Anybody around here like walking away with the most money possible?
I was recently unloading some furniture from my car at the shop I consign with and noticed something. Consignors, actually. EVERYWHERE.
The usual one or two aimless browsers had been replaced by a herd of wide-eyed people crawling out of the woodwork, spilling into a line outside of the front doors.
The store owner chalked this consignor influx up to all the rage that Maria Kondo of the newly released show Tidying Up has created.
Side note: Maria has written four books on tidying up, translated into English, and was dubbed one of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2015. Leave it to Netflix to get Americans to pay attention.
As someone who has bought and sold the majority of my home furniture and decor from consignment shops over the years, I can tell you this: my home would have practically nothing in it if it wasn’t for them. In fact, my house as a child was [and still is] furnished almost entirely out of consignment finds.
That’s probably a big part of why I’ve been consigning for so long, but I’m never surprised when someone I tell this to raised their eyebrow and asks, “but is there really a point to consigning?” It’s viewed by many as a labor-intensive and time-consuming process that yields little to no reward.
Stick with me. There is a reward at the end of the tunnel on top of that godforsaken table you don’t want anymore but don’t know how to get rid of.
If your goal is to sell furniture and decor, consigning is the best way to do it if:
You’re going to sell your items either way—but are tired of coordinating endless logistics for people interested in each item through OfferUp, Letgo, Facebook Marketplace—only for them not to show up. Translation: no strangers / possible axe murderers trudging around your home. Or even worse, axe murderers who make an appointment but never show. The horror.
You’re someone who is inevitably going to evolve and upgrade your home’s decor as time goes on—but don’t want to overpay for brand new items. Translation: finding discounted items that you can essentially trade for items you don’t want, all in the same place, would make the process easier, no?
You’ve thrown a garage sale or two and were so desperate to get rid of it all at once, for fear you’ll never sell it otherwise, that you got completely swindled.
You kinda, sorta have the environment’s back. Can we all get behind this one?
If any of these ring true to you, I’ll stop selling you on why you should consign and share with you how you can make the most money doing it.
To clarify, when I use the phrase “consignment,” I’m not referring to renting a booth at an antique store and furnishing it with finds. I’m specifically talking about the concept of bringing your items into a shop classified as consignment store, having each item assessed by the owner, and leaving the accepted items behind until they’ve sold.
And then collecting a big fat check for items I no longer needed and/or found for practically nothing at a garage sale. Here are the hacks I’ve learned through trial and error over the many year’s I’ve been consigning.
Find the “right” one.
Finding a consignment shop isn’t quite as particular as finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. But considering how often you’ll swing into the store, you’ll want to do some research before you sell your consigning soul to them.
It took me a little while to find my “one”—and I went through a doozy or two before that. Including a cranky woman who would always make judgmental comments about the items I’d brought in [as she hurriedly accepted them, by the way].
If they have a stick up their ass and are generally unhappy to be there, keep it moving. My shop knows me by name, greets me happily the second she sees my signature ginormous storage bin barreling through the door, and is genuinely excited to see what I’ve brought in. We’ve established a relationship that’s led to a large presence in her shop [out of the massive amount of things I’ve consigned, she’s turned away one].
If you aren’t able to develop a rapport with the store’s staff, you aren’t at the right store. It will exacerbate any preconceived notions you have about consigning being labor-intensive and time-consuming, turning a mere convo into something you’ll dread.
When searching for the “one,” keep in mind these things:
Affluent neighborhoods. I hate to say this, but it’s true. More affluent neighborhoods usually boast higher-end stores that’ll, in turn, price your merchandise higher. That merchandise will be showcased to those with more disposable income who will actually buy it.
High foot traffic. Does the consignment shop appear to have people [not just consignors, but buyers] coming in and out of it? Visit it a few times at different points throughout the day to get a true gauge. Weekends should be the busiest.
Enough staff. We’ve all dealt with a store or service that’s understaffed. The few staff there are perpetually time crunched, on edge and emitting a vibe that you’re bothering them. The consignment shop you choose is providing you a service, so your overall experience should be one that’s professional—one where you feel comfortable enough to ask questions. You’d be hard-pressed to find that if the store is understaffed [and, as a result, rushed and dismissive of your items].
Refreshed items. If you’ve visited a consignment store several times over a period and don’t see any new [not new necessarily, but new to the store] items—or see all the same items—they aren’t making sales and moving products. This is a red flag that you won’t make money because the store’s prices are too high or that they simply don’t have enough traffic due to lack of advertising or promotion.
The percentage split. Before you even dive into any other contract details, ask what the percentage split is for sales—what percentage they’ll receive before you receive proceeds. I wouldn’t recommend any stores that demand more than 50%.
Pickup service. Does the store have a pickup service? Though I haven’t had to use it yet [beyond me considering I have a small sedan I’ve packed everything from Mary Poppin’s purse in], my store offers pickup of items like furniture for a small fee. For those who don’t own SUVs, this can be incredibly helpful.
