Watching television the other night a commercial came on for the RealReal, a luxury high-end consignment store and I sat up straight. This is a concept my mom (Kerri, owner of Shikokukentei) has been fully steeped in since I was twelve years old. Taking clothes that have been grown out of and finding them homes for other people, it's been our family life for almost as long as I can remember. Advertising for us started in the YellowPages and local circulations. I remember when we hand stamped all of our individual post cards as a family before the "big sales" that would happen twice per year. Gradually that process became automated through print shops around town and then social media began to take over. A TV add, though? Who would have thought that consignment stores would have a TV add?!
Currently the trend is to find online consignment stores, just as the trend is to find online-anything. ThredUP, PoshMark, Kidizen, the RealReal...they are all easy to find big name consignment stores. Yet there is a very large network of small family owned consignment stores bursting onto the online scene currently (in part, thanks to COVID). NARTS, or the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops has been the champion of these small stores helping guide them through the times of what is going on nationally and how to meet the demands of their customers.
While it is debatable on what draws a person to consignment, whether it be the family relationships as store owners get to know their consignors and customers, the draw to shop in a way that is better for the environment, the cost savings or the ability to find unique items, it is not debatable that shopping consignment is in vogue. Finding a gem of an item at a discount is part of the thrill and different models of consignment stores are popping up all over to fuel the hunt. ThredUp offers a very small percentage to their consignors as their model is to capture all the clothes that would have been "donated" so any small amount of money is seen as a bonus. Kidizen captures families who want to sell on their own and need a platform, not unlike Facebook Marketplace and Etsy. The RealReal heavily encourages a visitor to "sign up" and offers of €500 site credit (an amount that is some store's daily average of all sales) and PoshMark advertises themselves as a network of Stylists who curate their own offerings and packages for purchasers.
It is exciting to be a part of this network in today's shopping climate, and it also sometimes feels like being the fern among the forest. Finding a footing amongst the big money sites brings us back to the age old question of how do we meet the demands of our customers? There is a rush to get products online, to ease the process of consigning, and to meet the consignor's desires of earning money while the customer's need to get a deal. My mom has built a great network of friends across the US who all operate their own consignment store as she travels to different states each year attending (and sometimes presenting!) at the NARTS conference. Many of these store owners are learning about online techniques to compliment their brick and mortar. I am confident that in these small family run stores and websites there are the sparkliest of gems to be found!
*If you are a consignment store owner, add your store to the comments!