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If you are already a Successful Consignment Shop Owner and would like to share some of your favorite tips that have helped to make your Consignment Shop business successful, please email them to us for consideration. Click here to Send us an Email
Tips from Successful Consignment Shop Owners

From Consignment Shop Owner # 1

  • Customs tags - makes a very professional statement.
  • Process off site or in back room not in the SALES area.
  • Strike up a deal with a drycleaner- bulk cleaning at a discount.

    From Consignment Shop Owner # 2

    Buyer and Consigning Fees i.e.
  • 15,000 items sold during the course of a year. $1 buyer fee X 15,000 items = $15,000.
  • 500 new consignors each year X $10 = $5000.
    Lessons from the Banking Industry where we all know fees are KING.

    From Consignment Shop Owner # 3

    - pays out commissions in cash at the counter in hopes they will spend some back into the store. We do this regularly and I guess 30% -40% buy something, maybe not all they made, but a good portion.

    From Consignment Shop Owner # 4

    Here are a few possibilities from my life. . . and I am almost obsessive, so you know if they helped me, they might help you!
    1. A priority list of things to do in the shop.
      This was created by all who were working that day, at closing, for the next day's tasks. (We found if we got it written down, we didn't worry about it all evening with our families.) Tasks were put in 3 columns, A,B,C. A's were MUST do's, B's, if done, would make our life so much easier, and C's were needing done, but not crucially. ALL tasks were put down, from things only the owner could do, to things the newest staffer could. The only things NOT entered were everyday things like tagging, putting return-at-requests, markdowns, cleaning, and so on (although cleaning tasks were listed in the back room, daily/weekly/semi-weekly). As soon as we arrived, everyone chose the highest-priority task they could manage to do. The list was taped on the desk where we all could get to it easily. Naturally, a part-timer couldn't do "write next week's ad" but she could "straighten jewelry wall", so even if the latter was a C, it's what she did.
      There's nothing like crossing something off a list to make you feel like you've accomplished something!
    2. Teach them, teach them, teach them. And make note of special talents. Pat Part-timer's good at windows, teach her to do them. Flo Full-timer's better at knowing which no-thank-you's can be gotten rid of because the consignor won't be in for them. Dulcet-toned Dorrie is great on the phone, she calls the overdue layaways and the bad checks.
    3. Let them go. So Pat's windows are not as WOW as the windows you do yourself. So the jewelry wall is not as color-coordinated as you would like. Believe me, the only person who can see the difference is you. If it made $1 worth of difference in the day's sales, let it go.
    4. Learn coping mechanisms yourself and use them. Busy season, the window display is ONE perfectly accessorized outfit instead of 5, as in slow season. Busy season, we have a rota of ads which run every second or third week, without having to write new ones or even take a call from the sales rep.
    5. Have enough, and organized, supplies. Use the best. Foamie-covered hangers to tagging guns, extra scissors in ALL the places you need them, 2 staplers so you don't have to stop in the middle of a sale to refill, and so on. Use a "hotline" to explain how to bring things in to callers (and a brochure to hand out in person!), so you don't have to do it 20 times a day.
    6. Have a lower dollar limit on items you will accept on consignment. You'll have to set this yourself taking into account your clientele, but decide: is it worth the time, effort, space to accept a $3 item? Or is it better to "pass" on it/ buy it outright?
    7. Empower staffers. Let them make decisions. That way, you won't be called on to mediate differences every 10 minutes. And they really do make better decisions than you think they will.
    8. Use your time wisely. Consignor #5433 will be in for unsolds this morning. . . we've pulled all but there's one scarf we can't find. . . do we spend 15 minutes looking for it, or mark it sold and pay her the $1.25? Do we really need to enter Consignor #124's t-shirts in great detail in the computer, as "ss cerise scoopneck Liz", "3/4 sl indigo shadowstripe Gap", "slvs periwinkle Jones/ lace trim". . . since she doesn't care, doesn't pick up? How about "red", "blue", "blue"?
    9. Systems, systems, systems! Items that have lost their tags go HERE and nowhere else, tags which have lost their items go THERE and nowhere else. Etc. NEVER waste time on "what's this doing here?"
    10. Let it go. Do the important stuff. As my grandma used to say "No one's gonna notice on a galloping horse." Oh yeh, remember, the impt stuff is PEOPLE not dustbunnies or "rules" or whether the sneakers all have their shoelaces tied.

