Lessons Learned from Baby Consignment Stores

You may have already read my other post about my first forays into the world of cashing in on old baby gear through brick-and-mortar consignment stores. For a while, this system worked reasonably well for me. I offloaded lots of baby clothes and outgrown toys, and made enough money that I was able to restock as needed from the store. Every so often I was even able to “cash out” my store account, when the amount I was earning from sales outpaced the amount I was spending getting new-to-us stuff.

The downsides of Baby Consignment

But as time went on, I started to notice changes in how Baby Consignment (as I called the store where we most frequently offloaded our outgrown items) was working. First, the owner decided to sell the business – a process that dragged on for over a year, during which she seemed to lose all interest in the day-to-day upkeep of the store itself. Sales and promotions were fewer and farther between, foot traffic was down, the amount of money I was making on sales was getting smaller, and the pile of unsold items I took home at each pickup was getting bigger. While I’d always donated stuff I couldn’t sell to our church’s annual garage sale, the pile of things-to-donate was growing larger all the time, and I was starting to run out of storage space for the stuff I hadn’t yet consigned plus the stuff I’d already consigned and then picked up again when it didn’t sell.IMG_1291

In the meantime, the rules on what one could and couldn’t sell at Baby Consignment were changing with every drop-off. Items I’d purchased at Baby Consignment in like-new condition, and taken excellent care of, were suddenly not accepted for resale because Baby Consignment had decided they weren’t going to sell that brand anymore, or because the top-and-bottom they’d originally sold me as such was missing the third piece of the ensemble (which allegedly existed, according to the tags inside, though I’d never seen it). Although I’d seen tons of baby bottles and such on their shelves in the past, they were no longer accepting these items by the time it was my turn to pass them along. I was getting frustrated at the mounting pile of items rejected at each drop-off.IMG_1383

Then Baby Consignment moved to a new location. One with higher foot traffic, cheaper rent, a better layout – and less total square footage. One of the reasons I’d picked Baby Consignment as The Store For Me originally was because, as other mamas had advised me, the 45% of selling price you got back from them more than made up for the $5 consignor fee they charged twice a year (something other baby consignment stores, and most other consignment stores in our area in general, don’t do). But when they moved, all consignors had to sign a new contract that included a drop in our percentage of the take, to 40% – equal to the best I could get elsewhere in the area, at stores that didn’t charge a twice-annual fee. And instead of taking the fee out of one’s sales as they had in the past, they began requiring consignors to pay it upfront.

Even worse, their new store did not include a designated children’s play area for little ones to enjoy while mamas shopped, or dropped off gear, or collected unsold items.

And worst of all, the drop-off times were becoming more challenging, too. No more walk-ins every day they were open; they would take (midday) appointments only on Tuesday and Wednesday, and (midday) walk-ins only on Thursday and Friday. No Monday or Saturday drop-offs, and no evening hours when it would be easier to leave the kids at home with Daddy. (And of course, the cardinal rule number one of most consignment stores is that the stuff out on the sales floor is not for playing with, and children must be closely supervised at all times for liability reasons. Try that when you’ve got a bored, curious toddler and several dozen unsold items to pull from every corner of the sales floor.)

Solution #1: Try consigning at other stores

I decided it was time to shop around.

After reminding myself of the reasons I’d ruled out the other stores in the area initially (too selectively snobbish on brands, only takes stuff for kids ages three and older, too far to get to easily, only does upfront buyouts of 25-35% of what they expect to sell it for, etc.), I decided to test two other stores: New Baby Consignment and The Fun Store.

Old vs New Baby ConsignmentOption A: New Baby Consignment

New Baby Consignment was not just new to my family – it was a new store that had opened since I’d first begun searching for a store with which to consign. It offered 40% of selling price and was more selective than Old Baby Consignment (as I began calling my first store) in terms of cuteness factor, but it took a wider range of brands, similar to what Old Baby Consignment had accepted once upon a time. And not only did they have a kids’ play area, but the owner was also much more forgiving of little people who wanted to give merchandise within their reach a gentle “test drive.”

Option B: The Fun Store

The Fun StoreThe Fun Store was what we began calling the place that only accepts items for three-year-olds and up. On our second visit to the store, even though we hadn’t been there for a year, Kimmie instantly remembered it as the one that had the flat-screen TV on the wall playing kids’ videos, with comfy beanbags to sit on and an enticing play table of other fun stuff to do while mamas shopped or consigned. This store offers consignors a choice of either 30% of expected selling price upfront, or 50% if you want to consign for 60 days (a month shorter than the other two stores).

Since their store also sells non-maternity women’s clothes and accessories, jewelry and scarves from my pre-parenthood working wardrobe took up most of the space in the first bag of items I brought to their store for drop-off. They only accepted about half of what I brought (which was as much about my testing the waters with them as anything else; the first few drops always involve a process of figuring out a store’s tastes on a different level than when you just shop there, I’ve found), and offered me $20 for the lot upfront. I chose to take my chances with consigning instead.

How it went

My encounters with these two stores had definite advantages over my most recent experiences with Old Baby Consignment. While they are a bit farther from home, they more than made up for it by having more convenient drop-off policies (come any time the store is open, no appointment needed!) and ample opportunities for my kiddos to entertain themselves while I’m taking care of business. And even better, as I realized after my first pick-up with each one, they pull the stuff from the showroom floor for you! No more hour-long ordeals of trying to hunt things down by myself while attempting to keep Essie from trashing the place, as I searched for that one last item that I just couldn’t find.

On the other hand, of the half-dozen items I consigned with Fun Store at my first drop, only one sold; I would have been better off taking the cash upfront. And while I was pleased with my not-quite-$60 check from my first pickup at New Baby Consignment (which is minus the cost of a few things I bought that were deducted from my account along the way), it still didn’t seem like much when I factored in the time needed to prepare everything and the extra drive-time needed to make it from my house to the store. (Although this location is maybe six miles from home, versus three for Old Baby Consignment, our local traffic patterns are such that I need to budget at least 20-30 minutes one-way to get there.)

Solution #2: Try a Big Sales Event

As a result, I decided to try a new route last fall, one I’d never done before: the Big Sales Event. I’d always shied away from such events because of what seemed like the inordinate amount of prep time involved. Getting my stuff cleaned and pressed and sorted for consignment had always seemed like enough of a hassle, without having to price and tag and hang it all, too. But I was starting to feel as if I should be getting a bigger payout for all the effort involved.

How do you get rid of your no-longer-needed baby stuff – especially if you don’t have nearby friends or relatives with offspring of the right age and gender to use your kids’ outgrown items?

P.S. My first Big Sales Event went well enough that I’m currently in the process of preparing for my second and third Events.  For more on the prep process and the Event itself, check back for future posts on this topic.

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