It’s much easier to let go of stuff that serves no purpose in your life (especially when said “stuff” originally cost you a lot of dough) if you can recoup some of that lost investment. Let’s face it — finding a way to sell valuable-yet-purposeless clutter feels less like wasted money than simply giving it to the neighborhood Goodwill. Consignment is an excellent option for things like jewelry, furniture, collectibles, kindercrap, and designer clothes — but the process can be a bit confusing, and you may not be completely sure how to participate. This invaluable checklist will help you understand what consignment’s all about, work effectively with your local shop, and get the biggest bang for your buck.
How Consignment Works
- you sign a contract (and leave your merchandise) with a retailer who agrees to sell your stuff for you
- this vendor displays your products for a set period of time (30 days, 3 months, 6 months, possibly longer) according to the specific terms of your contract
- when something is bought by a customer, you’re paid a percentage of its sales price (generally 50-75%) — the shop keeps the remainder as a commission
- if an item doesn’t sell, ye olde merchant may discount the price (dropping it by 25-30% for a few weeks, 50% for another couple, then clearancing it at 75-90% off)
- anything that’s still lurking around by the agreed-upon expiration date is either returned to you or forfeited (meaning the store owner can keep, donate, or discard it) — again per your contract
Picking A Store
- a vendor specializing in particular merchandise (mid-century furniture, sports memorabilia, Hummels) makes your stuff available to a highly targeted group of shoppers, while the “generalist” vibe attracts a more varied set of buyers — regardless, make sure your products fit with the feel/focus of the store
- visit in person to get a sense of that location’s layout and appearance — find out how/where your products will be displayed
- check out the condition of other similar items (so you can understand both your competition and that retailer’s practices) — then examine the shop’s price structure (so you’ll have an idea of how your treasures will be marked)
- look for signs of extra security (fire protection, locked cases, burglar alarms) — also ask how your valuables are insured in case of theft, loss, or damage
- find out what kind of traffic the store gets — how many shoppers pass through each week? — how many of them buy? — how much do they spend? — what do their customers look like (demographics along the lines of age, gender, and income-level)? — when are their busiest days and times of day?
Preparing Your Merchandise
- thoroughly clean your merchandise and repair any damage or wear (if possible) before submitting it for sale — the better looking and functioning your stuff, the higher the price it will command
- many shops only accept seasonal consignments, so plan your submissions for the appropriate time of year — sweaters in late fall (rather than mid-July), water skis just before summer vacation starts
- get a rough idea of what an item is worth ahead of time so you know you’re not getting screwed by the retailer’s contract — gather up any documentation that supports your request for a higher price (appraisals, receipts, insurance records) so you can argue your case from the start
Protecting Your Rights
- I shouldn’t have to say this, but understand your damn rights and responsibilities BEFORE signing on the dotted line — get every single term and agreement in writing!
- insist on the right to “pull” your items early if they aren’t selling — you don’t want to be tied for all eternity to a crap retailer who’s overpriced your merchandise or isn’t properly marketing your products
- know what discounting schedule (30% off after 30 days, 50% off after 60 days, etc.) will be applied before the vendor starts slashing prices — and agree upon what the bottom line looks like prior to hitting it
- know up front what the commission percentage will be — also ask about any other potential “hidden” costs (for pick-up/delivery of merchandise, inventory/stocking, cleaning/maintenance, marketing/advertising — you name it, they’ll find a way to charge you for it)
- ask other consigners about their experiences with the shop (taking everything you hear with a grain of salt) — you’re not looking for a single stinky review, but a widespread history of good/bad service
- take photos to document the quality of each item you consign (in case you receive something back in worse-than-original condition) — also ask for an itemized receipt listing everything you’ve submitted (so there’s no confusion if something’s unaccounted for in the final tally)
- get a regular statement showing any products that have sold in the past month or quarter — this will help you track how your stuff is doing, and let you know if you need to pull anything early
- make sure you can get your merchandise back at the end of the sale period — even if all you do is put it straight in the donate bin yourself, it’s better than allowing your property to be forfeited
(this article has been edited/expanded for the web — click here to download the original PDF as published by Getting Organized Magazine)
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Copyright 2015 RamonaCreel.com
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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and RamonaCreel.com.
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