How to Have Your Own Consignment Sale

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Make some money for yourself or a charity with a consignment sale.
Make some money for yourself or a charity with a consignment sale. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Having a consignment sale can be a wonderful way to make some extra money, and to update your wardrobe or that of your children. It will take a lot of planning and organization, but if it goes well, it can turn into a yearly event, where you build on it and improve it each time. Decide what you want to consign and start out with that specialty in mind. While there is some market for secondhand adult clothing, the most successful consignment sales are for children’s clothing and baby items. Children tend to outgrow clothes while they are still in good condition and in current fashion, so they have still have a high percentage of their original value even after they are gently used. Executing a successful sale will take a great deal of planning and time to get organized before the big day, so you will want to start working on your sale months in advance.

Things You'll Need

  • Internet access
  • binder
  • paper
  • hanging clothes racks

Planning Ahead

Advertise heavily. To have a successful consignment sale, you will need to reach to as many people in your area as you possibly can. You will need plenty of consignors and plenty of shoppers for the event to be successful and be worth your time and effort. Reach out to every group that you can. If you belong to a Mom’s club or large playgroup, then notify them. Get in touch with people from your church, your place of business, neighbors and friends. If you are a member of social networking sites, use those to let people know about the sale. With each email or message, ask people to spread the word, and forward your messages to as many people as they know who might have some interest. As you are starting to get the word out, seek out clothing hanging racks and hangers to borrow as well.

Seek out a location for the sale. Many possible places may be available to you for free or a very small fee. A room in your church can be a good fit for a consignment sale, as can the gym or dining hall of a local community college. Your homeowner’s association or neighborhood clubhouse may also work well. You may also be able to hold the sale at your child’s school or preschool.

Begin accepting consigned items. As much as possible, encourage consignors to include hangers with their items. People will be better able to browse through items if they are hanging neatly on racks, rather than folded and stacked. Ask the consignor up front if they will want their unsold items returned to them or donated. Have the consignor initial a piece of paper that agrees to the amount of the sale price that they get, typically a 50% split between the sale organizer and the consignor works best.

Be picky! Do not accept clothing from consignors that is stained, ripped, shows lots of wear, or is many years out of style. You do not want shoppers to see a few items in disrepair, and then decline to look at the rest of your items because they assume they are not of quality. Consider setting a minimum price for items you will accept, such as $2 per piece. You may find that items that will sell for less than that, (bibs, socks, onesies) are just not worth your time. You may want to have consignors hang their clothes on the racks and attach a blank price tag to cut down on the work you will have to do after the prices are determined.

Keep neat and precise records. The record keeping will be the most difficult and tedious part of your job. This can be done electronically, but using a simple binder may be easier. The binder will be easy to move around with as you work your way through the different bags and stacks of consigned clothing. Create a page or section of pages for each consignor and a line for each individual item of clothing with a brief description (i.e. Blue Gymboree snowman sweater, size 6-12 months). Leave room for the price, and a box to check off when the item sells. You may want to include space on the line to indicate what the item actually sold for, in case you end up reducing prices for the final hour of the sale. Keep records of everything you borrowed and who you borrowed it from as well.

Set a price for each item in the sale. You may or may not want to let your consignors decide on the price for their items. Often consignors can set the prices too high, and going through each item and having a dialogue about the price for each one will be additional work for you. One idea is to allow the consignor to set the price for each item, but you maintain the right to change the price as you see necessary. Or you can elect to just set the prices yourself. Put a price tag on each item. Shoppers will want to know the prices right away, and attempting to place things on a "$2 rack” or a “$4 rack” rather than pricing the item individually rarely works well. On each price tag, put the consignor’s initials as well as the price. This will allow the person at the checkout table to quickly flip in the binder to the appropriate consignor for each item, and indicate next to the item that it sold.

Be safe. Educate yourself on children’s products that have been recalled. The Consumer Product Safety Commission will have information on items that have been recalled due to safety concerns. Do not sell these items at your consignment sale. To keep it simple, you may want to stay away from cribs, car seats, and strollers altogether. But even clothing can be subject to recalls, so educate yourself on the recalled items, even if you do decide not to sell cribs, car seats, and strollers.

Continue to get the word out. Advertise your sale as much as possible in the last few weeks leading up to it. In addition to all the networking you did to find consignors, let those same people know the date, time, and location of the sale. Print fliers and place them in as many stores, restaurants, and public places as you are able. Place an ad on free classified websites, and on any social networking sites you use. You may want to advertise in the newspaper as well, if it’s not too expensive. If you have the skills, or have a friend or colleague who does, start a simple web site with all of the sale information.

(Image: Photos.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Finalize the details several weeks before the sale. Determine the times and days of the sale. Many sales work well from 8 a.m to 5 p.m. on a Saturday, and from 8 a.m. to noon on Sunday. You may also want the last two hours of the sale to feature all of the remaining items marked down to half-price.

Solicit volunteers. You will need volunteers for set-up, clean-up, to run the register or cash box, and to deliver the unsold goods to a charity after the sale, if desired. Have a minimum of 3 volunteers present for all hours of the sale. To entice volunteers, either offer them a higher percentage on their own items they choose to consign, or allow them to have a first look at the sale items, with a "volunteers only" presale before the sale.

The Day of the Sale

Organize the clothes by size and gender. Have large signs that indicate what can be found in each hanging rack, for example, "Girl's Clothes, 2T -3T". You may even want to break the clothes out by season, or at least have a special place for snow gear and swim gear.

Go over your set-up and make sure it is ideal. Depending on the size of the location, you may want to consider not allowing shoppers to push strollers while they browse the items. Walk through the venue imagining yourself as a shopper. Make sure you have ample room to browse the items and items are spread out to display them to their best advantage.

Have a laptop computer on hand with Wi-Fi access to the Internet, and the page open to the CPSC website. If you do sell items such as cribs, strollers, and car seats, direct shoppers to this computer station so that they can check for themselves to be sure the item has not been recalled.

Start the half-priced sale during the last two hours of the last day. Hopefully, this will clear out most of the unsold items. You may want to consider taking any "best offers" during this time period. After the sale, bag the items up and take them to the charity of your choice. Make sure it is a charity that accepts all the items that were featured in your sale.

if you think the sale is likely to become a yearly event, take notes immediately after the sale. Write down what worked and what did not. It will be useful to have these reminders in nine or ten months when you begin to plan the next sale. Did you have enough volunteers? Did the set-up have a good flow? Were there things that did not sell at all, such as snowsuits or bicycles?

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