.
  5. I paid $125.00 for a pair of Cole Hahn shoes and won’t take less than $75.00. Can I set the consignment price? It depends on the shop. Some owners work with you to set a selling price. Shop owners know market prices, their customers and what types of items sell. Work with the owner to come up with a price you are both comfortable with.
  6. How much commission does the shop receive? Again, it depends on the shop. This is a great question to ask before bringing in your items. Some owners do a 50/50 split; others receive 25% or more. If you decide to consign with a shop, make sure you understand all the terms in your contract, to include payment policies. Ask for a copy of your contract and a receipt listing all the items you brought in.
  7. How much money will I make? Don’t expect to get rich; consigning items is an effortless way to make extra cash. Sit back and enjoy the experience.
  8. I have a lot of high-end items to sell. Are there specialty shops that I can work with? Do a bit of research before venturing out. Some shops specialize in one or two areas like, baby items and maternity wear, or furniture and household accessories, haute couture, antiques and vintage or electronics and tools. Find the store that has the niche you’re looking for.
  9. Can I consign anything? No, most shops won’t take food, alcohol, weapons or illegal items.
  10. What happens to my items that don’t sell? Some shops allow you to take your items back; others may buy the items from you. Check the terms of your contract.

A few more tips…

  • If you’re the entrepreneurial type try buying quality items for low prices at thrift stores, garage and estate sales; then sale the items at your favorite consignment shop.
  • Try shopping consignment shops for back-to-school bargains. They’re a great budget-stretching resource for everyone.
  • Consignment shops are a great venue to sell and get exposure for your handmade crafts.

While I haven’t earned enough cash to feed my pet for the year, I’ve managed to pay for Reid’s books and even a few bananas. :) Thank God for scholarships!

Have you shopped at consignment stores?

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Comment by Nikola Hartmann on July 19, 2010 at 8:49pm
Thanks for weighing in Chrissy!
Comment by Chrissy Freeman on July 15, 2010 at 9:37am
I love love love Consignment shopping! SEASONAL Consignment sale are also a really great resource. Think hundreds of sellers in one place for one week. The selection is incredible, the savings even better.

Seasonal sales usually happen twice a year and consignors can easily make $200-300 selling their goods. Buys then save 30-90% off retail. Total win-win.

You can search for sales in your area here:

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