Shop and Sell Consignment Like a Pro
Local boutique owners share their best tips to help you score a deal.
In college—when I was interning for free and spending my summer savings on books and rent—my family liked to joke that I had “champagne taste on a beer budget.” It’s true, especially when it comes to fashion. There’s something magnetic about the quilted print on a Chanel 2.55 bag, which evolved from Coco Chanel’s first purse design in the 1920’s (one that implemented the first-ever functional cross-body strap for women). And the D-shaped belt buckle on a Burberry trench coat, which gets its moniker from the the WWI soldiers holed up in trenches for whom the coat was originally designed.
Iconic pieces like these mean you can wear both art and history, but usually at a hefty price.
Enter consignment shops—which are not to be confused with thrift stores. Especially not the local boutiques whose proprietors have upped the ante to accommodate our area’s affluent tastes, going to great lengths to find gently used, designer items in near-mint condition.
For shoppers, half of the fun is relishing in the thrill of the hunt, but ultimately they want one thing: to look chic while saving money.
If you’ve never shopped at or sold through a consignment store before, it can be a tricky landscape to navigate. How can you be sure of an item’s authenticity? How do you know when a piece of merchandise has been marked down to the lowest price possible? How can sellers get the most money for their gently used items? For answers, we went straight to the source: local consignment shop owners. Here are their tips for fashionistas looking to score great deals or cash out their closets.
Owner: Carmen Lopez
Location: 2601 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
Stock in trade: High-end, luxury clothing and accessories with featured brands like Kate Spade, Jimmy Choo, Prada and more.
When does Current Boutique re-stock?
“New treasures are put out on the floor daily,” Lopez says. “However, I would say Friday is the best day. We aim to process and get all inventory out before the weekend. We also have a bunch of fashion bloggers who come in to consign and make several drop-offs all throughout the month, so if you happen to pop in a day or two after they drop off you will discover a goldmine of goodies!” Shoppers should follow local bloggers like Julien Garmen of It’s Julien and Natalie Pinto of The Fashionably Broke who tend to post on their social media if they’re making a big drop off.
Can shoppers haggle?
“We tend not to entertain haggling. If someone is looking for a discount then we encourage [them] to sign up for our email list. We send out discounts and promotions.”
When are your biggest sales?
“Black Friday, End of Summer Sale [in August] and the End of Winter Sale in January, where we take 20 percent off of everything in the store and have 50 percent off of select items. It’s a great time to snatch up incredible savings.”
How does Current ensure quality and authenticity?
“Our buyers are experts in quality. All clothing, handbags, shoes and accessories are triple checked for authenticity. We carefully inspect gemstones, gold and sterling silver jewelry pieces. We have expert buyers on staff who thoroughly inspect all items for serial numbers, stamps and craftsmanship to verify [that they are the real deal].”
Owner: Erin Messner
Location: 926 W. Broad St., Falls Church
Stock in trade: High-end children’s apparel featuring pieces from GAP, Lilly Pulitzer, Vineyard Vines, Ralph Lauren and more.
When does Lemon Lane tend to mark down items?
“Lemon Lane marks items down 50 percent after 60 days on the rack, and since we put new inventory out daily, there are always new items hitting the sale rack. We also do a big end-of-season sale during season changes, which are in July and January, where items are up to an additional 65 percent off.”
Can shoppers haggle?
“Consistent and fair pricing is really important to us at Lemon Lane. We want to [make sure] our consignors get the most money for their items while also giving our customers great deals on designer clothes, so our pricing is firm.”
Owner: Christina Novak
Location: 108 W. Broad St., Falls Church
Stock in trade: Luxury and designer clothing, shoes, bags and accessories. The most popular brands featured in-store include Gucci, Burberry, Christian Louboutin, Tiffany & Co and Chanel, among others.
Does New To You re-stock on specific days?
“We get items in every day we are open. We receive items from New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Utah and Florida, as well as locally.”
Can shoppers haggle?
“We are not into haggling too much. We like to keep our consignors happy as well as our shoppers. One way we have continued to supply excellent designer clothing, handbags, jewelry and such is by pricing items properly the first go-round.” That being said, Novak notes that its always safe to ask the store clerk how long an item will sit before being marked down, and to inquire if an item will be a part of any upcoming sales.
What are your best tips for shoppers?
“Keep your lipstick and foundation on your face, please,” says Novak. You don’t want to end up paying for a Gucci LBD that didn’t even fit because your makeup stained the collar. Another pro tip? To prevent a seriously awkward situation, avoid shopping with friends who are the same size as you. After all, she points out, “consignment shops usually have only one of each item.”
Any tips for sellers looking to make some cash?
“Check our website to see what items we’re currently looking for,” she says. Consignors can make more money with in-season wares than off-season items. What are they scouting for right now? It’s summer and that means cotton and linen dresses, Hermes scarves and straw hats.
Co-Owner: Elise Whang
Location: Online only (there’s no brick-and-mortar store) at LePrix.com
Stock in trade: Headquartered in Crystal City, this online retailer sells consigned apparel from more than 500 boutiques in the U.S.
When is the best time for shoppers to find a deal online?
“We know the timing of the industry really well because we work with over 500 stores,” Whang says. “Generally the best time to shop and sell is close to the end of each season. Right now now, consignment stores are looking for summer pieces, so you’ll make the most money consigning summer items.” If you’re putting away your winter clothes and earmarking items to consign, “hang onto them until the fall and you’ll get a better return on your investment.”
With merch from more than 500 stories, how can you ensure authenticity?
“We only work with verified boutiques. We go through an interview process and a 10-point checklist to make sure the consignment store owner authenticates and is an expert at authentication. I would not recommend authenticating things on your own since there are so many different details for each brand, and the counterfeit industry is getting more sophisticated. Our store owners are keeping up with the research on the latest counterfeits. But whenever you’re in any consignment shop, it’s a good idea to ask the store owner if they guarantee authenticity to safeguard your purchase.”
Is there a general rule of thumb or standard practice regarding the timing of mark downs?
“Look at the sale tag. If it shows the date the item came in, don’t be shy about asking whether the item will be discounted soon, or after 30 days. Once an item has been on the rack more than 30 days, consignment stores and consignors usually agree to be more flexible with their pricing and markdowns. The tags can give you a hint, but if not, the managers and store owners are usually really nice and want to help you find your right piece.”