Tips for Consignment Shopping

Now with summer just around the corner, it’s a popular time of year to clean out closets and purge unwanted items. And if your spouse is at all like mine, he’ll say “You don’t need anything, your closet is already busting at the seams.” True, so true. Time to make room! And since I want to buy some new things, it can’t hurt to earn a few bucks on my gently used stuff, right?

With just a bit of extra time and care for your items, you can maximize your earnings on your resale items. Here are some tips to follow:

1. Stop in at the consignment store before you make an appointment to bring your things. Take a good look of the items that are for sale, how they are presented, how clean the store is and how friendly the staff is. Is this a place where you would want to shop? If you like the store, take note of the items on the racks-from what commodity it is (clothing, shoes or accessories), what brand names they are carrying and the range of prices. Use this information to decide if this shop is a good match for your items.

2. Call around to several stores and get information. Is it necessary to make an appointment to bring your things in, or can you drop in any time? What is their percentage split-what percentage of the sale price are you going to receive? What season are they selling right now? Are there any additional fees besides the percentage they receive? How do they want you to bring your items, and is there a limit as to how many you can bring?

Once you’ve made your appointment and you are gathering your things, keep these tips in mind:

1. Unless the store specifically asks you not to, always bring your items in on hangers. Remember, when you take your items, they can refuse anything they think will not sell or does not meet their standards. Items on hangers just present better than those folded in a bag.

2. Leave your store brands at home. Some stores will have specific labels that they do not accept, such as Circo and Faded Glory for children. It’s nothing personal against these items, it’s just a numbers game. Consigned items sell for about 25-50% of their original retail price, and those brands are very inexpensive to begin with. It’s not worth the store’s time and energy, or yours, to be ironing and hanging items that will earn you a dollar. Donate those items.

3. Try to take your personal opinion away from your items. Don’t take in something that you just loved, even though it may be a bit more worn-looking, instead of a sweater you bought and later hated, and still has the tags on it. Evaluate on what you think will sell, not what was the most expensive. A good example of this is women’s suits. Women just don’t wear them as much in the workplace, and many consignment stores won’t take them. Take the less expensive sweater that will probably sell, instead of the suit that won’t.

4. It seems like common sense, but it’s not, but people actually bring torn and dirty items into consignment stores all the time. Make sure your items are clean and in good repair. No stains, pilling, broken/difficult zippers or missing buttons. Consignment stores are not thrift stores. Damaged items get tossed or donated.

5. Remember, this is a competition. Think of it this way-if I go to Macy’s, it doesn’t matter which rack I buy from, Macy’s is going to get the money. At a consignment shop, you are competing against every other consigner that brought their items to that store. If a customer is choosing between two items, you want them to choose yours, so put your best foot forward. Bring in something a bit unusual and fun, shops are often loaded with black pants, black skirts and jeans because every woman has too many of them in her closet.

6. Price your items competitively. This is usually a joint decision at your consigning appointment. The general guideline to follow is that items that are current and in good condition will be priced at 30% of their original sales price. If an item is new with tags, you should expect it to be priced at around 50%. If you want to price your items too high, they won’t sell. If you price them too low, you’ve cut your earnings.

And for future closet cleanouts, begin an organizing system. As you are cleaning out your own or your kids’ closets, divide the items into piles such as ‘donate,’ ‘consign’ and ‘for next sibling.’ Once you start sorting the items as you clean out and storing them in that fashion, it makes getting ready for that consignment appointment very easy.

Consigning is an easy and fun way to earn some extra money. Most stores even let you use what you’ve earned as store credit, so it can be a way of trading in old clothes for new ones. Consignment shops love good consigners, because they want people to bring them things that sell. Remember, consignment shops need consigners as much as they need customers, because without them they’d have no inventory. Once you find a shop that suits you, you will have a good relationship with them for many years.


Lisa Lightner lives in Chester County, PA with her husband, two sons and two dogs. In addition to her two websites Smart Spending Spot and A Day in Our Shoes, she works part time as a special education advocate. She previously worked in a local consignment shop and continues to both shop and sell at consignment stores often, as she tries to be fashionable while remaining budget conscious.



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About Melissa

Written by Melissa Angert, editor of this fashion blog and author of Girlymama. You can also find her on Twitter as Melissa Angert. She is a mom of 3 living in Providence.


  1. Melissa, I just did a post on MagnoliaGrace about a Clothing Swap I went to this weekend, which some consignment stores participated in. You should check out the haul I got….it’s epic, for the amount of money I spent.

  2. I’ve never done the consignment shop thing before, but I think I might give it a try this summer. Usually I just donate my clothes, but making a few bucks sounds good!

  3. What a great idea. My husband just converted a bedroom into a closet for me. I will be sorting through some things. We have a Buffalo Exchange in my area, I think I will sale somethings to the Buffalo Exchange. We have ton’s of designer jeans that we out grown.