Con(sign) of the Times
It’s no secret that times are tough for clothing stores, and it’s because few folks can justify buying retail these days. Shopping at consignment stores, however, is another story. Since the economic slowdown started last year, a wave of savvy shoppers have discovered the joys bargain hunting at resale stores, where tags on next-to-new goods are anywhere from 30 to 90 percent off original prices.
Deborah Pursley, owner of the Green Hills consignment boutique Designer Finds, has witnessed the boom first-hand. “We’ve seen our business triple over the last few months,” she says, adding that about 40 percent of the consigned items come in still sporting tags, often with designer names like Gucci, Prada or Vera Wang.
In most cases, consignment stores are for-profit businesses where style and quality are the bottom line. It helps that most of the Nashville resale boutiques are decorated as nicely as their retail counterparts; in fact, usually the only way to tell the difference is to look at the tags.
And consigning isn’t just a boon for buyers. Cleaning out your closet can result in some major cash if you choose to get rid of your clothes in this way. That said, not every discard in your closet is consignment material: these stores are not where balled, acrylic sweaters or dingy gym socks are sent to die. There are some definite guidelines to follow when choosing what to consign and several practical points to keep in mind when you set out to shop:
Consigning 101. Here’s how it works. Consigners leave accepted clothes (see “Only clothes in top condition are accepted”) at stores with the understanding that they will receive a certain percentage of the final sale. At most stores, the store/seller split is about 60/40, though it varies; most stores have a limit to the number of days a piece can stay on the selling floor before the consigner has to reclaim the item.
Styles and sizes span the gamut. A store’s stock depends on the status of its consigners’ closets, so store owners never know what shapes and sizes will show up on the racks from day to day. Some stores cater to special body types, such as Hendersonville’s fabulous plus-size Up & Down Closet consignment shop; shoppers go there knowing they’ll only find clothes in sizes 14 and up.
Most stores buy for one season at a time. And very often it’s not the season represented by the clothes currently on the selling floor. For instance, it’s gonna be chilly here in Middle Tennessee for at least three more months, but most consignment stores are only thinking spring. “This is not the time of year that I take a heavy, double-breasted black wool coat,” says Jodi Miller, owner of Designer Renaissance in Berry Hill. “The only cold weather things I’m taking are what I call ‘winter clothes in Easter colors’ — thin, pink, cashmere turtlenecks, that kind of thing.”
Only clothes in top condition are accepted. Selling to a consigner is a little like taking your wardrobe on a job interview: the clothes need to make a good first impression. This means they should be clean, pressed and in tip-top shape (no loose threads or sagging hemlines; absolutely no stains). Shoes should be free of scuffs and major scratches, and they should have soles that show little to moderate wear. Smokers will probably have a harder time consigning than non-smokers; pieces that come smelling like smoke are not going to make the cut.
Consigning is good for the environment. Pursley thinks the economy is only one reason more folks are buying second-hand. The green shopping movement also draws in new customers, who understand that buying consignment is essentially a haute form of recycling.
Fashion matters. “For me to take something it’s got to be current,” says Voni Garrett, owner of The Consignment Shop in Franklin, who says she keeps up on what’s in style by reading magazines and subscribing to Women’s Wear Daily, the fashion industry’s daily newspaper. Don’t expect her to accept long, bulky blazers when the current jacket style is short and fitted. She says: “We stay up on the trends.”
Our Favorite Area Consignment Stores
Clothing X Change
1817 21st Ave. S., Hillsboro Village
The Consignment Shop
1113 Murfreesboro Rd., Franklin
794-5980 • dresswiththebest.com
2120 Crestmoor Road, Green Hills
2210 Crestmoor Road, Green Hills
279-1994 • designerfinds.biz
2822 Bradford Ave., Berry Hill
297-8822 • designerrenaissance.com
230 Franklin Road, Franklin
222 Old Hickory Blvd., Bellevue
352-2804 • tickledpinknash.com
Up & Down Closet
237 E. Main St., Hendersonville
264-6569 • upanddowncloset.com
“I was putting up my Christmas tree when I got the phone call,” says Teri Johnson-Hiett, referring to the moment she found out she had breast cancer. It was right around Thanksgiving in 2005, eight short months after losing her mother at age 51 to the same disease. Teri was only 29.
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