    From Consignment Shop Owner # 5

    1. We only receive Tues, Wed and Thur. Any time we're open on those days but only on those days. (exceptions are made occassionally but always at my discretion)
    2. We dont receive anything during the month of January. WE use it to catch up, inventory, clearance and clean. It's the light at the end of our tunnel and we desperatly need it after the fall rush. WE often have days where we receive over 500 items. We cant possibly process each days items each day and Jan. gives up the time to catch up.
    3.We close the entire week from Christmas to New Years and again the last week of May (memorial day for my family reunion and vacation).
    4. I dont work Sundays or Mondays, nights(except till 8 on fridays) or holidays, yes I know there are people looking to shop at those times but frankly the general public would have us there 24/7. I have 3 kids a husband and a life. I can't do it all so I have chosen to make alittle money over a perod of time rather than try to make as much money as fast as I can. It works for me.
    Ok, All you type A' need to bash me. I have my system in place, have been making money since month #1, and am in year #3. I have a 5000 sq ft store and 2 (sometimes 3)employees and myself. So, you gotta figure what works for me might or might not work some place else. But good luck and do let us know how things go. Life is tooo short to spend what time you do have exhausted and stressed!

    From Consignment Shop Owner # 6.

    What IS "doing well" for a new shop?

    Since each shop is its own entity, with varying shop and market area sizes, merchandise, hours, policies, ambiance, price levels, and so on, how can we determine if we're "doing well"?

    The first is "are we paying the bills?" Making your nut, covering the overhead, is your first goal. If you've planned well, this can happen in as short a time as a fistful of weeks, or it may be further down the road. How FAST you need to get to this level of breaking even is personal: What's your nest egg that you're willing to put in, before you can start taking out? (That's the rationale behind having 6 mo. expenses put aside!) Do you need profit to live on? If so, how much? Would you be happy taking an after-hours job in order to give your shop time to grow (and do you have the ability, energy, time to do so?)

    "Do I have enough consignors?" is next. You need a BUNCH of them (or suppliers, if you are a buy-outright shop) to have the variety of items you'll need to stock in order to determine what your marketplace wants to buy. And of course more suppliers means more traffic, more sales, more word-of-mouth. Hey, what good are a bunch of consignors who bring in size 4s if you need size 14s? Or a lot of business suits when you need jeans? Variety! THEN you'll learn just what your customers want to buy.

    Gauging the public's desires is important as well. Do you know better now, than you did weeks or months ago, just what your clientele wants to buy? Wants to pay for the privilege of having whatever? Talk to them! Ask leading questions such as "what would you like us to carry? what were you hoping to see today that you didn't? I noticed you were interested in that item over there but walked away from it. . . can you help me figure out if it's the right style, condition, price?" And follow up on this. Ms. X wants a bookcase, 5 ft tall? Mr. Y wants an overcoat? Get your want list going and USE it!

    Am I building traffic? Is your mailing list growing? Are you seeing new faces, and are some people becoming regulars? Have you given your shop brochure or at least your business card to people at least 10 times today? Have you sent "welcome to MyShop" postcards to all the new names on your mailing list this week, and are you planning a mass mailing to all for the beginning of the fall season?

    Am I doing things so well that people express their appreciation? Do they say things like, "I'm so glad you're open Mondays", or do they complain "I was here at 4:45 last Thursday and you were closed but your sign says you close at 5?" Are consignors pleased when they get their check, or carp about "It's sold, why can't I get paid now instead of having to wait until next month after the 15th?" When you've completed an incoming batch, do people say "boy, that was easy, thanks" or do they say "I don't understand why you're not taking this", "Boy I had to wait 3 weeks to get an appointment and you're only taking 10 items" and so on?

    Are you gaining recognition in the neighborhood? You want the grocery clerk to know about your shop; the antique dealer in the next town to check you out/ buy/ refer her clientele to you; hairdressers to ADORE your shop well enough to chat about it in the salon. How about the competition? Have you introduced yourself to them? Offered to swap referrals?

    Am I building the average sale total? If you start out with each buyer purchasing 1 item for $9, can you see your business growing, where now the average sale is 2.3 items totalling $18.50? Have you trained yourself to "build" multiple sales by suggesting these earrings to go with that sweater, these candlesticks to go with that dining room table, and by the way, here's 4 tablecloths the right size? Do you remember that Ms. Z bought a big black vase for her foyer last time, and show her the black-and-white painting that just came in?

    Have you figured out what DOESN'T work yet? Every shop starts off with extra fat. Have you realized that a category is always ignored, so why give it floor space? Have you learned that another category sells WAY too fast (are you undervaluing it for your marketplace?) Is your shop layout good, or do people avoid or getting tangled in some area, and why? Do new folks stream in when your displays are bright and cheery, and traffic falls off when you do a black window? Maybe you've noticed that no one asks how to bring things in, or people don't buy something once they hear/read "all sales final", or there's 5 people waiting for you when you get to work 10 minutes before opening (or you have to toss 5 out at closing)? Figure out the solution. It could be as simple as opening 1/2 hr earlier or later.

    Are you having a GOOD time? If you are enjoying your business, having a wonderful time building your reputation, your supplier and buyer population, learning every day, getting some really insightful comments from your clientele, being tickled that THIS month you've made your overhead by the 15th, when last month it was the 22nd before you did, then you're doing well. That good feeling will give you the push to do what you need to: find items that will sell fast, find folks who will supply you with the most saleable items, tempt strangers to come in to see all the goodies you have. . . etc!

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