Sure, on occasion you'll run into a buyer (employees of a consignment or resale store deciding what items the store will take) who doesn't dig your style. But more often than not, sellers don't know exactly what they're getting into when hauling in a garbage bag of boring T-shirts and ratty jeans. Spoiler alert: That probably doesn't mean you'll walk away with title-loan-amounts of cash.
Instead, there is a way to make life easier for you and them. For starters, package up last year's oversized, undersized, and not-your-style garments with care. Bring them to a shop at the right time, and this could actually work out.
With that in mind, here's a guide to some of the Valley’s consignment and resale shops – including what you can expect from them and what they have to expect from you.
Consignment vs. Resale
First, it’s important to know the difference between consignment and resale when it comes to selling your items. The real difference is: Do you get money or store credit right away, or do you have to wait?
Resale shops buy items on the spot, offering cash or credit once a buyer has sorted through your items at the buying counter or station. Think Buffalo Exchange, Plato’s Closet, and Name Brand Exchange.
Then there’s consignment. A buyer selects your items, places it in the store, and once it has sold, the store offers you a percentage in the form of cash or credit. Think My Sister’s Closet, Simply Posh, and previously Poor Little Rich Girl (which is now a resale shop).
Ann Siner, CEO and founder of upscale consignment shop My Sister’s Closet (women's fashion), as well as My Sister’s Attic (designer furniture) and Well Suited (men’s resale apparel), has a trick for cleaning out your closet. “Turn all your hangers the wrong way,” she says – and after the season, see how many hangers are facing the right way. “There are a lot of people in this community with absolutely beautiful things that they’re no longer using,” she says. And that’s what you bring in.
Vanessa Dougan, CEO of Name Brand Exchange in Mesa, has another tip: Bring more than less. “Because we’re more likely to buy a lot,” she says. Dougan explains how they try to be the first stop for sellers, and their stores reflect this. “We’ll have a $4 Coach bag in the store,” Dougan says, “And we’ll have a $100 Coach bag in the store.”
Though many if not most recycled clothing shops don’t require an appointment, it can still be beneficial to call the store before you head out.
“We welcome customers to call ahead and inquire on what the store may be looking for, but it is not required,” says Buffalo Exchange Tempe manager Candace Gaskin by e-mail. Buffalo Exchange Phoenix manager, Lauren Toms, echoes this. “We encourage customers to call ahead to see what we're looking for, especially for a first-time seller,” she says.
Sellers usually call to check selling rules, brands, and seasonality, among other things. It may seem like a lot of work, but this information may be what you need to see your items cross the buying counter.
Do understand there aren’t washing machines in the back of the store. There aren’t irons, either.
Many shops have ways in which they prefer your items be presented, and some have strict rules. For instance, Plato’s Closet in Paradise Valley (one of four locations in metro Phoenix) asks that you don’t bring in items on hangers, while Poor Little Rich Girl – with an Uptown and Arcadia locations – prefers it.
However, one rule is consistent: Your items must be laundered.
Poor Little Rich Girl takes it one step further, as buyer Rachel Dowell explains, “We prefer they’re dry-cleaned and ironed.” Though they won’t turn you away if you bring in quality items that have been folded, Dougherty says customers can tell if they’re browsing through items that were previously bagged (as in, a piece of clothing would be especially wrinkled or creased, and possibly not lay as it should when trying it on). In other words, it has to be ready to sell, or the buyer may pass.
"If it’s a nice brand, we’ll take it and we’ll steam it here. But we don’t really have that time and equipment to steam every single item,” Dowell says.
Conversely, Keenan Daly, a buyer at Buffalo Exchange Tempe, thinks sellers shouldn’t sweat the presentation too much. “It doesn’t have to be anything fancy,” he says, “Just bring it in a bag and dump it out.”
Metro Phoenix has weird seasons: There's hot and then not so much. Many shops in town buy every season every day, while some have a timeline, and others still simply pay a premium for seasonal wear during certain dates. Again, it’s good to call ahead.
