How to Turn Your Gently-Used Kids’ Gear Into Cash:
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. There is! It’s called the consignment sale event, or children’s resale event.
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.
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:
How to Make Money by Selling your Kids’ Gently-Used Stuff:
1) Do your homework.
The more you can learn ahead of time about how sale events work (especially YOUR event), the better prepared you’ll be. Before my first event, I picked the brain of a mommy-group friend, to collect every tip she had. I also read everything on my own sale’s 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 your event’s rules.
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 create 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.
Besides, 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.)
Working 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 finish at least a week ahead
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.
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 the time to finish prepping, (which I didn’t), I was emotionally drained and without a prep space.
Despite good intentions and careful planning, things will go awry, and prepping will take longer than you’d imagined. Do NOT underestimate how long tagging 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.
In 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, unless your price tags are super-securely attached, it’s all too easy for them to go missing. This is why my consignment caddy includes several 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 of baby bottles or onesies. (For what it’s worth, the cheaper/thinner the packing tape, the better; thicker tape peels off too easily.)
But what about fabric?
For clothing and other fabric items, a fine-needle tagging gun with short (no longer than one-inch) barbs is more secure than using safety pins. Trust me, the time and frustration you save will make it WELL WORTH the investment! Even better is using two barbs, instead of one, on each tag. This further decreases the chances of the item losing its tag.
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. For clothes with a loop-shaped tag inside, zip-tie through the loop to secure it to the hanger. For multi-piece outfits, you can also use a tagging gun to attach the pieces to each other. Just be careful not to leave permanent holes in the clothing. Using a fine-needle gun (intended for clothes tagging), and always tagging along a seam, will help you avoid holes.
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 consign at a big event, you’ve already invested lots of time and energy. Why not take a few final steps to increase the chances that your items will actually make it into someone’s “paid” pile?
6) If possible, volunteer a shift or two
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 your own sale’s rules. Such as (for example) why you have to use a certain weight paper and print quality. The first time I helped out, seeing flimsy tags that had torn, poorly-printed tags that wouldn’t scan, and piles of tagless items convinced me fast.
Second, volunteering often gets you special perks, such as early shopping privileges or a chance to increase your profits. 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. (At my last sale, I arranged for my mama to visit during sale week, so she could watch the girls.)
And best of all…
Above all else, helping out will teach you what sells at your event and what won’t. Seeing how other people price their items can help you determine if your prices are on target. Seeing what sells throughout the sale may give you new ideas for things to offload at the next sale.
Moreover, seeing what passes through your sale’s “quality control” area will help you better understand what mistakes to avoid. This past sale, I was mortified to see that one of my outfits got pulled before the event even started. Some baby spit-up stains had magically reappeared after I’d hung it on the hanger, as spit-up stains often do. And I hadn’t done a final visual check of my hanging items before putting them on the sales floor.
Finally, volunteering late in the sale is good for scoring free hangers – 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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