So you’re overwhelmed by the amount of baby stuff still cluttering your basement – and your “baby” is now in preschool. Or you’ve tried the consignment store route and found the results disappointing. Or you’ve read my other two posts on offloading baby stuff – on the upsides of the store route and the downsides – and concluded that there must be a better way.

While big consignment sale events aren’t for everyone, there are definite advantages to choosing this option. Yes, it’s a lot more work – but the payoff is also much bigger. So is the ability to clear a lot of stuff out of your house all at once.

My pile of gear, tagged and ready to go to my first sale event.

My pile of gear, tagged and ready to go to my first sale event.

The most I ever cashed out from a store at once was maybe $75. In contrast, my first sale event, where I sold around 80 items, netted me over $374. At my second sale event, I earned that much in the first five hours of the sale. My total take-home from my second event was over $1100, and I eliminated almost 300 items of no-longer-needed child-rearing gear from our lives in a single weekend.

If you’re considering testing the sale-event waters, these six tips will help you maximize your income:

1) Do your homework.

The more you can learn ahead of time about how sale events work, and how your particular event works, the better prepared you’ll be. When I first considered trying a sale event, I picked the brain of a friend from my local mommies’ group, to collect every tip she had to offer. I also read everything my own sale had to say on its website, and everything I could find on Consignment Mommies.

Consignment Mommies is a super all-around resource for all things consignment-sale-related. Their tips cover how to set prices and attach price tags, how to hang pants for the best chances of selling them, and more. If you’re new to this world, spend an afternoon perusing their website and bookmarking things you’ll want to go back to later.

2) Internalize the rules of your sale event.

You DON'T want your stuff to get pulled from the sales floor because it doesn't meet your sale event's rules for quality control; that's what happened to everything you see in this photo.

You DON’T want your stuff to get pulled from the sales floor because it doesn’t meet your sale event’s rules for quality control; that’s what happened to everything you see in this photo.

Every event has its own unique set of rules, and not following them will hurt your take-home pay. There’s no point wasting time, energy, and space on items that your event won’t let you sell, whether it’s VHS tapes, large furniture items, adult sizes, or more than 100 pieces of hanging clothing.

Moreover, breaking the rules can rack up fines that will hurt your profits. For example, my event charges consignors $1-$2 for every replacement battery the quality control team needs to put into consignors’ electronic devices. Consignors also get fined for having too many items pulled from the sale floor because they’re stained or missing pieces, or for printing their tags on the wrong paper or with the wrong printer settings.

These rules may seem stupid, confusing, or overwhelming at first. But remember that the overall goal of everyone involved in a sale event – including and especially the event owners – is to make as much money as possible. Everything you can do to help them sell your items will increase your bottom line as well as theirs.

3) Collect your supplies and carve out a “consignment headquarters”

The first time I prepared for a large sale event, I expanded on the system I’d used in the past when getting things ready for consignment stores: pile up labeled boxes in the master bedroom. Bad idea. I quickly ran out of room, and both my husband and I were annoyed at all the “in progress” boxes lying around.

IMG_2114_2Besides, as I began to match up clothes with hangers, I realized I needed more hanging space. I got a bookcase from a neighbor on Freecycle that has a clothing rod installed where the top shelf should be, and moved it to our basement. That worked fine, until I got up to over fifty hangers’ worth of stuff. I soon expanded outward to the towel racks and shower curtain rod in our guest bathroom laundry room. (More on this below.)

IMG_1994Working between two spaces on our ground floor – the laundry room and the craft/TV/play/guest room – meant a lot of running back and forth, until I made up a caddy to hold the supplies I found myself using most frequently. These include sharp metal scissors, different kinds of tape, assorted sizes of zip-top bags and cable ties, a lint-trimmer, my brand-new tagging gun, and a roll of plastic wrap on a stick that was left over from our last move. After assembling my caddy, it was easier to put everything back where it belonged so I didn’t misplace something, and much easier to transport everything I needed from one place to another.

4) Start early, and try to be done at least a week ahead of time

Don’t underestimate how long gathering, cleaning, assembling, entering into the computer (if your sale requires an online consignment manager for tagging), and otherwise prepping your items will take. I started gathering items-to-consign two months before my first event, fully intending to be done at least a week before the sale itself, and even then I found myself working right up to the last minute.

You see, life happens. Kids will get sick, husbands will have crises at work, and in most cases your family will not stop living their lives just because you have a consignment sale event coming up. I say “in most cases” because with less than two weeks left to my first event, one of my husband’s favorite aunts unexpectedly passed away.

My laundry room made a perfect place to tag and store clothing, until I needed to reclaim it as a guest bathroom.

My laundry room made a perfect place to tag and store clothing, until I needed to reclaim it as a guest bathroom.

Suddenly, instead of prepping and tagging my items in our laundry room guest bathroom, I found myself clearing everything consignment-sale-related out of there so we could host relatives for several days in transit to and from the funeral, doing solo parenting duty while my husband was away at the funeral itself, and otherwise trying to keep us all together as we grieved his aunt’s death. Even if I’d had spare minutes in my day to chip away at the remaining prep work (which I didn’t), my emotional energy was drained and my workspace had ceased to exist.

