Thursday, July 9, 2009

Request from Tina: Consigning Clothing and Other Ways I Profit From My Old Stuff

Tina from T Minus, T Plus (great fashion/food/weight loss blog, check it out) asked:

I would love a little tutorial about consigning clothes. Do you take to a store? sell on eBay? I have a stack of too small for me and too big for me clothes that are in great condition. Normally I just donate everything, but right now I think I would like a little extra cash in my pocket.

Well, firstly, I have to confess. When I talk about my favourite consignment store where I take my clothes and shoes and stuff, it's not actually a consignment store as most would define it. The wonderful Annie goes through my stuff (I don't even need an appointment) while I browse, takes what she wants and offers me an in-store credit or cash. The cash is less, so I usually do a credit.

Real consignment stores usually have rules: the clothing must be in good condition, no rips, wear and tear, not obviously out of fashion, recently cleaned or dry-cleaned, current season (i.e. summer, winter, etc.). You have to set up an appointment, they take all your contact details and then take the items they think will sell. If those items haven't sold in a set period of time (which will vary according to the store), you get them back.

I am totally lazy. I don't want to have to deal with following up or having to take back my clothes. I have never actually consigned something because of this. I just can't be bothered. And I don't shop online (I like to touch, try on and examine my clothes before I buy), so the likelihood of me selling things online is miniscule.

However, I don't want to totally disappoint you, Tina! I dispose of my unwanted clothing in a variety of ways that almost always benefit me, if not immediately, then at least karmically. Maybe this will give you some ideas.

Informal swaps/giveaways: Whenever a gaggle of us gals get together, I bring over a bag of my best stuff or things I think they will like. I email them ahead of time to encourage others to raid their closets for rarely-worn or castoff items. I have gotten some great stuff and discovered that my friend Caro and I are exactly the same measurements, even though our bodies are proportioned and shaped differently. Even if I don't get anything right away, I'm building good karma...and later on, they will give me something amazing in return down the road.

Formal swaps: Like the organized swap I went to last night (more on that this weekend), keep your eyes peeled for advertised swaps, sometimes called "swishes". You can also plan your own swapping party (I'm too lazy to do this, so I'm hoping one of my friends will do it, ha!) with a group of women friends. The more people who attend, the more variety of sizes and styles you'll have to choose from.

Buying/consignment shops: Like Annie's shop I mentioned above, if you can find a shop that does this, wonderful! A little bit of cash on hand is bonus, but the best deal is the in-store credit...if you shop there already. I know Annie's demographic and what she likes, so I don't waste her time with clothes that she won't want - and she knows that what I bring in will sell (and that I will buy from her), so she gives me deals and lets me peek at new things that come in before they go out on the floor. Building a relationship with your favourite stores is awesome!

Consignment shops: You might have to wait for the money, but once you have a few regular places, you can rotate your clothes around from store to store. Check your local shops to see what their guidelines are (some even have rules sheets they can give you).

Donate: Anything I don't get rid of through informal swaps, giveaways or the buying/consignment shop, I donate to the local thrift stores. Most of my clothes are bought very cheaply, but are good quality. I don't mind passing on good items after I've exhausted all other avenues. That's just good karma!

One final word. As far as buy/consignment and consignment stores go, I would recommend one thing: Get familiar with your market. Do you have a lot of Banana Republic, Gap, and Old Navy, or do you have more designer wear or funkier clothes? A store that doesn't sell the brands or styles you have in your wardrobe is not going to take your clothes. Also, look at the age demographic that the store is aiming at. I rarely shop in a few stores because they are loaded with either club-wear or old-lady clothes. Your best bet is to find stores that carry what you like - if you would (or already) shop there, that store is most likely to want your clothing.

Tina, I'm sorry this isn't really the answer you were probably looking for, but maybe it can help you get started. If anyone is a pro at consigning or E-bay selling, please post a comment for us!

Edit: some great suggestions in the comments - thanks!


  1. Sheila, I can always count on you! Here it is 3 hours past my bedtime with no sandman in sight, so I'm watching bad TV and reading my Google Reader and what should appear but this fabulous post from you! Thank you so much not only for answering my question but for doing so so quickly. Man, I need to answer some reader questions. Bad Tina!

    Anyway, I really appreciate your insight. I need to cull my closet in a major way. I wish I knew some plus size fashion gals that would want to swap b/c that sounds like the most fun.

  2. I'm not a pro Ebay buying or selling. But what I do is shop the name brand stores first. Only to try on the pieces and know what my size is for that Label. (we know how much one size differs from one store to the next) Then when I shop Ebay I know what my size it. And only buy from sellers on Ebay that list the measurements of their garments.

    It's more like doing your homework first before buying ;)

    Thank you for the very informative post today!

  3. I am not an “expert” on EBay buying and selling, but I have done it over the years. Here are some of my thoughts and experiences. (long post, sorry!)

    There are different markets on EBay depending upon the lot of clothes to sell. If you want to dump everything at once, you will get mostly resale boutiques bidding. The more stuff you pile in, the better your luck on getting a bid. This is the easiest way to go. But, be prepared to give the stuff away for $1-2USD per piece. Its also good to throw in a few handbags or even old accessories like scarves and jewelry in this kind of lot.

    If you do smaller lots, these are usually bought by individuals. You net a little more money, but its more work. As a buyer of lots on EBay, I have a few personal preferences. I like lots of no more than 8 items in a lot and I will not pay over $4/item. When I am selling a lot, I sell no more than 8 items. I also break up tops and bottoms in separate lots, since my personal top and bottom size are 2 apart (unless selling a set or suit). I generally do theme lots. All ¾ button down shirts, all skirts, all jeans, all suits, etc.

    I break up the quality in these lots. 2-3 NWT (new with tag), 2-3 very gently worn and 1-2 some wear. A note on wear, don’t put it on EBay if you know it would be passed over, even in Value village – no stains, discoloration, etc. Some pilling is OK in things like cashmere or pima cotton, but be clear that it is there. Otherwise, I do not sell it if it looks worn.

    When posting smaller lots, it pays to be very detailed in explaining what is in your lot. List the Brand, size, shape of garment (knee length vs. mini skirt, wide leg vs. straight leg pants, etc.), color and pattern, lining – yes or no?, fabric content (garment and lining), and wear status are vital. Also, try to picture every garment, no more than 2 per photo. This method generally nets $3-5 per item, unless you have some special or designer pieces wihch may yield more $$$.

    If you are just starting, put the highest possible quality items out there to get a good rating. In other words, don’t dump the Target T’s in your first auction. Be consistent and a good EBay citizen. Respond to requests, deliver on commitments, blah, blah, blah. Some buyers may even contact you outside EBay to see if you have anything to sell before posting it after you develop a good reputation.

    Hope this helps!!

  4. Tina, you could always organize your own fashion swap! There are probably lots of women in the same boat. Also, keep your eye out for plus-sized consignment shops (they do exist).

    Awesome advice, Sher! Thanks!

    Wow, Lain, love it, thank you!


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