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Consignment and Thrift Stores

Consignment stores and thrift stores are great places for bargain hunters! However, if you’re new to the territory, you can miss out on a lot of the good stuff.

Consignment stores and thrift stores take two different approaches to the sale of second-hand clothing.

Consignment stores receive items from clients and sell them on consignment. The client sets the desired price and receives a percentage of the actual selling price (typically 50%). Many consignment stores have conditions; for example, some may specialize in a particular size range, style or genre of clothing, or require nothing over two years old. Articles must always be in saleable condition, and are often of high quality. Stores usually insist that incoming garments be dry cleaned for sanitation. Most have a time limit after which the item will be returned to the owner. Some will reduce the price of unsold items over time.

Thrift stores rely on donated clothing and consequently can sell it for extremely low prices. They are less picky about the choice of styles and sizes, although clothing must be clean and in saleable condition. They often have discounts on older stock. The quality of clothing varies widely, from top-line labels to bargain basement wares.

Thrift stores are not junk shops. There’s often many a treasure among their wares. New and designer labels can be found, although you may have to shop regularly to catch these items. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your local thrift store.

  • If you’re shopping en femme, wear clothes that make trying on easy. Dresses are awkward with wigs, as is anything that pulls over your head. Button-up blouses and skirts make it easy to try on tops or bottoms.
  • Quietest times are usually weekday mid-mornings. Saturdays tend to be the busiest. Do you want assistance and attention or do you want to get lost in a crowd? You decide.
  • Always, always try things on! Most stores have a no-return policy. Similarly, most stores are quite willing to let you try things on, regardless of what gender you’re presenting. If they’re not, take your business elsewhere.
  • Take several items to the fitting room at the same time. You’ll save a lot of time, especially if there’s a lineup! Thrift stores usually have no problem allowing you to try on your clothing whereas in consignment stores you should check first and respect their policy.
  • Check for fit, of course (see The Perfect Fit Checklist elsewhere in this Guide), but also look for stains, fade marks, missing buttons, broken zippers, loose hemlines, stretched, puckered or ripped seams and the like. Avoid damaged items unless the damage can be repaired cheaply,
  • Shop early! Shop often! New stock comes in to most places almost daily or weekly, and knowledgeable shoppers will be there to snap up the good stuff right away.
  • Expensive items may drop in price if you wait, but remember someone else may be waiting for your prospective bargain too! Don’t pass up that chance, for there might not be a tomorrow for that special piece!
  • Found the perfect item but it’s a bit too small? Perhaps it can be altered slightly to fit. A seamstress will usually charge a nominal amount, which can be well worth it if the price is right.
  • Look for other things besides clothes while you’re there. There’s always at least a small counter with earrings and brooches, perhaps a selection of handbags, maybe some shoes or a scarf – all items that can help complete your feminine picture.
  • When you find a consignment store you like, get to know the staff. They can help with style and selection. They may even phone you about new arrivals that you might be interested in.

Remember, stores work both ways! If you have a closet full of good stuff you don’t wear any more, take it to your favourite consignment store, or donate it to a thrift store.

Finally, remember these three cardinal rules and every store will welcome you wherever you go:

Respect the Establishment

Respect the Clientele

Respect the Merchandise

Happy shopping!

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