“Phoenix is unique in a way because it feels like we have two seasons, summer and fall,” says Nicole Dougherty, owner of Simply Posh Consignment Boutique in Phoenix. Many shops in town begin taking spring as early as January, and winter as early as August. This is to get in front of what Dougherty says comes the first day of September. “Phoenicians are craving sweaters and boots,” she says, “They may not be ready to wear them, but they are excited to get them.”
Some shops (sometimes due to more space, sometimes due to current stock levels), take all seasons all the time. “You never know when a customer will come in looking for a winter coat before their trip to Flagstaff,” says Toms of Buffalo Exchange in Phoenix. Gaskin of Buffalo Exchange in Tempe supports this, saying “Due to year-round sunshine, we are always looking for clothing items for all seasons."
Cash vs. Store Credit
You’ve made it this far; cleaned out your closet, figured out which consignment or resale shop would best fit your ready-to-wear pieces, and even sold a few (if not more) items. You did it! Now, do you want the cash or store credit?
Most shops offer a certain percentage of your item’s future retail price as cash and a different (usually a little higher) percentage for store credit. That way, you can bring in a pair of jeans, choose the store credit, and take home a new pair of shoes – or conversely choose cash and score some gas money. The choice is yours.
Each used apparel store has its own policy, and again, resale shops will give you cash on the spot, while consignment shops will pay out once your items sell in the shop. Here is a quick breakdown of how that plays out in the shops we've reviewed here:
- Buffalo Exchange: 30 percent cash, 50 percent store credit
- My Sister’s Closet and Well Suited: 45 percent cash, 55 percent store credit
- Name Brand Exchange: 40 percent cash, 55 percent store credit
- Plato’s Closet (Paradise Valley): 30 to 40 percent in cash or store credit (plus you don’t have to pay sales tax, and 10 percent off the day you sell)
- Poor Little Rich Girl: 25 percent cash, 50 percent store credit (if an item priced over $75, 30 percent cash, 60 percent store credit)
- Simply Posh: 45 percent cash, 55 percent store credit
Bringing in your personal clothing and accessories can be stressful. It might seem embarrassing to not have any sell, and the bigger worry may be this: the buyer’s attitude. Clothing store employees get a bad rap for having an insensitive outlook on their personal things. This Portlandia sketch pretty much sums it up:
“I love that sketch,” says Scott Brown, owner of Plato’s Closet in PV, “I show that to my staff.” He says he’s used this video as a “what not to do” when behind the counter.
But the fact is, resale and consignment shops are businesses, and when it comes to your items, many variables are in place. “We’re going to buy some things, we’re going to pass on some things, that’s just the nature of the business,” Brown says. He adds, “Let’s say we didn’t buy anything, we don’t want our relationship to end there.” Brown says sellers are encouraged to ask why and to keep bringing in their items.
The overall plea from secondhand clothing shops: Please don’t take it personally.
“We are not being ‘snobbish,’ we just want quality items,” says Dougherty of Simply Posh. Her best advice: “Don’t get your feelings hurt when consigning. We look at each piece for ‘salability,’ so don’t be disappointed if some of your items are not accepted for consignment.”
Another humble note: More often than not, managers, owners, and CEOs are themselves behind the buying station, overseeing the process and sorting through items.
Dougan of Name Brand Exchange says of her buyers, “If you don’t manage alongside them and work alongside them, it seems like there’s no level of trust or respect.” My Sister’s Closet CEO Siner is behind the buying counter on a weekly basis. “Our buyers are our most important position,” she says, “We can have the best ads, the best locations, the nicest people, but if we don’t buy the right items, we’re going to be out of business.”
Evolution of Recycled Clothing
We’ll leave you with this: Things have changed in the world of recycled apparel.
Brown of Plato’s Closet says clothing resale and recycling is on-trend for their target group – which is teens to 20-somethings. “This is becoming what’s cool, which is awesome for us,” he says, sharing the Plato’s Closet tagline: We were green before green was cool.
Siner of My Sister’s Closet says she has seen a huge shift in the way people see consignment during 25 years in the business. “It sort of wasn’t that acceptable to come resale shopping, and I think when people came in, they were hoping that wouldn’t see a friend,” she says, “Now people are ‘braggy’ about the value they found.”