What is a Consignment Store?

4/10/2014 by D. Cammarota

It is a common mistake for people to confuse consignment shops and thrift shops, because they both generally offer the same thing: second-hand merchandise at a much lower price than retail shops or department stores. But, they are actually quite different in the way they do business both on the buying end and the selling end.

First, consignment shops are more likely to carry luxury or high-end designer items because they are not items that are donated as they are with thrift shops. Thrift shops are most often tied to a charitable organization and while folks who donate can usually receive a tax credit, they do not receive any monetary compensation for their donations. Consignment shops, on the other hand, offer a percentage of the sale of whatever clothing, jewelry, furniture etc.. that is consigned. Over the past ten years or so, a few retail stores have cropped up that buy used items outright, but the consignment method is still the most popular way for sellers to get a few dollars for their gently-used items and for consumers to get a great bargain.

There are consignment furniture stores, clothing stores, home goods stores and store that sell everything from stem to stern. If you are looking to sell, be sure to find out exactly what the terms of consignment are. What percentage will you be getting of the final sale? And, for how long will they keep your things? Sometimes the store keeps items for 30 days, sometimes 60 days and it is important to have that duration included in your contract. What is perhaps most important, is to find out what they do with the items once the time period has expired. Some consignment shops will notify you to come and pick up your things, but some will simply put them into their inventory after your contract has expired. If you have any desire to have your items back, it is important to find out by what date you need to come and reclaim them and write yourself a reminder to do so. It is also a good idea to ask the consignment shop if they discount any of your items at some point prior to the contract expiring, so that you can be sure you are getting the full asking price.

If you are looking to shop at a consignment store, one big difference between thrift and consignment is that there really is no room to barter. Some thrift stores can negotiate prices, but because consignment stores are beholden to the consignor, they cannot offer discounts - even if an item is damaged. They can often contact the consignor to see if a discount can be offered, so if you really want them item, ask them if they can do that for you.

Both consignment shops and thrift shops are excellent places to get things for yourself, your home and your family at bargain prices, but consignment stores are the place to go if you are looking for - or looking to get rid of - higher end or better quality pieces. Some thrift stores may also have a consignment section so be sure to ask if you are interested. Remember that whether you are looking for a thrift store or a consignment shop, the best place to start is a website that has a directory of shops near you as well as authentic consumer reviews so you can learn as much as you can before going. Happy saving!


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