The Art of Consigning Kid Stuff – by Margaret Hart

For years I have held onto my son’s clothing, toys, books, gear, and just about everything we ever bought him in anticipation of growing our family. A few years ago, however, we came to the conclusion that we needed to start weeding out. So we began sorting through all the baby, kid and toddler stuff and making piles: donate, give to friends, consign, save.

I tested the consigning waters earlier with a local boutique consignment shop that only sells high-quality items (no box store brands, for example). I did well with special holiday outfits, but the owner rejected some nice, everyday clothing. The shop takes more than 60 percent of the sale, and you can only consign 15 items at a time, so I was not motivated to continue.  Then a friend of mine, who is somewhat of an amateur-expert at selling on eBay and Amazon, suggested I try selling some of my son’s books and DVDs. I was successful with Amazon, but not with eBay. With Amazon, it’s easy to list items, and they offer a stipend for shipping. I have found eBay to be more time consuming to list items, and more costly to the seller. 

Then in late 2011, I learned about a large semi-annual consignment sale in my area that’s held in a school cafeteria over a four-day period. I did some research. I followed their Facebook posts, and signed up on their mailing list. I found out it was run by two smart, organized, and enterprising young mothers (with almost eight kids between them…one on the way). I was attracted to their colorful and detail-oriented website. I learned they only took quality merchandise, followed the letter of the law (no recalls and no drop side cribs, for example), and best of all, they gave the consignor 70 percent.

So in the summer of 2013, I registered to consign for their winter sale. I consigned more than 150 items and sold all but a dozen. I sold everything from activity tables and chairs, to winter coats, snow pants and boots.  I learned how to merchandise, package, display, and price my items by observing other consignors, and by volunteering (a volunteer shift earns you passes to the pre-sale before it opens to the public). Based on my sales, I found out what sells best, and at what price point. Because it was my first time, I wasn’t sure how to take advantage of the 50 percent off discount offered the last three hours of the sale, nor did I donate many items  – another option offered to consignors.

this past week I participated in the 2014 spring/summer sale.  I consigned about 400 items and sold all but about 50, give or take. Considering the weather in Connecticut (a Nor’easter, schools closed for two snow days, etc.), I was amazed anything sold. This time I took advantage of the discount and donate options for sellers. For example, I consigned a dozen or so pairs of sneakers, basketball shoes, and soccer and baseball cleats in good condition. I asked a fair price for most (less than 25% of retail). I designated that they could all be discounted the last day of the sale and/or donated. I didn’t want to have to bring them home. They all sold except for one pair of sneakers.

I have learned that, like most things in life, there is an art to consigning successfully.  But with a modicum of preparation and knowledge, you can do very well. Here are a few quick hints and tips based on my experience: 

• There are certain items that are more desirable: educational toys and books are nearly always good sellers. Bikes, scooters, and outdoor playthings are sought after. Toddler clothing (because kids grow so fast between the ages of 2 and 5) are usually good sellers. Infant clothing (booties, bibs and the like) are not the best sellers because most moms receive these items as gifts when they are pregnant or buy for themselves  – especially when it’s a first baby. But there is always a market for strollers, gates, and other baby gear.

• Packaging and merchandising items help them sell fast and make them a better choice over a seller with the same items, not presented as well.  Package three educational books together in a zip lock bag rather than trying to sell each one individually. Include batteries for electronic toys and other electronics so shoppers can see they work. Be neat.

Clean up items to make them look even newer. If something has been sitting in a box or in an attic, it’s most likely dusty. Wipe it all over with a baby wipe or a household cleaner like Fantastic or Windex. If something is wooden, give it a little shine with some furniture polish (Lemon Pledge works wonders). If there is a minor mark or scrape on something, use a matching color Sharpie to make it disappear.

• Pricing is key. For the most part, even though shoppers are looking for bargains, they will pay 25% to 30% of retail (or more) for items that are in very good or better condition – or desirable.

• If there is a discount or donate option with a consignment sale, take advantage of it. If you really don’t’ want to take an item back home with you, mark it for donation. You can still take a tax deduction if your consignor gives you a report of what was sold and what was donated.  And you don’t have to spend time transporting your unsold items to Goodwill or The Salvation Army. If you want $30 for those sneakers your son or daughter wore three times, but you are willing to take $10, discount them, or donate them. A child in need will appreciate them.

I was surprised to learn that there are many consignment sales held year-round across the country. I’m on the mailing list for several in my neck of the woods. Do a Google search and find some in your area and check them out. Figure out what’s convenient for you, location and time-wise, especially if you are transporting a lot of items.

I’ve found that consigning helps ease the transition of letting go of items that I really don’t need to keep. And with the extra money I earn from the sales, I can buy new toys and sneakers!  At least that’s what my son tells me!   


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