How consignment works & 7 tips for selling on consignment

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Similar to pawnbrokers or pawn shops, consignment shops sells secondhand items on behalf of the original owner, who receives a percentage of the selling price.

Whether you’re looking for ways to expand your wardrobe on a budget or cash in on nice clothes you no longer wear, consignment stores can be a solid option.

Most consignment stores offer a broad selection of second-hand casual, business, and evening threads at much lower prices than you’d find in your local department store.

Some even let you “sell” your clothing back to the store in exchange for cash or store credit.

What is the difference between a consignment store and a thrift store?

While some people may use the terms “thrift shop” and “consignment shop” interchangeably, they are in fact very different beasts. 

Consignment shops are for-profit businesses which specialize in reselling items. Many of the most popular consignment shops specialize in reselling fashion, such as clothing, shoes, jewelry, and more. That being said, consignment shops can operate in a variety of niches, such as furniture, kitchen appliances, etc. 

Consignment shops typically operate in one of two ways: Either they purchase an item from a seller and then resell it themselves at a markup, or they accept an item for consignment and then pay the original seller a percentage of the sales price if and when the item sells. 

While consignment shops are for-profit businesses, thrift shops are typically non-profit organizations run by charities. Instead of purchasing items from sellers to then resell, thrift shops are dependent on donations, which they then sell on to consumers. Any profit made from these sales is used to fund operations of the charity, and also to support the general mission of the underlying charity. Due to this, consignment shops will typically carry higher quality or “nicer” items than thrift shops will. 

If you have an item such as old clothing that you no longer want, but don’t want to sell, either a thrift shop or consignment shop can be a good option. If you believe that your item still has value and that someone would be willing to pay you for it, such as designer clothing or handbags, then your best bet will be to approach a consignment shop first. If the item is less valuable or a consignment shop has already turned you down, then a thrift shop will likely be willing to accept it as a donation, which will be better than the item ending up in a landfill. 

What is the difference between a thrift store and a second hand store?

The term “second hand store” can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. At its most basic, it simply refers to a venue that specializes in selling items (like clothing, shoes, handbags, furniture, etc.) that have already been owned and used. This definition encompasses both thrift stores and consignment shops, which are very different types of business. 

Thrift shops are non-profit organizations that sell items they receive via donation. They do not purchase the items they sell. Any money they make by selling the donations they’ve accepted is used to fund the mission of the charity that owns the non-profit. Consignment shops, on the other hand, are for-profit businesses that purchase items from their original owners and then resell for a profit. 

This means that both thrift stores and consignment stores can be considered second-hand stores, even though they are built upon very different business models. If the second-hand store is a for-profit business, then they are likely a consignment shop; if they are a charity-run non-profit, then they are likely a thrift store. 

How does a consignment shop work?

Typically, when you sell clothes, accessories, furniture, or appliances via consignment, you take your item to the store — or send them photos of larger pieces — and the consignment shop will decide whether or not to take your item.

Once they accept, you drop off your items at the consignment store, receive a receipt, and then leave. Usually, the consignment store chooses how to display and price your item. You then collect a percentage of sales once per month.

In some cases, you are paid a fixed sum upfront for any items the consignment store accepts.

How do I sell something on consignment?

Selling on consignment can vary in details depending on where you sell, but the gist is this:

  • The consignment store (online or IRL), accepts your items to sell
  • The store is responsible for displaying, promoting and selling your item
  • If and when the item sells, you get a share of the price paid, and the consignment store gets the rest 

If your item does not sell, or does not sell within an agreed-upon time, typically you can get it back. 

How much do consignment shops pay?

Consignment shops pay one of two ways:

  • The consignment shop pays you a flat rate, upfront.
  • The consignment store pays you a percentage of the sale price of your item if and when it is sold.

It is common for clothing consignments shops to pay modest up-front fees for quality items in good condition. 40-60% of what the store expects to retail the item for is a common range for consignment fees — whether you are paid up-front, or upon sale. Many consignment shops offer store credit at a higher percentage than if you accept cash.

How much money can you make from a consignment shop?

The answer to the question of how much cash you can make from consignment shops depends on:

  • Quality and retail value of your item.
  • Demand for your item. Is it in style? In season? Can the consignment shop resell it quickly, for a high price?
  • Percentage the consignment shop pays.
  • Limit on number of items consignment shop accepts

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Popular shops you could find when searching “consignment stores near me”

All these business share a desire to purchase high-quality, clean items in good condition that are currently in style. After all, if they can’t resell it, they can’t make a profit!

Plato’s Closet

Plato’s Closet is a nationwide clothing consignment franchise with locations in 50 states. They buy gently used clothes and accessories for teens and young men and women. You can also choose to accept store credit for a larger sum. Pays cash. Accepts some online sales.

Buffalo Exchange

Similar to Plato’s Closet, Buffalo Exchange is a clothing consignment brand with locations throughout the United States. They buy your gently used men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and accessories with a premium if you choose store credit. Pays cash. 30-item limit. Accepts some online sales and drop-offs.

Once Upon a Child

Owned by parent company Plato’s Closet, Once Upon a Child is a great place to sell your gently used children’s clothes, especially name-brand items.

