Shopping at Consignment Stores

By Jill Gardiner , last updated July 6, 2011

Shopping at a consignment store is a great way to purchase quality clothes at a fraction of the original cost. While you may have some pre-existing notions about the clothing in consignment shops being cheap or shabby, think again: many consignment shops only deal in brand name merchandise that’s in very good condition. Even in thrift shops, you’ll often find unworn, high-quality labels with the tags still on them. Think of how many impulse clothing purchases you’ve donated after never finding an outfit for them! Shopping at consignment shops isn’t a guaranteed bargain, however; there are a few tips that will make your trip more likely to be a success.

Patience is a Virtue

Leave yourself plenty of time when going to a consignment store; there are racks and racks of clothing, and no two items are likely to be the same. While most consignment stores are organized at least by type of clothing, not all of them are organized by size or color. To find the good stuff, you have to be prepared to dig a little bit, and that means taking your time. Bring a friend with you and make a day of it. Also, many consignment stores mark down items after they’ve been on the rack a certain number of days. Dates are usually marked on the price tags, so if you see something you want and are willing to take the chance of waiting, you could save even more.

Be a Regular

Shopping at a consignment store is not like shopping at a department store. There are not multiples of clothing available in different sizes. Trips to the consignment shop tend to be more hit or miss; some days you find something, some days you don’t. If you go infrequently, chances are you’ll have more misses than hits. New items come in regularly, but the best stuff may get sold quickly. Not to mention, regular shopping means you’ll become familiar with the stock and will therefore have to spend less time going through it.

Dress for Success

Most decent consignment shops have dressing rooms, but not all of them do. Wear thin, fitted tops and bottoms so you can quickly try stuff on over your clothes to make sure they fit, or carry a measuring tape with you. It isn’t much of a savings if you won’t be able to wear it after all.

Examine Thoroughly

While most good consignment shops inspect their goods for any damage, you don’t want to get an item home only to find a stain, hole, or worn spot. Look at clothing in the best light available, preferably natural, and pay special attention to areas that tend to get stained or discolored like the fronts of shirts or underarms. Trying on sweaters is the best way to find moth holes. Pay close attention to a garment’s tags, not just to see who the designer is, but to see the care instructions.

Set a Budget

It’s easy to get carried away once you see the bargains available at consignment shops, but remember, the idea is to save money. Set your spending limits before you go in, and institute a policy of getting rid of an item of clothing from your closet for every one you bring in to slow down your shopping. Don’t donate that item just yet; you could consider selling it back to the consignment store so you can do more shopping!

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