For some savvy shoppers, the secret to having a killer wardrobe is shopping consignment. But these aren’t your grandmother’s thrift stores.
Call it “curated” consignment. While some consignment stores accept most items, as long as they’re not ripped or stained, curated consignment stores go a step further, taking only higher-end brands in current styles. Plus many of these shops offer an atmosphere that’s more like a full-on retail experience, with bright lights and high-end displays.
What created this new trend in consignment? Part of it is value.
“Consignment shopping is a clever and strategic method of obtaining high quality items for your wardrobe with a lesser investment than buying things new,” said Amy Jo Lauber, a certified financial planner and president of Lauber Financial Planning. “It can also help you develop a sense of personal style rather than continually investing in items that are only briefly ‘on trend.’”
Amen, thrifty consumer.
Suzanne Fatta, a model and CEO of MODAL Productions, a fashion and music-mentoring firm, agrees that consignment shopping is a fashionista’s best friend. “A smart store owner follows the latest fashion trends and is buying and selling pieces that can be styled along with those trends in a budget-friendly way,” said Fatta.
Ali Gaston, owner of The Nail Place in West Seneca, is proud of her signature style — an eclectic mix of vintage clothing and fashion-forward looks — that consignment shopping helped her create.
“I like anything that’s unique and different and I don’t want to look like everyone else,” said Gaston. Among her favorite finds is a “really badass pair of cowboy boots…not the kind of thing you’d find in a mall store.”
For working moms like Kary Clark of Orchard Park, part of it is “the thrill of a find,” she said, citing a funky striped blazer she recently found that still sported its original L.L. Berger label.
“My goal is to not spend any more than $25 for any one item of clothing,” said Clark. “I’m able to do that through consignment shopping.” She also keeps an eye out for clothing, toys and other things for her 5-year-old son, James, and also for her husband.
Clark’s favorite haunt is Second Chic, with locations in Buffalo and Williamsville. Owner Annie Adams opened the original Elmwood Avenue location in 2010 when she decided a consignment shop would be a good fit for a building she owned. Within a few years, the store grew from 400 to 3,000 square feet. Using her background in retail sales (she used to manage a Victoria’s Secret store) and art (she also makes jewelry), Adams created a fresh vibe for her stores.
“We set up the stores to look like boutiques, so it’s a different shopping experience,” said Adams. “We treat our customers differently, too. We provide services and help them in the dressing room.” Her two locations reflect the character of their neighborhoods and their respective clientele, too. The Elmwood store has more vintage offerings while the Williamsville store sports more designer labels.
The backroom basics of consignment shopping are simple. People bring their clothes, bags, or housewares into the shop for review. At Second Chic, Adams reviews items as they arrive. If they are in season and she’s interested, she’ll take them right away. If it’s not in season, she’ll ask you to bring it back later. Condition is important. Most places won’t accept goods with any pilling, stains or anything more than gentle signs of wear. You’ll receive as much as 40 percent of the selling price, after it’s sold. Some shops offer a higher payout if you take it in store credit rather than cash. Unsold items are returned or donated to a local charity.
Many consignment shoppers are also sellers. Sharon Linstedt of Buffalo, a public relations professional, is a long-time consignment shopper and consigner. She estimates that she’s sold as much as $700 in clothing recently to minimize the stuff in her closet. Her 22-year old daughter has a “knockout wardrobe,” too, she says, thanks to consignment shopping.
Curated consignment has extended beyond clothing, too. Carousel in Williamsville carries clothing, antiques and home décor items. Owner Laura Scalfani takes pride in the amount of research she does to set honest and reasonable prices for herself and her consigners.
“Sometimes people bring in an item they may have inherited and they don’t realize the value,” she said. “I do my due diligence to see what items are selling for on the secondary market. There’s a fine line between getting a good value for the customer and the best price for the seller.”
Consignment Tips from the Experts
A little preparation will make the consignment experience work for you, whether you’re a shopper or seller.
If you’re ready to sell, pick through your things and decide if the items hold sufficient value to make you money (items should be in current style, within the past two years at most), or if they are better suited to donate to a thrift shop or a charity, like Goodwill or Amvets. Items should be clean and in good repair if you’re trying to sell them. Think about what sells, too. Laura Scalfani of Carousel says winter items (coats, jackets, wool items) fly out of her store in fall and very early winter. “It’s a longer shopping season as we wear these clothes longer,” she said.
Strictly a shopper?
“Go in with an open mind,” says Jennifer Barbee of Buffalo, a regular consignment store shopper. “If you need a specific item and go in looking just for that, you may be disappointed.” She frequently shops at Rumpelstiltskin’s on Elmwood Avenue, picking up things for her six-year-old daughter. It’s ideal, she says, because kids grow out of everything so quickly.
It’s also a good channel for purging what’s been outgrown, said Rumpelstiltskin’s owner Erin Casey.
“It’s a good cleansing,” said Casey. “You make a little bit of money for something that’s just taking up space.”
Don’t be afraid of sampling a consignment experience. Linda MacDonald Smith, owner of Linda Mac & Company, says customers come into her shop every week, just to see what’s new. And if you’re shopping for clothes, make sure you try everything on before you leave the store.
“Consignment stores don’t have the same return policies as other stores,” said Ali Gaston. “Sizes vary, particularly in vintage styles.”
Local places to put on your list:
Bella Kids Consignment
4259 Transit Road, Clarence; Wnybellakids.com
Carousel Clothing and Collectibles
6094 Main St., Williamsville; Facebook
Clothing, antiques and home furnishings
The Clothes Horse
3527 N. Buffalo St., Orchard Park; Theclotheshorse.biz
The Clothes Mentor
9490 Transit Road, Amherst; 1030 Niagara Falls Blvd., Tonawanda; 1022 Union Road, West Seneca; Clothesmentor.com
Quality women’s clothing; will pay cash on the spot to consigners
418 Evans St., Williamsville; Finderskeeperswny.com
Designer children’s and maternity wear
Linda Mac & Company
4125 N. Buffalo St., Orchard Park; Lindamaconline.com
Home furnishings and décor
The Little Chic Boutique
414 Evans St., Williamsville
Vintage and consignment clothing in a charming atmosphere
New 2 You
13119 Broadway St., Alden; Facebook
7,000 square feet of like-new clothing, home décor and furniture
Party On Event and Wedding Consignment
1327 Orchard Park Road, West Seneca; Partyonconsign.com
Attire and supplies for planning a party
Peddlers Consignment Shoppe
5655 Main St., Williamsville; Peddlersconsignmentshoppe.com
Upscale fashion and accessories for women
9490 Transit Road, Amherst; 1030 Niagara Falls Blvd., Tonawanda; 974 Union Road, West Seneca; Platoscloset.com
Quality women’s clothing with a focus on teens and 20-somethings; will pay cash on the spot to consigners
571 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; Facebook
Better children’s consignment
Sarah’s Vintage and Estate Jewelry
5459 Main St., Williamsville; Sarahsvintagejewelry.com
One-of-a-kind vintage rings, necklaces, bracelets and more
648 Auburn Ave., Buffalo; Facebook
Women’s modern, vintage and classic pieces, plus fun and funky finds. Upscale men’s items, too.
810 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo; 5454 Main St., Williamsville; Secondchicbuffalo.com
Upscale women’s clothing – designer brands and vintage
Survival of the Gear
3463 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst; Survivalofthegear.com
Consignment shop for outdoor gear