Friday, July 10, 2009

Consignment and Thrift Store Shopping

Today my mom and I plan to check out a children's consignment shop that we've never visited in my hometown. I'm totally excited; these places can be treasure troves! I thought I would share a few thoughts on consignment and thrift store shopping for those who are new at this game. Those of you who are pros, feel free to share your thoughts!

First off, the vocabulary:

Consignment shops are stores to which people bring items they wish to sell, and the store sells them for a cut of the purchase prices. At a true consignment store, the seller (and store) don't get paid unless the item sells. However, some stores simplify the process by just buying the item from the seller outright and then selling it for a profit. Consignment stores tend to have fairly high-quality merchandise, since they often have strict standards about what they will accept.

Thrift stores, on the other hand, accept donated merchandise. These stores are often run by and support charities - think Goodwill, Salvation Army stores, Junior League and hospital thrift shops, etc. The quality of merchandise can vary widely at these stores. Some weed out a good portion of the donations; other can have tons of junk. However, with patience and a little digging, many treasures can be found.

Here are few tips about shopping at these kinds of stores:

- Call first - Check on hours, since these are small businesses often with limited hours. Depending on the location, you might want to check on parking as well.

- Shop frequently - On some visits you'll find nothing; other times you'll hit the jackpot. Check back often, and try to find out the days that the store restocks.

- Check over items - Especially at thrift stores, where the merchandise may not have been checked thoroughly, examine items before you buy. Check clothes for stains and tears; open and close drawers and cabinets on furniture; look for all the pieces of toys.

- Make sure you're getting a bargain - At higher-quality consignment shops you have to be careful; sometimes the consignment price is high enough that you could get a comparable item new on a good sale. I have sometimes noticed this with children's Gymboree clothing. Since these clothes are considered to hold their value very well, sometimes a used item can be priced so high that I know I could get a similar new item at one of Gymboree's frequent sales.

Finally, here are few ideas about what items tend to be readily available and/or great bargains at these types of shops:

clothes (especially children's)
toys (check for parts and damage)
baby items
holiday decorations
formal wear
small kitchen appliances
puzzles and games

Does anyone have any other tips on consignment and thrift store shopping? Please share!

This post is part of Frugal Fridays on Life as Mom!

Photo by tome213.


  1. I'd love to hear of local places that you like. I'm too cheap to enjoy the kids consignment store in Purcellville very much and haven't really found any in Leesburg. What LoCo locations do you find to be handy? I'm mostly looking for kids' clothes and baskets (I'm obsessed with baskets!) on the cheap. TSA in Leesburg sometimes has a few things but their kids' section is quite limited and disappointing. I'm still sort of new to the area and with three little ones haven't ventured out to find the hidden treasures LoCo has to offer yet.

  2. Carol, I like The Resourceful Woman in Leesburg. They tend to have high-quality selections in clothes. I've found that Twice is Nice in Leesburg tends to have a lot of a very cheap baskets. I've also heard a lot of positive feedback about great kids' selections at the Goodwill in Sterling, but I haven't checked it out myself. I know there are a lot of local stores I haven't checked out myself as well.


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