Accepting Merchandise Is Just the Beginning
As a consignment store owner you will spend more of your ‘in-shop’ time on accepting merchandise than on any other activity. It is of paramount importance that your consignment procedures be easy, clear, and well-organized. There are times you’ll be so overwhelmed (as in every shopkeeper’s life), that when you see someone come through the door with a huge bunch of new items, you’ll groan inside.
But with the proper systems in place, you’ll be able to handle new consignors all day long and be able to accept, tag, and keep track of every new item with ease.
Don’t Impose Limits…
You should never stop taking new items. Do not impose a limit on the number of items people can bring in, or a daily limit on the number of new items your store can accept. This is one of those things consignment stores do that make consignment stores so un-fresh.
Don’t do it! We are always amused when people try to ‘pre-select’ what they think we will take from a batch. Some consignors tell us: “You passed on all the things I thought you’d take, and took all the things I thought you wouldn’t!” Give yourself the best chance to get the things you want in your store – don’t limit what people can bring in.
Remember: you are confident, and know what you want your store to look like.
You can and will say no to anything that doesn’t meet your criteria. Your consignors will appreciate that they don’t need arcane knowledge to know when to bring things in, or how to bring them in, or how many to bring in. You’ll get better items because of it, and your customers will appreciate it, and you’ll get more sales!
…But Be Perspicacious About Quality
Hold everything up so that you can see it.
Check for: underarm stains, collar-fold stains, zippers & buttons present and working, pocket wear, fading, stains.
Is it a good style? Is it a good brand? Be aware of brands from Walmart, Shopko, and other discount stores – the items are so inexpensive to begin with people will not pay very much for them!
Be aware: we estimate we take only 5% of the items we see. Develop the courage early on to pass on everything if nothing fits your store. DO NOT adjust your standards to be relative to the pile in front of you. I find this happening – that I’ve selected the best one or two items but I wouldn’t even consider those items if they were in another batch. Be pleasant but firm, prepared to give one or two positive reasons and invite them to bring more items in the future.
What Should I Take?
The right stuff. This, like so many things, comes from that idea of what your store is. If your customer is a college student, you may be able to sell women’s suiting separates but not nearly as well as a store aimed at professional women.
You should start off with some idea of what your customers are interested in, and then evolve it over time as you notice certain things selling consistently better than others.
Consider the unusual. Unless you are a very aesthetically focused store, a few off-beat items will add a ‘free entertainment’ aspect to your store – and these items can also be good sellers! You will be amazed at the amount of kilts, leiderhosen, etc etc that will come out of peoples’ closets and to your shop. A lot of people just want to know that their items will be appreciated in a ‘new home’, and don’t even care how much they make for them – they’ve just been holding onto them because they don’t think a thrift store will find them a new owner who will truly appreciate them.
As soon as you get a handle on what things will sell well, it will change. Keep an eye on what shows up on new retail, and anticipate them reaching your store. Follow your own interests and passions and be responsive to your customers.