Sick of forking over bundles of cash for clothes your kids will wear just one season? Tired of the mountain of outgrown children's clothes and toys that pile up in your closets year after year? Try the latest craze in children's shopping -- seasonal consignment sales -- and kill two birds with one stone.
What are they?
A seasonal children's consignment sale is an organized event where a group of individuals join together to sell their gently used clothing, toys, equipment and even maternity clothes. Think garage sale -- only nicer. Shop at these sales and you'll be getting top-notch, quality merchandise that your kids will love, and you won't be paying an arm and a leg for it either.
"I've found name brand clothes, like Ralph Lauren and Gap, for my son, not to mention videos and toys that I probably wouldn't have bought him new," says Jennifer Halloran of Acworth, Georgia. "Because of the great prices, I pick up things that normally I wouldn't consider."
Sales are generally held once in the spring and once in the fall. Check newspapers, local parenting magazines and various websites (see the links below) for a listing of sales in your area. You'll find that churches and synagogues, women's organizations, clubs and individuals usually host the sales. They are most often held in church halls, community centers, basements and even garages.
It's best to visit and shop a few sales before you decide to sell any of your children's outgrown things. You'll get a feel for what's involved and the best way to present your own merchandise.
Hit the ground running
Find out when and where the sales are in your area and get ready! Plan on taking a laundry basket or bag so you won't have to hold the items you want to purchase as you continue shopping. Clothes and toys will get heavy.
Try to leave the kids at home. Most sales won't allow strollers, plus the sales can get rather crowded. If you do take your children, don't let them play with toys or equipment unless you plan on buying them.
Make sure you have cash on hand. Some sales take checks and credit cards, but you may want to make sure before you head out the door. Keep in mind that returns are not allowed, so only buy what you are sure your kids will need and use over the upcoming season.
Kids' consignment sales are big business in areas like Atlanta (over 100 sales per season) and Detroit, but haven't caught on in many towns and cities just yet. "I love visiting my sister in Atlanta in the spring and fall because I know we'll hit the sales," says Monica Pajcic of Jacksonville, Florida. "I've found so many great clothes and toys for my two-year-old son and saved so much money. I wish there were sales like this where I live."
You'll find prices are higher than a garage sale (about 25 to 50 percent of the original price), but with name brands like Gymboree, Oshkosh and The Children's Place, you'll still be getting great deals. If you find an item you like but think it's priced too high, check back on the last day of the sale. Most sales will offer a half-price day on the last day.
Be wary of buying too much, though. With lots of good deals, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement. It's best to buy more complete outfits and fewer individual pieces. And, go for the big name brands! They are easier to sell should you decide to consign them yourself at future sales.
After shopping a few sales, you might decide that they are something you like to participate in as well. Consigning outgrown clothes and no longer used toys and equipment is a great way to keep your home clutter free, while making some extra money in the process.
Almost all sales offer participating consignors a pre-shopping event, held the day or morning before the sale opens to the public. You'll be able to have first crack at the brand name items being sold. Once the sale opens to the public, the selection diminishes a bit.
"I've been to several children's sales in the past and this year I finally decided to do a little consigning of my own," says Dawn Loftin of Marietta, Georgia. "I got my kids' closets cleaned out, made a little money and the best part was shopping the sale before everyone else got a chance to. I can't wait to sell again in the spring."
Once you decide on which sale to consign with, it's simply a matter of contacting the organizer. She or he will give you specific instructions as to how to prepare your items, when and where to drop them off and any other information you will need.
Be aware that generally the sale organizer keeps 20 to 40 percent of the sale proceeds. The seller, or consignor, receives 60 to 80 percent of the profits. Some sales also charge you a nominal fee to "rent" a table to sell your merchandise at the sale.
If you can't find a seasonal children's consignment sale in your area to participate in, you might consider taking the plunge and starting one of your own. Check out the links below for tips and suggestions on everything you need to know to be successful.
http://home.attbi.com/~sbreaden for more info on seasonal children's sales, lists of sales by state, tips for buyers and sellers.
www.kidsconsignmentguide.com for advice on how to start your own sale.
www.mom2momlist.com for lists of sales in southeastern Michigan; advice and tips.