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.
Below, we explore consignment shops—what they are, how they work—and take a look at three popular online consignment shops: ThredUp, Poshmark, and Mercari.
What is a consignment shop?
Similar to pawnbrokers, consignment shops sells secondhand items on behalf of the original owner, who receives a percentage of the selling price.
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.
What is a typical consignment fee?
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
Popular consignment shops
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 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.
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.
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 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!).
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.
High-end consignment shops — look for consignment shops near me
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.
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 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.
CashforGoldUSA offers a 10% bonus if you send in your item within 7 days, and pays within 24 hours. Sell with CashforGoldUSA now >>
Worthy offers a free GIA report, overnight shipping and sells via an online auction. Sell with Worthy.com now >>
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.
ThredUP is the online equivalent of a traditional consignment store.
Customers who choose to sell through ThredUp can mail in their clothing for cash, and buyers can purchase used clothing for bargain basement prices.
The discounts you’ll find depend on the item you’re buying, the brand, and even the season, but you can count on scoring at least 50 percent off retail — and usually a lot more.
But, is online consignment as convenient and affordable as the in-person version? Depends on who you ask.
While buyers tend to have a positive experience with ThredUp, many sellers who have mailed clothing into ThredUp report they received “pennies on the dollar” for their contributions, and that they could make more money reselling their items themselves.
In this ThredUP review, we’ll talk about how the service works, what it costs, and what to expect as both a buyer and seller.
Is ThredUP worth it? We’ll let you decide.
Related article: Sell your engagement ring online
ThredUp: How it works for sellers
Before we get into the pros and cons of using ThredUP, let’s get down to how it works. For sellers, the process works a lot like a local consignment store resale process. The big difference is, you’ll mail your clothing in instead of hauling into the store yourself. Because really:
ThredUP accepts over 35,000 brands through its resale site, and you can see those brands here.
While there are plenty of off-brands or obscure brands represented, ThredUp also loves to resell big brands like Burberry, 7 For All Mankind, Lululemon, and White House Black Market.
ThredUP says that
“only high-quality items that meet their strict standards will be accepted.”
In other words, items must be new, or like new, and freshly laundered.
When you’re ready to sell, you can use the ThredUP website to order a “Clean Out Kit.” This kit is a bag that you will use to ship all your high quality, unwanted clothing back to ThredUP.
Once you have gathered and laundered all the clothing you believe you will be eligible for resale, you can drop your bag off at the post office or schedule a free residential pickup.
Once ThredUP has received your clothing, you’ll receive an email with details on the payout you can expect and which items they accepted.
For the first 14 days, you can use your payout to purchase items from ThredUP.com.
After that, you can cash out your earnings via Paypal, or a ThredUP prepaid Visa card.
How much will you earn for your clothing? Now, that’s a tricky question.
ThredUP acknowledges that they cannot guarantee earnings, but they also share a handy chart that shows traditional payouts.
Using the chart below, you can see that you might earn 5 – 90 percent of each item’s value depending on the item’s original price and the type of clothing.
The lack of transparency regarding payouts has become a big problem for ThredUp as the company continues to grow.
On the review website SiteJabber, there were 1,279 one-star reviews and paltry payouts are a constant source of complaints.
“This felt like a ripoff. It takes a LONG time for them to process your clothing, and then you get pennies for your things,” said Meg S. in her review.
On March 5, 2018, Liz W. had this to say:
“Eventually ThredUp will have to fold after taking advantage of first-time sellers. I heard about them on a podcast and thought I'd send in clothes. Sent several J. Crew and Banana Republic items still with tags and made $3. Sure, their rules are laid out, but the pay outs are not fair and I will never buy or sell or recommend any friends do the same from here on out. Do not waste your time.”
Another big problem for sellers is the fact that you don’t automatically have items returned to you if ThredUP doesn’t accept them. If you want to ensure you get all your items back, you have to pay $10.99 for “return assurance coverage.”
