“Connecticut Meets North Carolina” Temperley London Leather Jacket: Fairfield County, CT; Plenty by Tracy Reese Fall Floral Frock: Winston-Salem, NC

I adore purple, even more so when it shows up in this jammy eggplant shade. The right occasion hasn’t yet presented itself, but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming about wearing this luscious fall combination with my vintage Prada’s. This beautiful pair was purchased at least a decade ago.

So, how does one score such beautiful finds as these? The fact is that shopping, whether at the mall, a boutique, online, or at a local estate sale (yes, that too is shopping) can feel like a free fall when you don’t have a plan. You’re easily stressed and  overwhelmed, walking around with that glazed-over look in your eyes. Sooner rather than later, you give up, perhaps after making a few questionable purchases.

Here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to be that way. To be a successful consignment shopper, you need a plan. Here are a few key elements of my consignment shopping plan:

  1. Be in control by having your “list.” I know, “What list? You didn’t say anything about a list.” Your “list” is a rundown of the specific items you are hoping to find that will fill in a gap or round out a look. This season, for example, I am looking for kitten heeled mules that can carry me through that awkward transition period between sandals and booties. So, kitten heels in black, or a multi-color pattern, are on my list. I also need a few long sweaters to wear over patterned leggings for everyday wear. As I wear these sweaters so often, I need to fill in with a few new ones. You get the idea. Arrive armed with your list. With some luck, you’ll be able to check something off of it as you walk out the door! I keep my list on a cute, itty-bitty notepad my sister gave me as a gift. It lives in my handbag. Your list may be in your phone (a great place for one) or somewhere else. While you may be able to keep a list in your head, I am a little skeptical that it would be as reliable.
  2. Know what your budget will bear.  Have a good sense of how much you are willing and able to spend on this trip. Shopping consignment doesn’t give you the license to lose your common sense just because the price is right. If you also consign items at this store, make a beeline to the counter and ask how much money you have on your account. With this information in hand, you may choose to expand your budget for this trip, or pull in the reins more tightly.
  3. Master the lay of the land. While eachs unique, consignment stores tend to have similar features. For example, a rack of newly-arrived items may be in the front of the store to grab your attention. Another rack of greatly reduced items may be toward the back of the store. A sign displaying the color-coded tags and how much items are discounted is likely to be prominently- displayed. Otherwise, you will usually find a “like with like” strategy – women’s tops by size, women’s athletic wear by size, and so on. Depending on the size of the store and the breadth of its merchandise, you may also find home furnishings, men’s wear, and other categories. The point is to make a mental roadmap so that you work it and it doesn’t work you. And on that note…
  4. Work it! So, remember that list? It’s usually a good idea to start there. If I were looking for those mules, I’d head straight to the designer shoe area. If I don’t find what I am looking for there, I go to the moderately-priced shoe area. After that, I am on to the sweater rack. You get the idea. After you have worked your list, you can decide how you want to work the rest of the store. For me, I head to the greatly-reduced rack, then to the newly-arrived items. If I have the time and the inclination, I usually cover home furnishings last.
  5. Allow for some serendipity. There is a lot of eye candy to take in. Sometimes it makes sense to simply follow your eye and see where it will lead.

And one last thing that lives outside of every list:

Treat the salespeople as valued partners in your experience…even if they seem disinterested, or are having what looks like “a bad day.” Everyone deserves your respect and kindness. Having owned and operated a vintage-inspired boutique for eleven years, and an inn for thirteen years, I know how it feels to be treated like “the help.” Please don’t do that to anyone; it is beneath you.

2 thoughts on “How to Work a Consignment Shop Like a Pro

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s