For a couple of months now, I’ve wanted to go shopping for new clothes. I’ve been in a mall several times and stopped into stores, but I haven’t pulled the trigger.
Why? I’m waiting to visit my favorite consignment store, which is a little out of my way. I love this consignment store. They always carry plenty of things in my size, and the prices are amazing. Last time, I spent $30 and got a pair of shorts, a tank top, and a couple of shirts.
Plus, I didn’t have time to spend hours scouring a thrift store, trying to find my size, and worrying if the clothes have holes or worse, bed bugs.Consignment stores near me are my favorite way to buy clothes because they are superior to thrift stores, you can find great deals at online consignment stores, and they have sales just like regular clothing stores.
What Is A Consignment Store?
When a person wants to sell to a consignment store, they have to bring in their items completely cleaned. Almost all consignment stores require that your clothes, shoes, and accessories be like-new or in very good condition.
They also usually want items that are still trendy or classic pieces. Your jeans from 2012 won’t be welcome, even if you only wore them a couple of times.
Many consignment stores also require that you make an appointment to sell your clothes. If they do accept what you have, you’ll sign a contract agreeing to their rules, including what percentage you’ll receive.
A consignment store usually agrees to display your item for a few months. If it doesn’t sell within that time frame, you can take it back or they can put the item on sale. Some stores will give you the option of discounting the item, while others may do it automatically.
There are also online consignment stores, where you can sell items directly yourself or ship them to the store, which will act as a middle-man. These often have similar brands and standards to brick-and-mortar consignment stores, but can be easier to sell to.
Difference Between Thrift Stores And Consignment Stores
A lot of people think thrift stores and consignment stores are the same, but they have a different business model and usually sell different types of goods.
Thrift stores receive items by donation, so the clothes and accessories might be damaged, well-worn, or be from lower-tier brands. Consignment stores pay people a percentage of the amount the item is sold for and the goods are usually mid-tier or designer brands. Consigned items have to be in good condition and are always laundered or dry-cleaned.
Prices at consignment stores may be similar to retail prices at department stores, especially if you’re shopping for designer brands. This depends on the type of consignment store and the item’s condition.
Thrift stores don’t pay people for their clothes, accessories, or home goods. Instead, you may receive a form saying you donated items, which you can use as a tax deduction.
Goodwill and the Salvation Army are the most popular and common thrift stores. While you can find high-quality items at thrift stores, sometimes even designer brands, you’ll have to hunt around more. In my experience, if I go to a thrift store, it’s not a guarantee that I’ll find something I like. But if I stop by a consignment store, I’m much more likely to leave satisfied.
Thrift stores can be great if you need something for a Halloween costume or for an ugly Christmas sweater party. But consignment stores are where you’ll find a dress or suit for a wedding.
How Much Do Consignment Stores Pay?
Every consignment store has its own policy on how much they pay, and this may vary depending on the type of item, its condition and the time of year. If the consignment store is looking for fall sweaters and you’re selling denim shorts, you may be denied or receive a smaller percentage than if you brought those in at the beginning of summer.
On average, you can earn anywhere from 50% to 70% of the final sale price. If you bring in an item that needs to be steamed or cleaned, you may have to pay a fee for that. Always try to bring in the item as clean and wrinkle-free as possible.
Online Consignment Stores
Don’t worry if there aren’t any physical consignment stores near you. You can get the same experience shopping online at any of the following retailers.
ThredUp is one of the biggest online consignment stores. They feature a range of brands including Gap, J. Crew, and Old Navy. You can also shop in their designer section which features luxury clothes and accessories from Diane von Furstenberg, Kate Spade, and Marc Jacobs.
People who sell to ThredUp receive a special bag where they can deposit their clothes. They ship the bag to ThredUp which reviews the items and picks the ones that are in good condition and likely to sell. When you buy something from ThredUp, you’re buying it from ThredUp, not the person directly.
