By Christina Shepherd McGuire
Photography by Paulette Phlipot
In a culture driven by mass consumption, I sure appreciate my mountain community that’s void of in-your-face consumerism and quick jaunts to Costco. First of all, it keeps the family budget within its box; and, secondly, it forces me to seek out kindly cared-for items to fill my needs.
I’ve always been fond of frugal finds. My first job at Marshall’s required sorting designer clothing throwbacks. I accompanied my mom to flea markets where she sourced one-of-a-kind home treasures. I spent my youth romping on reupholstered couches, and every one of my prom dresses was made by a friend, not bought.
Perhaps it was the thriftiness of my parents’ Pennsylvanian upbringing that taught me to see more character in things gently used than in items “bright and shiny” new. Not sure. But if consignment shopping takes a certain type of personality, then I’ve got it, and it’s very much a “learned” talent.
Maybe you’ve got a starter home to furnish, a big event to look nice for, or a couple of kids with feet that grow faster than weeds? Well, you’re in luck. This article will teach you how to buy, sell, and trade with the best of them. It’s your one-stop shop for information on consignment locales, tips on how to navigate eBay and organize your saleable piles, and swap-hosting advice.
The shopping part is easy, right? You go to the store, you see something you like, and you buy it. Hmm… Consignment shopping takes diligence, patience, and lots of time spent rack skimming. Accumulating your stash often entails frequent trips to the consignment shop at key times of the year. Search for coats and boots in September and October to get first picks on new arrivals, outdoor furniture is best sourced in the spring, and jeans are an all-year find. Make your first pass early, getting a jump on the weather. And if your efforts aren’t fruitful, schedule a second trip the following week.
If you prefer the couch-surfing option, or if you’re looking for particular items or brands that aren’t available locally, eBay becomes quickly addicting. Log on and browse items by brand, size, and key words. eBay items with “buy it now” pricing can be purchased on the spot, while other items require you to bid. To do this, first create a personal “watch list” of the products for which you’d like to receive alerts. Next, note the “reserve” price of each item. This is the lowest price the seller will take. Pace your bidding and don’t get too excited, as early bidding prematurely ramps up the price. I usually swoop in during the last minutes and input my maximum bid (the highest amount I want to spend). Then eBay does the rest by increasing my bid in small increments, ending at my max. Once you’ve won, though, you’re committed. Pay promptly to avoid a negative rating.
Sure, the buying is fun—and a rush if you find a good deal—but selling can be somewhat daunting. To organize, each spring and fall I purge our closets of outgrown clothing, articles no longer in use, and things that just don’t serve us anymore. I make three piles, one for the thrift store, one for the consignment store, and one for swapping (more on that later). The thrift store pile contains the not-so-perfect items; maybe they have a slight stain, a rip, or need some love. The consignment pile contains name-brand clothing and gently used gear, outerwear, and shoes. And the swap pile contains cute pieces of my personal couture that aren’t worth selling but would definitely make someone else’s day.
Next comes the timing. If I miss the boat, I’m stuck taking my articles to See N’ Save; and, honestly, I rely on this income to purchase new clothing and shoes for the kids. First, I send a Facebook private message to consignors with my breakdown of items. They reply, stating what they will accept and when. If I’m on the ball in September and May, they usually take everything. Then I schedule a drop-off, often leaving a box of items at the store and asking them to donate what’s not sold.
If you have exclusive items or particular pricing requests, go through your pile with the consignor. Large or expensive items, like furniture, gear, and jewelry, should always carry a contract that states the commission breakdown, the maximum display time, and the exact pick-up procedure.
If you’ve never attended a clothing swap, you’re missing out! I always come home with a signature piece that soon becomes a wardrobe staple.
No invite? Don’t sit back and wait for a swap, host one instead! Hosting a clothing swap offers a way to clear your clutter (both physical and mental) and gives you first dibs on the goods. Here’s how to do it:
THE GUEST LIST:
Put some thought into your “green” party. First, set the number of swappers (ten max), complete with a back-up list. This eliminates the chaos of too many people and too much STUFF! Next, choose your invites based on both their size and body comfort level. Try to invite women that are similarly sized to avoid leaving anyone out. If you have a modest friend who’s squeamish about showing her undies, save her the embarrassment by including her at your next gathering.
I’m not a big “RULES” person, but offering some structure can eliminate snags. Make it clear that all swapped items must arrive clean (c’mon, everyone’s comfort level is different). Ban items that are just plain gross, like undies, used polypro, and swimsuits.
To make things fair, set a minimum number of pieces for each person to bring. That way, Jenny can’t waltz in with two shirts and leave with ten dresses. Use your discretion when setting a max limit, however. Just make it clear that left items will be donated.