Without this coverage, ThredUP keeps the clothing they don’t plan to use, citing that it’s too expensive to mail it back to you.
In other words, you could find yourself in a situation where you sent in a bag of clothing only to get nothing in return.
ThredUp says they donate or recycle the clothing, but there’s no way to know for sure.
But, there are other problems with this setup. Imagine you have an expensive, brand name dress you would be happy to sell as long as you got at least $30 or $40. If you couldn’t get that much money for it, you would rather just keep it.
With ThredUp, you would have to mail it in blindly knowing you may not get a penny for it and you will never get it back. You could pay $10.99 for return assurance, but you still wouldn’t know if you’re getting the $30+ you want for the dress until it’s too late.
ThredUp: how it works for buyers
While ThredUp has many negative reviews from unsatisfied sellers, the buying side seems to produce much better results.
Even people who complain about getting ripped off on the sales side admit that there are plenty of deals to be had when you purchase barely-worn brand name clothing through the website.
If you've ever bought clothing on Poshmark.com before, the process is very similar.
Create an account, or log in via social media, then browse clothing by brand or by size until you find the items you want.
The website accepts credit cards for payment, and shipping costs vary but start at $5.99.
At the end of the day, shopping and buying through the website is easy. They also offer frequent discounts for new customers for up to 30 percent off.
Most of ThredUp’s positive reviews come from buyers who received high-quality clothing for prices they found reasonable.
In June of 2017, Kate G. had this to say on SiteJabber:
“I’ve ordered women's and children's clothes eight times and the quality and prices were great. I'm an avid thrift store shopper and the prices are close and most items I have purchased still had the tags on them. I also sent three items in my clean up bag and received $70. I was sure, after reading these other reviews, that I would be shafted but I guess people most likely think their old clothes are in better condition than they really are.”
How to make the most of ThredUp
If you’re hoping to make the most of ThredUP, recent reviews seem to suggest you’ll do a lot better buying second-hand clothes than you will trying to make money off your own.
When it comes to your own clothing, you may be better off selling individual pieces through an online resale site or your neighborhood Facebook group.
Hell, you could even have an old-fashioned garage sale and sell your clothing along with other household items.
On the buy side, however, there are some really awesome deals to be had –— especially if you know the type of clothing you’re interested in and what fits you best.
Recently, I bought several dresses off of ThredUP that were made by a great clothing brand I love, Soma.
While Soma mostly focuses on underwear and pajamas, they also make beautiful, comfortable dresses that fit nearly any body type.
Some of their dresses even have pockets! The dresses I bought on ThredUP were a steal compared to in-store pricing. I know for a fact I have paid over $90 for their long dresses and over $80 for their shorter styles in Soma stores.
When the dresses arrived in the mail, they were truly in “perfect” second-hand condition. They had all been freshly laundered, and they were exactly what I wanted.
With that in mind, it’s my personal opinion that ThredUP is best for buyers who want to score a deal on used clothing and know what they want.
The website may also be perfect for people who purchase children’s clothing and prefer to buy second-hand. Why? Because most kids look good in anything their size, and they may not be as picky about brands or style.
If you want to get rid of your unwanted clothing, on the other hand, you may want to consider donating it to a shelter, the Salvation Army, or to someone who can use it.
If you mail it into ThredUP, there’s no guarantee you’ll get the money you want for your items and you won’t get them back unless you pay an extra $10.99.
Who ThredUP is good for:
- A buyer who knows which brands fit them and which brands are worth the money
- Anyone who wants brand name clothing without the new price tag
- People who don’t mind buying second-hand
Who should skip ThredUP:
- Sellers who want to get a lot of money in exchange for their used clothing
- People who don’t focus on specific clothing brands
- Anyone who doesn’t like buying used
What is 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.
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.
How does Poshmark work?
Selling on Poshmark is fairly straightforward:
- Register for an account on the site
- Take a photo (or photos) of the item you want to sell
- Enter a description of the item
- Set the price
If someone is interested in your item, they’ll buy it from you directly—there’s no auction involved. Poshmark will then send you a prepaid and pre-addressed shipping label, which you will need to affix to your package before sending.