Online consignment shops

Just like every other retail transaction, consignment shops are also going online. Buffalo Exchange is an example of a brick-and-mortar consignment clothing shop that now offers online, mail-in sales.

What is online consignment? How do online consignment stores work?

The concept of online consignment is the same as in-person, but items are mailed in via a special mailer, assessed by the consignment company, and you are offered a fee, or your items are rejected and (maybe) returned. Online consignment typically pays via Paypal, check or bank transfer.

Thredup

ThredUp is a leading online consignment store for women’s and children’s clothing. The site pays up to 80% of its retail price, but the Internet is full of tales of very picky selection, and very very low payouts (sometimes less than $1!).

Poshmark

Poshmark is an online consignment shop, similar in many ways to ThredUp and Mercari. Sellers use the platform to list items for sale, which buyers then browse. When Poshmark launched, it was originally focused on clothing, accessories, and shoes, but the platform has since expanded to include jewelry, children’s toys, art, and home goods as well. Poshmark pays 20% commission.

According to the site, there are more than 100 million items for sale on the platform, which consists of more than 60 million community members.

Mercari

Like ThredUp and Poshmark, Mercari is an online consignment shop. The company bills itself as “The Selling App,” a place for users to list items for sale that they no longer want or use. The platform accepts most items, as long as they are capable of being shipped.

TheRealReal

TheRealReal is another online consignment shop, but this one specializes only in high-end and luxury fashion — and takes a 30-50% commission. TheRealReal reserves the right to price and discount your item at will — which of course cuts into your bottom line, but may also increase the chances of a sale. 

Crossroads Trading

Crossroads Trading is a newer clothing assignment option that give you the option to sell directly to a physical location, get store credit for Crossroads Trading purchases, drop off or send in your item. You can also choose to get paid on consignment for a higher percentage (up to 70%, vs 30% if you choose cash) in the event your item sells.

Luxury consignment 

There are likely quality consignment shops near you — ask around, check your local Yelp and Google listings. Such stores may be referred to as vintage clothing stores, antique shops, used clothing stores, or thrift shops.

Designer handbag consignment

Reselling designer luxury and high-end handbags from brands like Louis Vitton, Changel, Coach, Hermes and Dior. These are quality sites that do not traffic in fake bags:

  • Rebag
  • The Luxury Closet 
  • 1st Dibs
  • Stock X 
  • TheRealReal
  • The Vestaire Collective 
  • Fashionphile 
  • Yoogi’s Closet 
  • Bag Borrow or Steal 

Furniture consignment

There are likely furniture consignment stores near you — aka vintage furniture stores, antique shops, antique malls, used furniture stores — that accept antiques, vintage furniture, household items and art. Check your local Google listings and reviews.

There are also online furniture consignment platforms such as Everything But the House, Chairish, and 1stdibs.

Jewelry consignment

Jewelry stores and antique shops both may purchase your estate and vintage jewelry — either for a flat rate or on a consignment agreement.

You can also sell via online platforms like Worthy for larger diamonds and jewelry, and CashforGoldUSA for gold, silver, and platinum jewelry, coins, scrap and bullion.

Get the latest gold prices and learn about selling your precious metals in today’s record-high market, or you can check out reviews of top online jewelry buyers, including CashforGoldUSA and Worthy.com, both of which have high payouts, quick payment and an A+ Better Business Bureau ratings. 

How to sell jewelry — what you need to know to value your item.

Learn about the top online jewelry auction sites.

Wedding dress consignment

Local and online consignment stores may resell your wedding gown — including ThredUp, Nearly Newlywed, Borrowing Magnolia, Once Wed, and PreownedWeddingDresses.com. Learn more in our post all about what to do with your used wedding dress.

Which consignment store pays the most?

ThredUp pays up to 80% of the sale price, but the site is very picky so others may be a better fit.

Is consignment a good idea? Are consignment shops worth it?

There are many quality, reputable consignment shops that can give you quick cash for your used items — or slow cash in the hopes of earning more for the stores that pay upon purchase. It is a personal choice for how you want to get rid of your used valuables — but it can make sense to outsource the sale of clothes, furniture, jewelry or other valuables to a retailer who knows how to advertise, display and sell.

Ready to sell? 5 tips for selling on consignment

Selling your gently used, quality items can be a good idea if:

  1. Your item is high quality and in good condition
  2. It is an item that is in-demand in terms of the style and brand
  3. You have the time and skill to market the item either through a website like eBay, or a consignment shop near you — or are willing to relinquish control and sell through an online consignment store
  4. You are patient and do not need the money right away 
  5. You are not emotionally or financially entangled with the item and are willing to accept the item will not sell for the price you expect — or at all

For the vast majority of used clothes, jewelry, household and other items, selling directly to a thrift store, buyback site or directly to the seller is usually a better deal because it is quick, less work, and you can easily get rid of items you do not need or want. 

Thankfully, there are quality buyback business, including some in your town, as well as reputable online sites. 

Before you get started, a successful consignment or resale transaction requires that you know what you have. These posts can help you understand what you own and how much it is worth:

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Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.

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