How To Say “No” to Your Consignors
As a consignment store owner, something you’ll have to do a lot is say “no.”
I estimate that I take an average of 5-10% of the items I look through. When I started out, I feared saying no. New consignments are the life-blood of your business: without a steady supply you have nothing to sell!
The Cost of Not Saying ‘No’
But if you take items indiscriminately, that will also hurt your business. You’ll spend a lot of time & money entering things into inventory, moving things around, and then having to return them to their owners. People will start to see the same things on repeat visits, and will think you rarely have any new inventory.
Once I realized just how costly it was to take things I wasn’t sure about, it became a lot easier to say no. And as I said no, people began to respect it – it gave them the sense that I really only took things I thought I could sell.
(And if it makes you feel any better, in our first 1,000 consignors, I had only had one person become upset when I said ‘no’. I think he had everything dry-cleaned before bringing it in – a costly investment! Often, I will tell people that if they think things need to be dry cleaned to bring them in first, and then they can decide to dry clean only the items I can accept.)
A lot of this is a function of personality. I don’t enjoy confrontation and I dislike disappointing people. Having a business has been a growing experience, to say the least! The challenge is to become more assertive while remaining gracious. But there are a few phrases I’ve found helpful to explain to people why you can’t take some of their items.
Here are some phrases that mean ‘no’:
• Of course, you can always tell people that you estimate you only take 5% of the items you see. (Adjust to your percentage – it will definitely vary for your area/customer base). People will be surprised at this, but if they’ve noticed the strong selection of your store it will make sense to them.
• Explain to people you generally look for brand-name items no more than 3 years old.
• “This looks really well loved!” if it’s really worn out.
• “I don’t have a market for this.” or “My customers won’t appreciate this,” if it doesn’t fit with your customer base.
• “Thank you for thinking of us, please feel free to bring in items anytime,” if you can’t take many (or any!) of the items.
• Be empathic. Say something positive about the item, and then the reason you can’t take it. “This is a wonderful color, but we have trouble selling polyester items.”
Other People Who Hate Saying “No” (but have gotten really good at it)
I’m constantly looking to hone key phrases like, “Our customers’ preferences are our selection criteria”, or “We only take what we know we can sell.” It’s helpful to see how other resale outlets handle this sensitive issue. This post from online buy-outright clothing site thredUP shows how they tackled it.
Comment below and tell us what you’ve learned in the great Consignment Declining Game. We may just compile them into a Top Ten post!