Tales from a consignment owner: Shopping Tips & Tips & Tips
The dates are circled on your calendar. In red. The excitement builds for the deals you might find. You question where you should head to first, what’s most important to find. Here’s a special guide from a shopping pro to guide your consignment sale adventure. Ready? Let’s go!
1. Make a list of Must Haves
Seriously, an actual list on paper or typed into your phone. Because once you get into the shopping venue, the excitement could make you forget something. List your kids, their sizes (including shoe size), and their inseam of current pants could be helpful as well. Then write down your kids’ favorite colors to wear at the moment as well. Casually ask, “Tommy, if you were picking between a green shirt and a red shirt, which would you wear?” This can only help you so just tuck these nuggets of info in the back of your mind for decision making time. Your list should probably read in this order: clothing items – accessory items – toy favorites – book favorites – sports items – or something similar. Those are your guidelines.
Now, what does each child need clothing wise? Pajamas are typically on 100% of lists. Finding them at a fraction of the cost of new is a win for sure. Play clothes? Same concept – you are looking for mix and match items in good condition that don’t require a lot of thought. Some type of shoes/boots/sandals are usually on everyone’s list as well.
Accessory items always tend to be tied to the season. Spring consignment sale and headed on vacation soon? I’m putting a child’s suitcase on there – that could be really special for them. Fall consignment sale and Halloween’s coming? Straight to the costume section.
Next are the toy favorites! Is there a love of Peppa Pig in your house? Star Wars? Lego building and construction toys? Anything in John Deere green? You can almost certainly find at least one special toy for each child at your local sale.
The book section is a place that you can save a ton of money. With most kids’ books costing a minimum of $6 even at the Scholastic Book Fair, finding great titles at a fraction of the cost is like finding four leaf clovers in your yard. So stock up on favorite authors, series and genres.
Lastly, don’t forget your kids’ sports items that may be needed on your list. Your daughter may just be starting ballet or tap dance. This is a great place to find the shoes and leotards that she needs. Your son is a baseball great, but his pants are continually getting holes from sliding into second base? This is an awesome opportunity to stock up on second pairs of baseball pants and cleats.
2. Now that your list is made it is time to make a plan to shop early!
The expression “the early bird gets the worm” is never more appropriate than in consignment sale shopping. There are two ways to do this and both options are on the table for you. A. You can volunteer to help as support staff at the sale you will be shopping. B. You can pay to shop during the Early Bird Shopping times.
Now, your available time may be the deciding factor in this decision. Let’s discuss.
Volunteering at a consignment sale is not a hard option. The jobs are easy, fun and do not require critical decision-making skills. The jobs are things like organizing, bagging for a cashier, or sorting items at the end. It does require three hours or more of your time and you would have to arrange that into your schedule. This could mean booking Grandma to take your kids for the afternoon or day and hey, that might be reason enough to say Sign Me Up! Most sales will offer earlier and earlier shopping times depending on the number of hours that you work. The more hours you work, the earlier you get to shop. So based on your time schedule and if you are looking to get in and search before anyone else – you can determine if that means you want to work one shift, two shifts on different days, or just one full day to get in the hours. In my experience, the sales are very flexible with letting you pick a schedule that works for you. Hours are not assigned randomly to you, you are choosing from a drop down menu of shifts that are available.
Your other option is to pay to get into the sale just prior to the public opening. This is typically called an Early Bird Sale. You can usually buy your ticket online or it may just be a cash entry fee at the door. If you choose this option, you will be two steps behind the people who worked at the sale. The workers shop first, followed by the people consigning, followed by the early birds. But you will be ahead of the hundreds of people who will just show up for any public sale day and take their chances. I’ve seen fees range from $10 to $20 to bring a can of soup for your local food bank. Just research the sale website prior to the day to make sure you are prepared to buy your ticket in the appropriate way.
3. As your shopping time approaches it’s time to get your act together to be ready to shop
Because it is an EVENT, honey. You do not want to be walking in there with just your list and a prayer. So, here’s a list of basics and options you will need to make your shopping experience fun, and as non-stressful as possible.
- Don’t forget that list we worked on
- Most importantly: something to shop into. Depending on the size of your list, you need to determine if you just need to bring large shopping bags (think IKEA sized or the large ThirtyOne handled bags), or a laundry basket with a rope or belt attached to it, or a wagon. These are all good options and are all regularly used. Basically, you have to have something to put all your STUFF in while you walk around and shop. The good sales will have some sort of holding area to put large items that you are purchasing in so you don’t have to drag them around, but you will still be carrying a fair amount of treasures for a period of time. Plan accordingly.
- A water bottle and some sort of snack if you feel you may need nourishment.
- Wear comfy shoes and clothes. Remember that it can sometimes get hot inside a venue with a lot of people inside.
- A Cell phone – you may want to look up the retail price of an item to see if it’s a good deal.
- A small tape measure – it can help to measure inseams against your list to confirm that they work for the size you need.
- G. Cash or Credit cards – check the website to see if one is preferred – it could help shorten your wait time in line if the sale has a “Cash Only line”.
4. Now it’s time to consider whether you are bringing your own kiddos to shop with you.
I’ll just say it up front – If you have the means to get a babysitter or shop while they are at school or Grandma’s – take that kite string and run with it girl! Soar! It really is a fun day out and you will enjoy it more if you aren’t worried about where the pacifier fell, or that your toddler won’t stay seated in the stroller and just wants to run wild in the sea of tricycles.
That being said, in my experience, it really is a 50/50 experience with half the parents bringing their kids to shop with them, and half leaving the kids at home. I know moms who leave their kids at home but who actually come to the sale with a shopping list FROM THEIR KIDS which is a total laugh out loud to me. Yes mom, I want a purple bike helmet, Junie B. Jones books, a keyboard and a baton for twirling. But so totally cool too!
Just add some preparation if you plan on bringing your kids to the sale. Bring a snack or drink for them. Go to the restroom prior to entering. They will be overjoyed to see the toy room, and it can be like walking into Santa’s Workshop. Prepare them ahead of time with the promise of choosing a favorite toy while shopping. You know the drill.
5. The last thing to do to prepare to shop is to Prioritize Your Shopping Order.
This is where your list that we made in the beginning comes in handy. If you have a big item on your list like a stroller or highchair or toddler bed or a bike, I like to say head there first. You want to ensure yourself the best selection to choose from, and you can then have a sale helper take the item right to the hold area or grab your claim ticket for that item. Everyone’s priorities and strategies can differ from there. If I’ve got my kids with me, I’m heading to the clothing first before they get bored and cranky. Several people will head to the shoes before the clothing, because of the great savings and wanting to choose multiple pairs. If you are shopping for 4–10-year-old boys, then I might suggest heading to their clothing section first because there is typically less selection in those sizes just because boys wear out their clothes faster. Boys + trucks on the floor = holes in the knees of everything. Basically, everyone’s shopping order will be different, but it should be what works for you. Have fun with it!
Whew! I feel ready to shop now! Join us next time as we take this one train one stop further into the sale and give you more tips and tips and tips for how to shop economically during the sale.
About the Author
Jennifer Hill is a former consignment sale owner in Western Pennsylvania. She is a mom to three kids who are now in high school and college. She has a Business/Communications degree from Grove City College and resides in Volant, PA with her husband, kids and a barn full of animals. She enjoys being outdoors, reading, hanging with her tribe of fierce moms and the occasional glass of whiskey…or wine….