How to Shop in a Consignment Store

Couple shopping in consignment store

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Part of the fun of shopping at a consignment store is the surprise of finding an unexpected hidden gem at a great deal. It's easy to find a bargain if you know what you're looking for—but it's just as easy to spend too much on something that looks impressive but is worth very little, or wind up spending more than you wish. No matter which type of consignment store you shop at, learn these tips before you go.

Consignment Shop

Consignment shop: a retail store that sells secondhand items on behalf of others and receives a percentage of the sales price. Merchandise can include vintage clothing, designer fashions, sporting goods, and household items.

Learn About Sale and Markdown Policies

Consignment stores tend to lower prices based on the length of time the items have been on the sales floor. Some mark the tags when the prices go down. Others put the arrival dates on the tags so shoppers can calculate the discounts as they browse. 

Consider Their Haggling Policy

Every store has its own policy, and it may depend on the consignment terms they set with the owners of the goods.

That said, it's okay to ask politely. They may agree to a lower price if you point out a falling hem on a dress or a loose drawer glide on a dresser. Or, if they know the piece you want is scheduled for markdown the next morning, they might be willing to sell it to you at the lower price that afternoon. Let them know what you're looking for. If they like you and know what you want, they'll let you know if and when someone brings it in for consignment. 

Consignment Versus Thrift Stores

Know the difference between consignment shops and thrift stores. While both offer a variety of secondhand merchandise, thrift store items are provided from donations, though their stock is typically not of high value and the proceeds often go to charity. Luxury items can be found at thrift stores, of course, but it may require more hours of browsing and return visits. Thrift store items are generally marked lower than consignment store prices. Both consignment and thrift stores are popular with consumers looking for eco-friendly shopping options.

Ask About Different Forms of Payment

Many consignment stores (but not all) accept credit and debit cards and they're always happy with cash. Some stores take checks, but know before you go. Some consignment stores even offer layaway, which can be a good option if the interest doesn't eat up all of your savings.

Furniture Delivery Options

Before becoming too attached to a large item that's being sold for a great price, be sure to factor in delivery and cost. Some consignment stores may be willing to deliver your purchase for an additional fee. If the shop does not deliver, they may have a list of independent moving resources you can hire. At other consignment stores, loading your purchase and getting it home is entirely up to you. 

Inspect Items Carefully Before Purchasing

Make sure the item is in good condition and fits your needs and your home. Consignment stores rarely allow returns and exchanges, which makes sense. By the time you get around to returning something, the store may have already paid the original owner.