July 2015

Consigning in the Lowcountry: A one-of-a-kind bazaar

Author: Kitty Bartell

Admitting object obsolescence is like admitting defeat. The once sought-after and collected tchotchke, garments, equipment, and inheritances of life no longer serve their purpose. Many do, however, retain their usefulness… just maybe not for you. Consignment is the remedy for just such a condition, and the Lowcountry is brimming with outlets for your consignment shopping and selling pleasure.

Generally, consignment shops are locally-owned businesses where items are contracted to the shop, and the shop owner agrees to offer the items for sale. When a sale is made, the shop owner keeps a specified percentage of the sale and delivers a check to the merchandise owner for his or her cut of the deal. It’s a win for the seller, a win for the buyer, and a win for the shop.

The consignment business is booming in the Lowcountry; likely due to its unique constellation of location and residents, said Holly Loebs, owner of Vintage Market in Bluffton. “The area is relatively transient with a lot of people needing to furnish second homes or wanting to get rid of pieces purchased along with those second homes. Retirees are often combining two households and don’t need everything they have.” These circumstances lead to nicer items that have been well cared for, translating to excellent consigning opportunities. Loebs’ consigned furniture, home décor, collectibles, and jewelry business currently fill her 10,000-square-foot space. “I could use another 10,000,” she said.

Getting into the game is fun, financially rewarding, and may result in finding a treasure or two. A little know-how will go a long way toward successful consigning.

Tips for consignment selling
View items you wish to consign from a buyer’s perspective. Age and condition will directly correlate to viability in the consignment market. If the sofa has seen better days—the grandkids have used it as a trampoline and the dog has … well … been the naughty dog—the likelihood of being contracted for consignment, much less finding a new home, is unlikely.

However, items that just need a spit-and-a-polish may be hidden treasures. Clean, repair, and do your research. Spot cleaning, or all-out professional cleaning, from upholstery to sterling silver, may bring valuable pieces back to life. Do a little reconnaissance to establish price range goals and to identify shops that are a good fit for particular merchandise categories. Visiting several consignment shops will get your head firmly in the game, along with Internet research that will assist with pricing targets. However, remember that the local shops are excellent at setting prices that will generate sales, and the success of their business hinges on the trust of both buyers and sellers. Most Lowcountry consignment shop owners and managers know their markets and are good at what they do.

Consignment is a contract-based business. Questions to ask before signing over a gently-used cache of goods may include: 1) Who owns the piece once it has been consigned? 2) What happens if an item does not sell? 3) What is the duration of the contract? 4) When and how is the consignee paid?

All items above can be found at Bargains & Treasures.

Tips for consignment shopping
Research may be a shopper’s best friend; however, many treasure hunters would say it is all about luck, timing, and instinct. For furniture, sit down and get a feel for the piece. Imagine alternative uses for unique items that pique your interest. Don’t hesitate to walk away, go home, and imagine the piece in your natural environs. Find similar items for sale on the Internet to compare pricing value. Ask if you may take a picture to jog your memory when you are imagining its place in your life. If it is meant to be yours, it will be waiting for you upon your return.

Questions that may make your buying decisions easier: 1) What is the piece’s history? 2) Is delivery available for larger pieces? 3) What is the delivery charge? 4s) How soon could delivery be scheduled?
Some of the real fun in consignment shopping is stumbling upon that one-of-a-kind piece that simply screams, “Take me home!” Mary Lou Haskell, owner of the designer-driven consignment shop The Stock Exchange in Hilton Head’s Main Street Village, has seen gems from designers such as Coco Chanel and Louis Vuitton come in and go out just as quickly. “Every time we think we’ve seen the most fabulous thing, something else comes in the door,” she said. “Any time we see a Chanel handbag, we get excited. We do get some pretty amazing pieces.”

Antiques and interiors consignment veteran Michael Shanley, of Michael & Company on Arrow Road on Hilton Head Island, has enjoyed his fair share of special finds. “I had a circa 1820s adult and children’s bowling alley. It was 15-feet long and had all the pins; it had the original paint, and the original balls. A lady from Missouri came in and couldn’t buy it fast enough for her grandkids playroom. She was buying all antique toys. It killed me to sell it, because I wanted to keep it and play with it,” he said.

All items pictured above can be found at Classic Consignments.

Carol Sprague and Donna Sist know that their consignment shop Chella D in South Island Square on Hilton Head Island, is its own unique little community. “Our store is almost like Cheers: a place where everybody knows your name. It’s like a girls’ club, and I’m proud of that. Working here is a good form of therapy,” Sprague said. In addition to the good vibes, Chella D is a sought-out source for stunning clothes and accessories.

“We get a lot of great, high-end, designer clothes,” Sist said. Modeling two runway quality hats that had recently been consigned, she said, “This is like Vogue.”

“I don’t want to part with them,” Sprague said. But they will, and somewhere out there is a very lucky customer or two.

Successful consignment shopping relies almost exclusively on having quality goods for sale and customers with a heart for the history and viability of gently-used treasures. Whether selling or buying, consignment shopping makes the one-time obsolete … obsolete! 

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