How much does Poshmark take?
Listing your item on Poshmark is free. It’s only once you’ve made a sale that Poshmark takes its cut. Poshmark’s fees depend on the value of the sale:
- If your item sells for less than $15, Poshmark keeps $2.95
- If your item sells for more than $15, Poshmark keeps 20% of the listing price
Is selling on Poshmark worth it?
Compared to some other online consignment shops, Poshmark’s fees are a bit high, especially on sales under $15. A $2.95 fee on a $10 sale, for example, means you’re forfeiting nearly 30% of your sale. And the 20% fee on sales above $15 is also high compared to sites like Mercari, which charges just 10%.
That being said, in exchange for the fee, Poshmark handles the financial transaction, provides shipping, and acts as a customer support team for your sale. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether this is worth the price.
If reviews from others were any indication, you might want to think twice. Poshmark has a score of 1.5 out of 5 stars from both SiteJabber and Trustpilot, and has a C rating through the BBB.
How do I start selling on Poshmark?
All you need to do to start selling on Poshmark is create an account, take a photo of your item, enter a description, and list it for sale.
What is 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.
How does Mercari work?
The process of selling on Mercari is similar to selling on Poshmark. Just:
- Create an account
- List an item for sale by uploading a photo and description
- Choose a shipping option
- Set a price
After your item sells, you will need to package and ship your item to the buyer. If you paid for shipping through Mercari, you can print the label and send your package; if not, you will need to purchase your own labeling. Note: If providing your own labeling, you must provide Mercari with the tracking information so that they can track the status of the shipment.
Is Mercari legit?
Mercari was launched in 2013, and is a legitimate business. With more than 644 customer reviews, the company has an A+ rating with the BBB. Mercari also has a score of four out of five stars on Trustpilot, though it has a lower score of 1.5 out of five stars on SiteJabber.
What percentage does Mercari take?
Listing an item on Mercari is free, but Mercari does take a cut of your sale once your listing is bought. This fee is currently 10% of the listing price.
As the seller, you must also cover any shipping fees to get your item to the buyer. You can choose to ship the item on your own, or purchase shipping through Mercari’s partnerships with USPS, FedEx, or UPS.
How do I start selling on Mercari?
All you need to do to start selling on Mercari is create an account and list your item for sale. The process can be completed in as little as five minutes.
Poshmark vs. Mercari: Is Mercari or Poshmark better?
Poshmark and Mercari are similar in many ways. Both websites act as an online consignment shop designed to connect buyers with sellers. Both are fairly straightforward to use. Both accept clothing, jewelry, and other items.
But there are certain key differences. While both Poshmark and Mercari are legit businesses that have been around for years, Mercari has much more favorable reviews, and a much higher BBB score than Poshmark, implying that both buyers and sellers are happier with Mercari than Poshmark.
Poshmark charges 20% of the list price of a sale—twice that charged by Mercari. That being said, for that fee Poshmark handles all transaction fees, shipping, and customer service, while selling through Mercari will require the seller to provide shipping at their own expense.
The internet has changed how we do almost everything — and that includes how we shop for clothes. Where you once had to schlep into a department store or your favorite consignment shop, all your shopping can be done from the comfort of your home these days.
If you like the idea of saving big money on second-hand clothing from the better brands, then an online consignment shop like ThredUP, Poshmark, or Mercari may be exactly what you’re looking for.
Not only can you save money, but you can shop for the exact brands and sizes you want.
On the selling side, you should definitely consider all your options before you move forward with any option. Your dream of a big payday could be dashed quickly if recent reviews are any indication, and there’s absolutely nothing you could do about it.
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Holly Johnson is a financial expert, award-winning writer, and Indiana mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting and travel. Her personal finance articles have been published in the U. S. News, Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, and Life Hacker. Holly is founder of of the family finance resource, ClubThrifty.com, and is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love. Learn more about Holly here.