THE SET UP:
Make sure your party space is big, well lighted, and has some (Oh God!) full-length mirrors. If you don’t own any such thing, recruit friends to bring theirs. Tables, drying racks, and rolling retail racks make great displays. Greet attendees with hangers and a drink as they roll in the door, prompting them to showcase their items.
Also, eliminate any unwanted company by scheduling a night out for your family members. You wouldn’t want your hubby or boyfriend rolling in early to greet ladies in their skivvies.
Food and drink always up the ante, so tag-team your swap with potluck fixins. Refrain from heavy main courses and steer your guests toward finger foods and appetizers. This way, you can nibble a little before and after the heavy try-on session. Have guests bring their beverage of choice. A little vino can loosen the vibe and encourage ladies to try on pieces they may otherwise forgo. And sometimes, it’s that same piece that gains them compliments for years to come.
(local eBay consigner Heather Dolman)
Commission: 0-$5 = 50% commission
$51-$300 = 35% commission
$301-$1000 = 25% commission
$1001-up = 15% commission
Best Sellers: Sporting goods, outdoor clothing, boots, vintage fashion, and western clothing.
The Process: Heather photographs and lists your item with a BIN price (see key). Clothing usually sells in 30 to 60 days; higher-end items take longer. Heather packs and ships your goods for you and payout is a minimum of 3 weeks.
Why use her?: She has tons of experience and a great rating. “I’ve already made all the mistakes. I have it [eBay] dialed!” Heather says.
Just For Kids
Location: 150 Scott Lane, Suite E, Jackson
Contact: Tami Cook (307) 734-3422, or the shop's Facebook page
Commission: 60% on clothing and shoes, 50% on gear and big-ticket items
Best Sellers: Children’s clothing, shoes, and maternity clothing.
Requirements: “Seriously clean,” with no stains or holes. All toys need fresh batteries.
The Process: Send Tami a Facebook message to make a seasonal appointment. After 60 days, items sell for 1/2 price. All items are donated after 90 days.
Any no-no’s: Cribs, car seats (excluding booster seats), and anything with a recall cannot be resold.
Location: 65 Mercell Ave., Jackson
Contact: Caryn Cook at (307) 699-1195 or the shop's Facebook page.
Commission: 60% on apparel, 50% on furniture
Best Sellers: Women’s apparel, technical outerwear, western snap button shirts, furniture, and costumes.
Requirements: Clean! Anything with stains is automatically donated.
The Process: Call or text Caryn to schedule a weekday drop-off. Items, excluding furniture, are donated after 60 days.
Any no-no’s: Lingerie, robes, and swimsuits unless they are NWT (see key).
Location: 890 South Highway 89, Jackson
Contact: Lisa Gute or Christina Lincoln at
(307) 739-2232 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Commission: 50% on furniture and home accessories
Best Sellers: Home goods, lamps, rugs, leather sofas, dressers, and antler chandeliers.
Requirements: High-quality, mainstream, and current fashion items; not vintage.
The Process: Email photos or call for an appointment. Items are placed on consignment for 90 days (some extensions granted). Everything usually sells but leftovers are donated to Habitat for Humanity, providing consigners a tax write-off.
Any no-no’s: Cribs and baby furniture.
And don’t forget to check…
• Queenie & Co., 70 S. Glenwood, Jackson, (307) 732-0017
• Headwall Sports, 520 South Highway 89, Jackson, (307) 734-8022
• Browse and Buy, 139 N Cache St., Jackson, (307) 733-7524
• Habitat for Humanity ReStore, 854 W Broadway, Jackson, (307) 734-0389
• Rick’s, 75 W Little Ave., Driggs, (208) 354-2030
• See N’ Save, 125 East Howard Ave., Driggs, (208) 354-8839
• Victor Outdoor Seconds, 8 N Main St., Victor, (208) 787-2887
BIN - Buy It Now
EUC - Excellent Used Condition
GUC - Good Used Condition
HTF - Hard To Find
LN - Like New
MIB - Mint In Box
MIP - Mint In Package
NIB - New In Box
NMINT - Near Mint
NWT - New With Tags
NWOT - New Without Tags
NOS - New Old Stock (vintage items, still NEW)
NR - No Reserve
OOAK - One Of A Kind
VGC-Very Good Condition
As managing editor of Teton Family Magazine, Christina strives to create a wholesome and balanced life for both her and her family through recreation, cooking, gardening, tending to animals, and laughing A LOT! When she’s not busy writing and editing, Christina provides brand strategy help for cool companies in the action sports space. Catch up with her on her blog at skirtingseason.com.