Thursday, July 21, 2011

Not Sure About Ebay? How to Make Money Buying to Resell at Consignment Sales

Janessa's garage sale finds are ready for the consignment sale.

Today, Janessa over at Saavy Saver Secrets is sharing some incredible suggestions about how she makes money by buying things at thrift stores and yard sales and reselling them at children's consignment sales. This might be a great option for you if you don't have the time or gumption to try eBay.  Take it away, Janessa!
I am a self proclaimed bargain hunting/money making junkie!  When I moved from Wyoming to Missouri almost 4 years ago and got my first taste of children’s consignment sales I was instantly obsessed and totally hooked!  Thanks to Jen, I have recently began selling on eBay again (I used to sell vintage clothing 6 years ago) and I think her methods are amazing and oh so wise, but even with this new found knowledge of the potential of selling children’s items on eBay… I still will be dropping off upwards of 500 to 1000 items to sell at the fall consignment sales in my town!
Here are my stats from the last sale I participated in:
811 items dropped off at the sale
sold 87% (705 items)
consignor check (my cut after fees) $2800

Important things to know about Reselling at Consignment Sales:
  • Hot Selling Items – Baby Equipment, larger size (2T-7/8) children’s clothing/costumes, and TOYS! (I sold 94% of my toys last sale)
  • BRAND NAME is important, not just for the clothing (essential) but also for all the other items you’re selling… some of my favorite top selling brands are Fisher Price, VTech, LeapFrog, Little Tikes, Gap, Children’s Place, Carter’s, Old Navy, Gymboree, Osh Kosh, etc.
  • Consignment Sales are NOT the place to sell your super high end boutique/designer equipment and clothing… those items will do better on eBay or craigslist
  • unlike what I'm learning about eBay, newer is better for consignment sales!  Outdated toys, clothing, and equipment do not do well... that's why I never would have picked up a Wiggles or Vintage Polly Pocket toy before I "met" Jen! :)  I've actually battled at dinner meetings for my sale (I'm what's called a "team leader"... gives me fun perks and extra responsibilities) to not allow VHS tapes BUT now I can't wait to shop the sale this fall for Barney VHS Movies!
  • Items need to be clean, gently used, free of any damage, have working batteries, and complete to sell... keep all of this in mind when you're purchasing items to resell at the sale.
Buy LOW to resell so that you can make a worthwhile profit and still be giving the shoppers a great deal!
  • When I’m out shopping at thrift stores and yard sales, my quick go-to rule for making a purchase decision is “Can I AT LEAST triple this price?” 
  • Example: Yard Sale Price for a Little People Noah’s Ark Set: $2 – ask myself can I at least sell it for $6
  • When figuring what you can sell your items for at the sale, an easy and quick rule is 1/3 to 1/2 of the retail price, so back to the Noah's Ark Set: the retail price is $28, which means the set (as long as it’s not broken and is clean) will almost surely sell for at least $9, so I will buy it for $2.  Now if I’m at a garage sale I don’t know exactly what a new toy costs but as a mother of 3 I know enough to guess that the Little People toy would be in the upper $20s new and that at $2 I will make a worthwhile profit.
  • Baby Equipment Example: Last week I paid $25 for a Chicco Travel System that sells for $330 at Target so when I asked myself, “Can I sell this for at least $75?” it was an easy purchase!  Big items (outdoor toys, equipment) you can price closer to 1/2 of retail and sell it.  So I will sell this set for $165!
  • Clothing is a little different, I buy so much of it to resell, and it IS the most work to prep for sale that my general rule is less than 25 cents per item, so even if/when I’m selling it for $2 - $5 a piece, it is a HUGE mark-up/profit margin per item and worth my time and effort.
  • Example: I go to a bag sale at a thrift store or benefit garage sale and CRAM the bag with 43 children’s clothing items for a total of $5 (I do this a lot!) that turns out to be 12 cents per item.  A very modest assumption is that I will be able to sell each piece of clothing for at least $2 (I only sell baby size clothes that cheap!) for a total of $86.  So I pay $5, earn at least $86 ($60 after fees).  Not bad, right? 
Apply the Retail for Resale Rule: Buy Off Season and Score Awesome Deals!