Free shipping is available if you spend more than $79, and you can return an item within 14 days. Returns are free if you accept a refund via store credit; otherwise, there’s a $1.99 restocking fee.
Tradesy is a luxury-focused online consignment store that includes clothes, shoes, and accessories from Chanel, Hermès, and Rolex. They’re also well-known for stocking new and used wedding dresses.
Though the prices on Tradesy may seem high because of the special duds, customers can still save more than 50% off. Instead of paying full-price at a department store for a cocktail dress, you can spend the same price and get a designer one at Tradesy.
Tradesy offers free returns within four days, and you can ship your items back with their free prepaid shipping label.
Even though eBay sells everything from baseball cards to DVDs, it’s also one of the best places to buy clothes. eBay has a huge selection and offers both auction and buy-it-now options. When you shop on eBay, you can search for listings with free shipping.
What makes eBay stand out from other online consignment stores is that they are much more lenient about returns. The site is very buyer-friendly and is more likely to side with them if there’s a dispute about the item.
TheRealReal is another online consignment store that mostly focuses on designer goods with brands like Oscar de la Renta, Tory Burch, and Donna Karan. Because they stock designer brands, TheRealReal verifies their authenticity so you can make sure your Gucci purse isn’t a knockoff.
There has been some controversy lately with customers saying TheRealReal isn’t authenticating all its items, so be careful before you buy a Louis Vuitton purse.
TheRealReal also stocks high-end jewelry from Tiffany, Cartier and Alexis Bittar. Customers have 14 days to return items. TheRealReal may provide a prepaid shipping label for $11.95 or customers can ship items themselves.
Poshmark is an app and website that sells both used and new men’s and women’s clothes, shoes, accessories, and home goods.
Shoppers who use Poshmark buy directly from the person. I’ve shopped at PoshMark several times, and shipping has always been fast, and the items have arrived as described. There’s also often pretty tissue paper and a thank-you card in the packaging.
Refunds are difficult with Poshmark. You can only return an item if the website description didn’t match the item, if the item isn’t authentic or if the item has damage that wasn’t mentioned when you first bought it.
For example, if you buy a pair of boots with a visible scuff, and the description didn’t mention a scuff, you may get a full refund. Poshmark has to verify your claim before you’ll get a refund.
You also only have three days to report a problem. If you wait past that time, you’re out of luck.
Brick-And-Mortar Consignment Stores
Shopping online for used clothes can be tricky if you’re in between sizes or not sure what looks good on you. To get the consignment experience, visit a consignment store near you.
Once Upon A Child
This consignment store focuses on kids’ clothes, ranging from baby to size 16, and shoes. They even sell baby equipment, toys, and girls’ dancewear. Once Upon A Child accepts brands from The Children’s Place, Justice, and Gymboree.
ChooseFI member Elizabeth Gibbs Kemp said she buys most of her kids’ clothing at this consignment store and loves their special rewards program.
“The best part is I can sell them back when they outgrow the clothes,” she said. “I use the money or store credit to get more clothes.”
ChooseFI member Audrey Rek said she and her husband often shop at their local children’s consignment store. When their son was born early, they didn’t have many newborn clothes that fit him. The store had a bin where every item only cost $1.
“A quick trip up to the consignment store and $15 later we had a whole wardrobe to fit him,” she said.
Plato’s Closet is the teen version of Once Upon A Child. And it's one of the most widespread consignment stores, with more than 500 locations across the country. You’re likely to have a Plato’s Closet near you; there's one less than ten minutes from my house.
They mostly have clothes for teens and young adults so I wouldn’t go there if you’re looking for formal business attire. Plato’s Closet focuses on brands like Abercrombie & Fitch, lululemon, and Coach. This is a great place to shop if you have teens or young adults who need a new wardrobe.
Though not as popular as Plato’s Closet, Crossroads Trading is available in major cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and New York.
