Looking to get smarter about taking consignments? Look no farther. Here are eleven great strategies to keep your suppliers coming back with better items.
As a consignment store owner you will spend more of your ‘in-shop’ time accepting merchandise than any other activity. Taking consignments is difficult because it requires a good eye, split-second decisions and a decisive personality. For those reasons, it is of paramount importance that your consignment intake procedures be easy, clear, and well-organized. Once you’ve got the proper systems in place, you’ll be able to handle new consignors all day long and be able to accept, tag, and track each new item with ease.
1) You should never stop taking new items. To that point, don’t impose a limit on the number of items people can bring in. This is one of those things consignment stores do that make consignment stores so un-fresh. Your consignors will appreciate that they don’t need to know when to bring things in, or how to bring them in, or how many to bring in. You want to remove friction whenever possible. You’ll get better items because of it, and your customers will appreciate it, and you’ll get more sales! Give yourself the best chance to get the things you want in your store — you can always say no to things that don’t meet your criteria. Ask yourself, “Would I buy this? Would I shell out hard-earned cash? Does this elevate the look of the store?”
2) Make sure your receiving counter is clear – you don’t want the batch to get mixed in with any other items from another batch or from any other step of the process.
3) Customer service should be stellar. These people are bringing in your occupational bread-and-butter, so you want to make sure they like coming back. If the consignor hasn’t been in before, as them, “Do you have an account with us?” or “Is this your first time consigning with us?”
4) Create a solid, simple consignment policy and have them sign it. Make sure it addresses payment details, profit split information, length of consignment term, what happens to unsold items, etc.
5) Develop “The Spiel.” Interestingly enough, people hardly ever take the time to read through a page-long contract just to hand their clothes over, so it’s a great idea to develop a shortened version of the agreement. We call it The Spiel and its purpose is to fill your new consignor in on the high points and familiarize them with the journey their clothing is about to embark on. After you’re done with The Spiel, encourage them to read the agreement in its entirety, and to sign and date when they’re done.
6) Make sure you have a solid software system that will keep track of your consignors’ information and items. Consignment can be so much trickier than it looks and there is nothing more unprofessional than a lost consignor account. With it goes all the money your consignor has earned in your store and all the trust they ever gave you. It’s a huge turn-off. Even if you pay them a sum, it will most likely cost you money because you have no idea how much you actually owe them. Save yourself a headache and check out ConsignCloud. It’s the sleekest way to power your store and give you the peace of mind you need.
7) Now comes the fun part! Tell them that it will take about 5 minutes to look through their items, and that they’re welcome to browse around the store while you do. (Say 10 minutes if it’s more than one bunch of items, and add 10 minutes for each person in line ahead of them). Inviting consignors to browse the store is a great strategic tool because many store owners find it intimidating to have consignors looking over their shoulder while they hold up their former wardrobe items and examine them.
8) Check for quality. Hold everything up so that you can see it. Check for underarm stains, frayed collar-folds and cuffs, pocket wear, fading, and stains. Make sure that all zippers & buttons are present and in good working order. Then ask some more nuanced questions: Is it 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!
9) Our store owners estimate they take only 5% of the items they go through. Develop the courage to pass on everything if nothing fits your store. Don’t adjust your standards to be relative to the pile in front of you. Sometimes you might find this happening: you’ve selected the best one or two items from one batch, but you wouldn’t even consider those items if they were in another batch. Be pleasant but firm when refusing merchandise and be prepared to give one or two positive reasons and invite them to bring more items in the future.
10) Price it! It will take time and experience to develop the instinct for pricing. You might make mistakes, but don’t let it bother you – if people find a bargain they’ll be back, and tell their friends. It might help to have some basic guidelines to use when pricing. Most stores use 1/3 of original retail as a starting point, and then price up and down 10% for everything they think should affect the price (wear and tear, new with tags, vintage, top-shelf brand, etc.)
11) Finally, breathe easy. Learning how to take consignments is a process. It’ll take a while! And meanwhile, your store will be just fine. No one piece of clothing is going to bring your business down. Have fun, business owners!