Consignment Shops have been around for decades and the business concept of consigning is simple. The act of consigning is essentially placing any material in the hand of another, but retaining ownership until the goods are sold. Consignment Shop is an American English term for second-hand stores that offer pre-owned goods a reduced cost from new. The idea is simple; the consignee (seller) simply pays the consignor (owner of the items) a portion of the proceeds from sale. Consignment shops however, shouldn’t be confused with thrift shops or charity stores such as Good Will where items are simply donated and resold.
In a tough economy it makes sense to shop smart by shopping consignment stores for pre-owned brand name and quality made items at reduced prices. As with any storefront business though, it’s tough to get the word out about your services and inventory when you’re just starting out, especially when it comes to creating and running sophisticated websites. We recently interviewed a few consignment store owners on how they’re leveraging the power of the web to enhance their business, and specifically, which sites they’re using to help move their inventory. Here’s what they had to say:
Jenifer Robb is the General Manager of Furniture Affair, a Model Home Furniture Outlet. Her company has been using Craigslist, as well as Social Networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. By using Social Media, Furniture Affair is able to post new stock with pricing information regularly for items that are “new” and “unique.” When by using Craigslist, it makes it easy for her store to post sales and promotional information as well as items that “take severe markdowns because that tends to be a more discount minded consumer.”
Jenifer says “the business coming from selling online is only about 2% but says 7-10% result from initial Internet contact.” Furniture Affair always prefers foot traffic in the store as opposed to online sales because “you can develop a more solid relationship.” “Our store concept is fun, funky and a bit irreverent, says Robb. People need to be in the store to really get how much fun we have here as well as the depth and breadth of the bargains that can be snagged. Plus we have interior designers on staff that can come to the home and help select things specifically for your space. This really solidifies relationships and that’s what we sell best based on. 40% of our business is generated from referrals and if you have someone to your home that helps make the process effortless and fun then you’ll tell everyone about it.”
Mr. & Mrs. Digz is a vintage boutique that also sells new apparel, consignment and local handmade designers in Chicago and has a storefront in the Andersonville, Illiniois neighborhood. Emilia Dlugolecka uses ETSY to help market some of their shops’ items online and says, “Roughly 20% of business comes from online sales.” Although online business plays an important role in enhancing sales, she says he prefers foot traffic. “The foot-traffic customers are your repeat die-hard customers. When you shop online, there are so many other options and competitors to choose from that there’s not much sense of loyalty.” Dlugolecka says, “Treat all your customers whether online or in-person with great customer service and offer incentives for them to return. Online is just as important.”
Fashionable Additions, owned by Danielle Seals, has recently added a consignment corner (Weebly, a self-service web template site) to their boutique and has become one of their biggest streams of revenue. Fashionable Additions says they average only 20% of sales online, but prefer the one-on-one attention they offer when customers come to their store. Whether online or offline, they say, “Customer satisfaction is very important to us.”
Regardless of economic conditions and shopping habits, store owners need an edge on competition. By brining their consignment business to the Internet, shop owners can expand their ability to reach thousands of new shoppers looking for their goods, while also satisfying their clients coming in to consign their items.
Thoughts? Feel free to leave comments below!