  • Everyone except resellers shop at garage sales and thrift stores the same way they shop at the mall... they think in the NOW!  So, the best items that are high quality and often priced the cheapest are "winter coats in July" and "swim trunks in December"!  This especially applies to thrift stores, I always get amazing deals on off season items and then just store them for a few months until the appropriate season's sale.
A few other things to keep in mind:
  • You need to know the rules of your particular consignment sale.  For example, is there a limit on the number of items you can sell?  Are there certain items they don't accept?  Etc.
  • Consignment sales are an excellent resource to make some great money off your own children's items!  Start there first, and I promise you will be pleasantly surprised with your consignor check!
  • Consignment sales might be considered less hassle than eBay because you prep your item, throw a tag on it, then drop it off at the sale.  That's it.  The sale owners do all the rest of the "business" end for you, which, as a big time reseller, can be quite appealing!  (Don't we all dread the emails that say the "item was not as described" that are eventually inevitable on eBay?!)
  • You can pretty much sell ANYTHING that is current and child related at a consignment sale!
  • As long as your item is priced around that golden "1/3 of retail" rule (a little less or a little more depending on the item), your chances of it selling are very very good!  The sales rate at consignment sales still baffles even me... "I can not believe I sold all my stuff?!" :)
  • The only fees you will pay will be a consignor fee (usually $5-$10 per sale) and a percentage that the sale keeps (usually 20-40% of your gross sales).   You should keep in mind the cost of the supplies that you will need to sell your items: cardstock, printer ink, zip ties, safety pins, packing tape, ziploc bags, and hangers.  I always factor the cost of these items when I'm pricing so that I can ensure I'm being fair to myself (tagging 800 items is a lot of work!) and getting a good return on my investment including what I've paid for supplies.
  • Consignment Sales are addicting!  You've been warned! ;)
Thanks Jen for letting me blab on your blog!  Your willingness to share your awesome talents, knowledge, and invaluable information on this blog is a testament to what a wonderful person you are!  I wish we could be friends in the "real world". You know, like a few towns apart, so that you couldn't steal all my garage sale deals! ;)

J to the Nessa (Janessa) @ $avvy $aver $ecrets


  1. This is a wonderfully informative article. My area seems to only have two consignment sales per year, and having never even heard of one prior to reading this blog, I am unsure about initially volunteering. What's your opinion? Should I go to the one this fall and get a feel for it before attempting to volunteer, or do you think I should try to jump in feet first and volunteer immediately to get a pick of the "best" items? I'll admit that I'm a little intimidated, but I am also a year-round ebay seller of children's clothing, so I do have a large fall stockpile waiting to be photographed and listed...

  2. Volunteer! It's not hard or intimidating. It's actually a lot of fun! The sales really DO get picked over quickly. My favorite sale in town gets shopped for a full day and a half by volunteers/first time moms/ military before it's open to the public. Give it a try! :)

  3. Love it! I'm new to the whole thing and am finding this site and information very helpful!

  4. Wow! I have been consigning but I only have about 300 items each sale. Icant imagine tagging 800 items!

  5. Our bi yearly consignemt here has a limits on everything. Only 100 clothing items, 10 shoes, and so on. I could only imagine what it takes to tag and transport 800 items! You've given me some great ideas though :)

  6. So, if I sell my stockpile at the consignment sale, rather than all the time-consuming business with ebay, how do you really determine prices for clothing items? Let's say, GAP, Children's Place, Gymboree, etc? We don't have many yard sales that clothing is sold for .25, so I often pay $2-$3 per item at thrift - is it worth it to try to price these to move at consignment, and if so, honestly how much should they be listed at? I'm talking sizes 18 months - 4/5 primarily, and many more boys' items than girls.

  7. Janessa - does your sale have a half price day? If so, do you know what percentage of your sales were made on that day? I am preparing for a sale in the fall and trying to settle on prices that are low enough to sell but not so low that if they sell on the half price day that it makes it a complete waste of my time. Your 1/3 of the retail price rule of thumb helps!