Distance from home. That being said, how close is the store to your home? One of the keys for successful consigning—especially when you use store credit to snag new finds—is frequency. Choosing a store that’s near your home will increase the likelihood that happens.
Stick with that ONE store.
Should you ever leave the one once you’ve found them? Not if you know a good thing when you have it. Even if you’re drowning in a sea of consignment shops around you, resist the urge to piecemeal items to see what stores sell your items fastest.
Consigning your items with one store will not only help you accumulate a bigger check and streamline the logistics of it all—it’ll continually strengthen your store relationship, proving you take the process seriously and value their partnership.
Read the fine print and KNOW IT.
Let’s face it: most of the contracts from consignment stores were printed on a very outdated version of MS Word and are not the most aesthetically-pleasing to look at or digest. But you need to understand what you’re getting yourself, and your stuff, into.
Here are some questions to make sure you know the answers to:
After an item sells, when will the money become available?
Is there a limit on how often you can be cut a check? Some stores only cut one every few months. Mine offers the money as soon as it has sold—with no limit on how often a check can be cut but no rush on picking it up if I prefer it accumulate.
Can you use your funds as credit towards store purchases? Usually, the answer is yes because it makes the process easier for everyone involved.
What is the period in which an item is considered unsold [typically 90 days]?
Do they periodically mark prices down once a certain amount of time’s passed and it hasn’t sold? Mine drops the price slightly every 30 days it’s on the floor.
What are the options for items that don’t sell? Many will ask you to pick it up within a certain time frame or will automatically donate it.
Present your items in the best possible light.
The assumption the shop will clean the item before selling it can hurt you. In order to grant it the best chance of being accepted in the first place, make it presentable.
The items you bring in should be free of any blatant scratches, rips, tears and chips. For subtle imperfections, they’ll sometimes offer to put it straight to clearance if you’re just trying to get rid of it.
But remember, this isn’t a garage sale, and not every customer has a keen eye for imagining an item’s potential. The shop will usually place the item on the floor exactly as you presented it—so in order to get it accepted, priced well and purchased, it needs to be as close to immaculate as possible.
Here’s how I make sure to present them in the best light:
Wash any linens, pillow covers, curtains, etc.
Wipe down glass with Windex [I keep it and paper towels in my car]. Weird?
Fix any imperfections that can be easily rectified.
Basically, make the item look so good that the store owner and customers can’t refuse it. Especially if the contract specifies planned price drops [usually every 30 days for a 90-day period] the goal is to sell it ASAP—not just within the overall period.
Communicate an item’s value to the consignment shop.
Speaking of presenting your items in the best light, don’t sell their value short—communicate it to the consignment owners. I do not mean that you should spew out a sob story about Aunt Sally and her cat china, but if that cat china is legitimately worth something, speak up by all means.
The best way to do this is to be armed with actual proof of how much this same item costs—such as the receipt from when you purchased it or what it’s currently selling for online. Though store owners are seasoned on pricing items, there’s no way they’ve seen everything in their lifetime [especially Aunt Sally’s so-called expensive cat china].
Bring in as many trending items as possible.
Again, the owners have a pulse on the value of items—and that includes whether it’s trending or not. Logically, these items will sell the fastest and for the highest price, so this is where you’ll want to place emphasis when possible.
Yes, trends can be short-lived and subjective, but items that are considered trendy stand out. I believe the reason my items sell so quickly is because they’re more modern and trendy than the primarily antique items they’re juxtaposed against.
Think about how seasonal changes will affect things.
Along the same vein of trends, consider seasons. Stores are always light years ahead of the actual seasons when it comes to prioritizing and displaying seasonal items. Case in point: at Home Goods yesterday, while bundled in outwear, I noticed all the colorful summer designs and housewares were dominating the storefront. It’s January.
If an item is truly holiday-related, get it to them as early as possible—understanding that if it doesn’t sell in a certain amount of time, they’ll have no use for it. Again, since trends can be subjective and it ultimately comes down to what the store owner defines them as, call ahead and ask if there’s anything they’re specifically looking for [or not accepting]. It’ll save you trouble before hauling it over there in your bin.
If you’re someone who snags items for next to nothing at garage sales, it’ll help you keep an eye out for what’s currently coveted—what you could potentially purchase for a few bucks [when the sale host is desperate] and turn around for a decent profit.
Another seasonally related awareness to have is how the seasons and holidays can affect the store’s foot traffic. Ask the store owner about seasonal trends and think logically about how store traffic could fluctuate during periods when people are universally more or less busy.
Learn the best times to drop off your stuff.
That’s a good segue into the best times throughout the week for dropping your stuff off. Start to assess when the slowest times are for the store. These are the best times to bring your stuff in. The owner will be less distracted, stressed and pressed for time. As a result, they’ll have more time to thoughtfully consider each of your items.
In my experience, weekends are notoriously the busiest for consignment stores—when you don’t want to bring in your stuff. The best time is right before the weekend so that it’s placed on the floor right before the crowds head in and pounce on it.
Did you see any hacks on here you hadn’t thought about yet? Let me know below!