So, even with the best intentions and the most careful plans, things can and will go awry, and will inevitably take longer than you’d ever imagined. This is especially true for the final tagging process. Do NOT underestimate how long tagging your items will take! Especially if it’s your first time, it will seem to take forever.

Thanks in part to our family’s unplanned loss, I literally stayed up all night before my first event tagging things. If I hadn’t followed my friend Marie’s advice and purchased a tagging gun, it would have taken even longer. As it was, the tagging gun’s needle broke sometime around 4am, with about 25 items still to tag. Lesson learned (besides not finishing your tagging only hours before your sale’s drop-off time): If you buy a tagging gun, be sure to choose one that comes with extra needles!

5) Attach everything securely

If you’ve never attended a consignment sale event, it’s hard to imagine how chaotic things can get. Think crowds so thick you can barely make your way through, people pawing through the racks like midnight shoppers on Black Friday, and checkout lines that last an hour and stretch all the way around the sales floor.

IMG_1937In this environment, it doesn’t take long for clothes to slide off hangers and tags to separate from their designated items. Clothing that is waiting to be reunited with its hanger is not available to be purchased. Ditto for clothes that are hanging on for dear life to hangers knocked askew, and for multi-piece outfits whose pieces have been separated from each other.

Likewise, if you don’t ensure that your price tags are securely attached to your items, it’s all too easy for them to get separated. This is why my consignment caddy includes several different types of tape. Masking tape won’t damage the covers of books, but packing tape is a better choice for attaching tags to clear plastic bags that contain, say, a set of baby bottles or onesies. (For what it’s worth, the cheaper/thinner the packing tape, the better, in my experience; the thicker tape peels off too easily.)

Similarly, for clothing and other fabric items, a tagging gun is more secure than using safety pins. Even better is using two barbs, instead of just one, on each tag; this further decreases the chances of the tag being accidentally ripped off.

Finally, tagging guns and cable or “zip” ties (the kind you’ll find in the automotive section of discount-department stores) are indispensable for securing tagged clothing onto hangers. If your clothing item contains a loop-shaped brand or size tag inside the back, use the loop and a zip tie to attach the item securely to the hanger. If you have a multi-piece outfit, you can also use a tagging gun to attach the pieces to each other, by tagging matching bottoms underneath their corresponding tops. Just be careful not to leave permanent holes in the clothing. Using a fine-needle gun (which is designed for use on clothing), and always tagging along a seam if possible, will help with this.

Yes, this seems like a lot of extra work and time. (See my previous tip about trying to be done at least a week before your sale.) But if you’re going to make the effort to sell things at a big event anyway, you’ve already invested a lot of time and energy. Why not take a few final steps to increase the chances that your items will actually make it from sales floor to customer’s “paid” pile, without any detours along the way?

Not sure what to put on your tag descriptions? Having more specifics than these tags contain might have helped them get reunited with the objects they came from.

Not sure what to put on your tag descriptions? Having more specifics than these tags contain might have helped them get reunited with the objects they came from.

6) If possible, work at least one shift at your event

There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, you’ll learn a ton that will help you do even better next time out. If nothing else, you’ll better understand the rules of your own sale, and why its owners – for example – insist on using a certain type of paper and a certain type of print quality. When I volunteered a few shifts at my first event, seeing all the paper-thin tags that got ripped in half by accident, all the poorly-printed tags that wouldn’t scan at the checkout, and all the tags that got separated from their items because they were poorly attached was more than enough to convince me.

Second, those who work at the event often get special perks, whether it’s early shopping privileges or a chance to earn even more profits from your sales. At some sales, every additional shift you work means you earn an additional percentage of your profits. Work enough shifts and you could get back 100% of the profits from your items. If you’re selling hundreds of items, this could add up to hundreds of dollars. (I was able to do this at my last event by coordinating with my mother to come visit for the week of the sale, so she could watch the girls for me.)

But most of all, there’s no better way to get a sense of what will sell at your event and what just won’t cut it. Seeing how other people price their clothing items or used toys, for example, will give you a sense of whether your prices are on target for the resale market in your area. Seeing what sorts of items successfully sell over the course of the event may give you new ideas for things to offload the next time you consign at that event.

In addition, seeing what passes through your sale’s “quality control” area will give you a new appreciation for how important it is to leave time for one last check-over of even your best outfits. This past sale, after priding myself on being so meticulous at prepping all my gear, I was mortified to see that one of my outfits got pulled before the event even started. Some baby spit-up stains had magically surfaced on it in the time since I’d hung it on the hanger, as spit-up stains tend to do, and I hadn’t done a final visual check of my hanging items before putting them on the sales hangers

Finally, helping out for a shift or two toward the end of your sale could mean an opportunity to score hundreds of free leftover hangers, which is essential if you plan to do another sale event.

Have you tried a consignment sale event before to offload your baby gear? If so, what tips do you have to add, especially for first-timers? Please share them in the comments!

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