One of the hottest retail trends is actually a return to an old idea. The clothing resale industry is booming, despite a down economy, and local businesses are cashing in a wide variety of forms.
According to the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, over 70 percent of their 649 members have experienced an average of 35 percent growth in the last year. These are impressive stats considering the vast number of traditional retail chains that closed their doors during the same time period.
Consignment store owner Kelley Collins said her experience has surpassed even the national trend. Just within the last year, sales have doubled at her boutiques, Sprouts and The Garden in Honey Creek Village.
"Everyone wins with consignments," said Collins, a long-time veteran of the industry. "The consignors win because they’re making money on items they’re not using anymore. The customer wins because they’re getting fabulous stuff at more than half off retail. The consignment store wins because they’re making everyone happy."
Consignment differs from resale in that people receive a percentage of the sale of the clothing and items they bring in. Resale stores, such as Plato’s Closet or Kid-to-Kid pay cash on the spot for items brought in, but often at lower rates than could be made in consignment stores, said Collins. The resale stores might also have a list of particular items or brands they’re looking for. Thrift stores, such as Goodwill, receive items as donations only.
Collins opened Sprouts in 2007 as a children’s shop selling gently used clothing, toys and baby equipment along with a selection of new wooden toys and the popular Twilight Turtles. She expanded to include women’s and junior’s fashions after restrictive laws on the resale of children’s items passed after recent recalls in the toy industry. She now has over 700 consignors on board.
Just looking at the store – a spacious and well-organized space with mural-accented walls – one would be hard-pressed to identify it immediately as a resale store. This was a conscious effort to distinguish it from thrift stores, said Collins.
Shoes and bags are among Collins’ top sellers. She said one consignor, Mrs. Lorna, supplied 600 pairs of shoes and single-handedly stocked a rounder of Ralph Lauren tops since January.
Shopper Marcia Packard, arms laden with clothes while trying on shoes, said her favorite finds have been Aeropostale and Hollister jeans for less than $20 with tags still attached. "I’ve walked away with 10 or so items multiple times and have never spent over $60," she said.
Irene Golden, mother of eight, said, "Kelley and her daughter help me out so much. A lot of their stuff is brand-new and name brand – every time I go in I find something." Another regular, Kelly Pollard, has set up her five- and eight-year-old children with their own accounts. She also finds many costuming items to use in her work as a movie and TV show extra.
Collins estimates half of her consignors use their earnings towards store credit with the others opting to cash out. "A lot of the ladies will come in and get the money off their account then go next door to Ingles to buy groceries. A lot have lost jobs or had their hours cut or husbands laid off. They need this right now," she said.
Another form of retail resale was recently opened in Olde Town by new kid on the vintage block and recent Heritage grad Lyndsay Clegg. The Rag Owl, a whimsical collection of unique men’s and women’s clothing, shoes, accessories and other "selected merchandise," has already become something of an Olde Town destination in the month that its been open.
Clegg’s mentor and silent business partner, Coyle Justman of Olde Town Gallery, said "lightbulbs went on" when he tossed the idea of a vintage shop out to the art intern. "When we started collecting the clothing, I watched her pick the right things. She has a huge talent for this and putting it all together," he said. Their focus has been on top lines and stocking natural fabrics like cottons, linens and silks.
Recent resale convert, Deedy Pate, made a Rag Owl outing part of her weekly girls’ night out. "We went crazy and found so much stuff. I really enjoyed the atmosphere… It’s something Olde Town needed."
Besides the economic advantages for both buyers and sellers, the resale business boasts the benefit of being green and allowing shoppers to have a unique style. "There’s enough stuff on this earth to go around…let’s just use what we have. When you buy something here, you won’t see it repeated," said Clegg, unlike, say buying from a regular retail store a shirt that can be seen on many people.
Clegg hinted that Tuesdays might be a good day for discriminating shoppers to browse her wares since she spends Sundays and Mondays scouring the metro area "to bring back really hip, cool clothes and a lot of true vintage things." Items such as a vintage Fendi bag priced for $45 don’t stick around for long.
Another trend in the resale scene is seasonal consignment sales. Laura Johns started the local juggernaut sale, Tots, Tykes and Teens in spring 2006 in a smaller Olde Town building with only 18 consignors. She hosted bi-annual sales of children’s clothing, toys, equipment, etc. at various Conyers and Covington locations until realizing her dream of staging the events at the Georgia International Horse Park, the sales’ home since fall ’08. TTT has grown close to 500 consignors during the week-long extravaganzas in March and September.
On the thrift front, the local Goodwill store reports a slight decrease in sales. Rashida Powell with Goodwill of North Georgia said, "It’s not a significant difference which shows that people are still turning to Goodwill as a money-saving strategy. In order to keep our shelves fresh and offer a variety of items to our shoppers, we encourage people to make donations. By donating they help fund our mission and also help others who are looking for a bargain."
Both Collins and Johns give consignors the option to donate unsold merchandise to charity. Collins designated Refuge Pregnancy Center, Rockdale Clothes Closet and Warriors of Women’s Worthiness. Collins also donated an entire Saturday’s proceeds to the Brian Mahaffey Memorial fund and has an ongoing account for the family where shoppers and consignors can continue to contribute. During each season, TTT has a donation campaign for a worthy cause, and there is a nomination form on their site.
For more information on Sprouts and The Garden, visit their site at www.sproutsresale.com or call (770)761-8845. Check out Rag Owl at 909 Commercial St., call (678)413-9144 or visit their Facebook page. TTT’s website is www.tykestotsteens.com