They feature more high-end brands such as Anthropologie, Madewell, and Urban Outfitters and luxury brands like Burberry, Prada, and Christian Louboutin.
Buffalo Exchange is a smaller chain of consignment stores with about 50 stores nationwide. They stock brands like Banana Republic, Topshop, and Levi’s. This chain primarily mostly targets young adults. They also tend to have a wide variety of vintage, party, and novelty items.
Alternatives To Consignment Stores
If you’re really on a budget, here are some other options beyond consignment stores.
Buy Nothing Groups
“Buy Nothing” groups are just what they sound like. These are groups where all the members have agreed to post items that they’re giving away for free. These groups may be based in your city or even your specific neighborhood.
The quality of clothes will usually be lower than what it is at consignment stores, but this is a great place to get baby and kids’ clothes. People may even get rid of clothes in lots or in bulk, so you can get a bunch of 3T clothes for your child without going to a bunch of stores.
You can find your nearest Buy Nothing group by searching on Facebook or through the official Buy Nothing Project site. Though it’s becoming more popular, not every city or neighborhood has a Buy Nothing group. If you’re interested, you can try to set one up yourself.
Other Ways To Save At Consignment Shops Near You
Look For Sales At Consignment Stores
Like other retailers, consignment stores often have sales and special discounts, especially during holidays or when the seasons are changing. Make sure to check out the sale section or look promo codes. Some online stores will give you 10-15% off if you sign up for their email newsletter. TheRealReal currently offers $25 worth of credit when you create an account.
“I recently accepted a promoted position at work and felt a need to mature my look as well,” said ChooseFI member Ashley Bearden. “I stopped in at an upscale thrift store that was running 50% off thrift items due to the change of the season. I was able to walk away with six name-brand pieces for $32.”
If you’re searching for a specific item with an online consignment store, start by checking the sale section because the difference can be significant. For example, Tradesy sells a Tadashi Shoji embroidered lace sheath dress for $165 or 30% off the retail price. They have the same dress, but in a different color, in the sale section for $40 or 85% off.
Shop For Items Beyond Clothes
Consignment stores often carry items beyond clothes, shoes, and accessories. Many have home decor, kitchenware, sporting goods and more.
“I can normally find dishes and cookware for pennies on the dollar, along with seasonal items,” said ChooseFI member Meagan Davis. “I've purchased several original paintings at thrift stores for under $20 each, and I absolutely love them.”
Follow Them On Social Media
I follow my favorite consignment store on Instagram, where they regularly post an outfit of the day. They also mention upcoming sales and special deals. I bought my favorite Hunter rain boots for $45 (retail $150) because they posted a picture on Instagram. As soon as I saw the picture, I called the store, found out they were still in stock and bought them on my lunch break.
Your local consignment store may have a similar social media strategy. Even if they’re not incredibly active on social media, you may still find sales just when you need a new dress.
Downsides To Consignment Stores
Consignment stores are a great place to get a large discount, but they’re not perfect. Like thrift stores, you often have to dig around a consignment store to find what you’re looking for. If you need something specific, like a black A-line dress, then you might not find it at a consignment store right when you need it.
Depending on where you live and shop, it may be easier or harder to find your size at consignment stores. This depends on the store. Some may be very size-inclusive, while others may focus more on petites or smaller sizes.
I’ve had the best experience at consignment stores when I have fewer expectations. For example, if I just want to go in to get a few summer tanks and tops, I’m more likely to find what I’m looking for.
It’s also often difficult to return items to consignment stores, whether you’re buying them from a brick-and-mortar or online retailer.
One time I bought a pair of sunglasses at a consignment store. When I got them home, I decided I didn’t like them so I went back to the store the next day. Even though I had bought them only the day before, the store refused to give me a refund on my credit card. Instead, they offered store credit.
Make sure you’re certain before you finalize your purchases at a consignment store. This is especially important for an online consignment store, which may charge you shipping to return the item, a restocking fee or both.
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