What Does ‘Consignment’ Mean?

Consignment stores sell gently-worn furnishings, from sofas and dining tables to wall art, light fixtures and décor items. While displayed in a store, those consignment items actually still belong to “consignors” . . . . people like you, who want to sell their items.

Sellers sign an agreement allowing the consignment store to price and sell their items for a percentage of the sales price (stores generally keep 40-60%). Sellers are paid in a timely fashion, and bear no expense for advertising or delivery.

What’s Great about Consignment Stores?

Consignment stores are great for buyers’ budgets, because the prices on inventory are always well below retail.  Consignment stores are great for sellers, because they help turn unused or unwanted goods into cash, and the store has built-in customers. Everything is typically insured against disaster or theft while it’s in the store, and generally also well-cared-for while it’s there.

Some stores will also come pick up large items they want to sell.  Many will ask you to send them descriptions and pictures by email, so they can determine if they want to consign your belongings.

Through its retail operation and marketing, each consignment store brings ready customers directly to your goods. People who consign their used furniture often believe it’s better than having a string of strangers coming to your home, not an entirely safe way to sell personal goods.

What’s the Down Side?

Some consignment stores won’t pick up consignment furniture, or deliver purchases. In that case, if you buy a piece of furniture, it will be up to you to get it home and unloaded, although the store will typically load your car at time of purchase.

Timing is everything. Shoppers can’t depend on finding exactly what you want, when you want it. The shopping process takes time (but also rewards regular shoppers with very nice surprises).

Sellers may not like sharing what seems like a large percentage of their sale funds. But remember that the store bears all the expenses related to a storefront and marketing. It has a built-in clientele that is pre-qualified and wants to buy.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

On their websites, consignment shops will typically list items they don’t accept.  Don’t expect a store to take furniture with holes in the fabric; furniture that’s been chewed or scratched by animals; furniture or rugs which are badly stained or need repair; goods which are representative of another region of the country (like taking southwestern art to a New England shop).

Stores will share their payment schedule with you. Don’t ask for or expect an early payment. Some consignment stores mail all payments, but most ask that you pick up your checks. If you can’t pick up a check on the scheduled payout day, the store will hold it for a reasonable amount of time.

When you consign your goods, the store will ask you for your preference is the goods don’t sell. Generally, you can choose to have the price discounted, the item returned or the item donated. Some stores offer an automatic step-down pricing structure, where the price is automatically reduced after merchandise is on the floor for a certain amount of days.

Now You’re Savvy

Now when someone asks you “what does consignment mean,” you’ll be the one in the know. Consignment stores are a great way to furnish or update your apartment, or to pare down the load before moving.  Happy hunting or selling!

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