August 2013

The Thrill of the Hunt: Consignment Shopping

Author: Rebecca Edwards

The hunt is on. She pursues her prey with an eagle eye and a leopard’s pounce. She will show no mercy. It’s not innate to her species—she is a consignment connoisseur, and she devours deals. I know. I’m one. Born and bred.

Thankfully, I can flex my frugal shopping skills quite easily on Hilton Head Island and in Bluffton. The area’s long list of consignment shops is like a smorgasbord of savings. From quirky knickknacks to estate pieces to designer suits, a veritable feast of high-demand goods is waiting to be snatched up and taken home.

On a recent consigning trek, I found a white leather sofa from Hilton Head Consignment I can’t and won’t live without for $599 (shhh, don’t tell my husband), lusted over a pair of pink floral Lilly Pulitzer shorts from Chella D that would liven up some of my boring but comfy white shirts and tanks, and picked up a “play money” check from Sacks for clothes I consigned. Not bad, right?

But let’s not cheapen consignment shopping by just focusing on the discounts. Consigning is an art form, and like Andy Warhol and The Factory, it has its own following, subculture and social dynamics.

“We’re like a sisterhood club,” said Donna Sist of Chella D in South Island Square. “The shop is meant to feel like home.” Sist’s husband built a coffee bar in the store so you can sit on a barstool, sip on a latte and snack birthday cake flavored Oreos while you contemplate life, fashion and all things girl power with Sist, a friend or another shopper. (Note to moms: I was able to take my four-year-old daughter—who gravitated to the Oreos like a shoe-aholic gravitates to Jimmy Choo’s—and talk shop with Sisk uninterrupted.)

Voted the Island Packet’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Clothing Consignment Shop, Chella D offers a wide range of wares. “We’ve got Versace, St. John and Cabi and we’ve got Gap—we run the gamut, and we are not afraid to put a Banana Republic top with a Prada jacket,” Sist said.

Sist and her business partner Carol Sprague know style and how to have fun. The two worked together for eight years at Ann Taylor in the old Mall at Shelter Cove and have been good friends for nearly two decades. After working in “almost every retail clothing store in Shelter Cove,” Sist and Sprague wanted to create a more personal shopping experience. “The core of our store is a stress-free, no-sticker-shock, social environment. We tell people to bring in an item so we can understand their style and look out for accessories or clothes to complement their look.”

Mary Lou Haskell of The Stock Exchange in the Main Street Village (behind Frankie Bones) also takes the personal shopper approach with her regulars. “We have a wish list program,” she explained. “We get to know your look and what you like, and we will call you if we get something in we know you will love.” While I’m perusing the racks (which include designers such as Marc Jacobs, Dana Buchman, Pucci, Armani, Chanel, and Prada), a woman steps out of her dressing room. Haskell is helping her pick up a formal gown for an annual Christmas party, and I think to myself, “Wow, Mary Lou could really get me organized—and six months in advance, too!”

Stopping in at Forever Young on New Orleans Road, I am also struck by the friendliness of the store. Owner Marcella O’Fee (who has two other business partners, Katie Trew and Jacqui Wilkins) is chatting with a young woman at the counter. The two talk casually, asking about each other’s families, the young woman’s recent high school graduation and college plans, and mutual acquaintances. Someone tries on a dress and, feeling the Forever Young vibe, strangers and friends alike comment on it, giving the woman a boost and pumping up her shopping experience.

This type of retail camaraderie is not exclusive to the clothing consignment shops. Step into Furniture Solutions (which shares the same owners as My Sister’s Closet) on Arrow Road, and you are likely to find consigners, salespeople, and or shoppers hanging out on a sofa talking about their day and favorite artwork. Down the street at Classic Consignments, owner Marianne Barker asks me about my three daughters and how I enjoyed my recent trip to Nova Scotia.

There is also a rapport between the storeowners and the consigners. “Some of my consigners have been with me for 15 years,” Haskell said. “We know each other and how to work well with each other.”
Kevin Raymond of Furniture Solutions added, “Even with 7,000 consigning families rotating in and out, we make every effort to build a personal relationship with our consigners.”

And there is also a special relationship with the inventory. “We are very selective about what we look at, and we take a lot of time and care to decorate the showroom and create attractive vignettes. One of my favorite things is when we sell out, which happens often, and we get to start over,” Barker said.

Elaine Spahr of Bargains and Treasures enjoys the story behind the furniture and the buyer. “Every piece has a story—how and why it was made, what purpose it served and why someone loved or used it. Also, I find it amazing what people have, sell, and/or keep,” Spahr said.

Top 5 Consignment Tips: 1. Make a day of it. Map out your plan of attack and maybe invite a shopping buddy to join you. 2. Set some PARAMETERS. Make a list of what you need or bring swatches if you are matching furniture or clothing pieces if you need to complete a look/outfit. 3. Stick to a budget. Buying 10 random, “I bought this because it was sooo cheap” things for $100 is not as satisfying as purchasing one awesome, “this is just the thing” item for $80.4. Stake out the joint. You might want to consider consigning some items and recouping some moola.5. Introduce yourself to the people on the floor. Build a rapport with the storeowner or salespeople and they will keep an eye out for you and “winner winner chicken dinner” deals.

Annie’s Attic
142 Arrow Rd
(843) 686-6970

Bargains & Treasures
88 Arrow Rd
(843) 785-7929

Chella D
841 Wm. Hilton Pkwy, Suite D
(843) 341-3999

Classic Consignments
122 Arrow Rd
(843) 842-4041

Forever Young
51 New Orleans Rd
(843) 785-9686

Furniture Solutions
151 Arrow Rd
(843) 785-7560

Hilton Head Consignments
1504B Fording Island Rd
(843) 815-3300

Michael & Company
138 Arrow Rd
(843) 686-3222

My Sister’s Closet
1020 Wm. Hilton Pkwy
(843) 785-4988

1012 Wm. Hilton Pkwy
(843) 842-4222

The Stock Exchange
1401 Main Street Village
(843) 689-6777

Vintage Market
28 Kitties Landing – Bluffton
(843) 757-9010

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