  8. Carrie - How much are these clothes new at retail, ask yourself that, then divide that number by 3 (1/3 of retail). That is the most you can get for something that is currently in style, gently used, and brand name. So if the GAP jeans cost $30 new, you can most likely get $10 for them, although I'd probably price them at $7 or $8. Hope that answers your question!

    Kari - 13% of my items sold at half price. I still usually make money on those items and always at least break even after fees. I tell myself that if it sells at half price... it obviously wasn't worth the full price, and that's just life. :)

  9. I haven't been getting very many shifts at work so I've been brainstorming income ideas. Consignment sales are on my list! Thanks so much for all the info. The next consignment sale in my area is at the beginning of August. I hope I can get things together by then. Thanks again!

  10. Hi Janessa -

    You and YSM are so wonderful to read! Can you give an estimate at how much you paid for all of the stuff you sold. Thanks!


  11. Hi Ashley - That gets a little hard because I do sell a lot of my own children's items every sale and I don't keep track of what those items originally cost me (my brain can't handle all that! ha ha) I do keep track of what I spend on the items I purchase strictly to resell but that all gets mixed in with all the stuff that I've purchased to use, and then sell when my kids are done with it. I don't know if that makes sense. I can tell you that I estimated my profit to be around $1900 that sale. That is after inventory cost, supplies, and even gas.

  12. Love it, that is a lot of great information!

  13. This was a great post - thank you. I've NEVER considered selling at a consignment sale. I'm more of a buyer. But now I'm inspired to try and there's a sale coming up. Thanks!

  14. Follow up from Anonymous above: Turns out the sale closest to me (not many options) keeps 45% of any earnings. I don't think that would make it worthwhile for me to price things at a third of retail and then only take home about half of that.

  15. I was wondering wear you get the hangers from for the consignment sales. My consignment sale wants us to hang everything which is fine, but I don't want to break the bank buying hangers when I don't even get them back.

  16. Thanks so much for this post. Reading through comments, seriously people pay $7 for a pair of used jeans? Looking forward to try this in the future.

  17. Oh, I second the hangers question. I have never sold before, so you don't get any hangers back at all? Even if you dropped off 800 items!

  18. I need to make a pocket version of you so I can take you around to the yardsales with me. Unfortunately I don't have one of those cool phones that I can pull up ebay on.

  19. So crazy! I just came here to ask about hangers too. I use leftovers but I really need some more pant hangers. Have you found any stores willing to hand some over?

  20. At the consignment sale i have sold at, they recommended going to a dry cleaner and just asking for their extra wire hangers. Apparently they have tons and are happy to give them away for free!

  21. We can't use wire hangers at the sale I consign at : (

  22. I get hangers year round at thrift stores, dry cleaners, garage sales, and leftovers from consignment sales (this is not a guarantee and just depends on what the sales have left over) I also sometimes just buy child size plastic hangers at Walmart 10 for $1. So, I just factor the 10 cents into the item when I'm pricing... not a big deal!

  23. I have sold my things at consignment sales, but never really thought about buying to resell! However, one sale I did awhile, I had about 20% of my items "disappear." Have you had much problem with this? I do think shoppers were actually stealing things. I had a very nice 3 piece Lands End outfit on three hangers with a rubber band around them and multiple safety pins. They were taken apart and one piece was missing. Also missing was nice a winter coat. It so discouraged me, that I haven't done one since. I'm glad to donate items, but I don't want them stolen. Any tips for spotting sales were this does not happen?

  24. I also get hangars off of Freecyle! In my area, there are several different consignment sales and lost of people participate so these hangars are snapped up really quickly off of Freecycle. I also get them free at yard sales (I often ask to keep the hangar that the clothes I purchased are hanging on). I keep all my dry cleaning hangars through the year and I ask friends for their extras. The only thing I buy are safety pins and note cards (but I just got a big stack for $2 at a yard sale!).

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