us polo assn watch manual Upscale resale shops display fashionable growth
Remember back a generation or two ago to the image of that store that sold used clothing and furniture, where musty smells lingered over dusty collections of old, out of style dresses, coats and end tables.
Fast forward a few decades to Deja Vu, a designer consignment boutique in Lewis Crossing, a strip shopping center on Lewis Avenue just north of 71st Street.
Couture label suits, furs, designer handbags and beaded evening wear are just some of the apparel and accessories displayed in the 3,300 square foot resale shop that owner Ronda Vuillemont opened five years ago.
The “gently worn” merchandise offers one of a kind appeal and is fashionably up to date. The cost is a fraction of the clothing’s original price.
And year after year, Vuillemont says, the idea of buying secondhand is gaining ground as a way to dress in style.
“I’m seeing more people looking for good deals,” this entrepreneur said. “People want to get nice things for a good price.”
That quirk of human nature, as well as her own sense of thriftiness, was behind the decision to start Deja Vu. Vuillemont also had the support of her mother, Nedra Babcock, who had retired after years of selling designer and couture clothing for a luxury Tulsa retailer.
To get the business started, friends and many of Babcock’s former customers cleaned out their closets, becoming Deja Vu’s first consignors. Her knowledge of exclusive, well made clothes and a focus on personal service have expanded the store’s inventory and customer count, which now includes contributors and shoppers from several surrounding states.
Vuillemont networks the benefits of resale and her business whenever she can, hosting fashion shows and talking to tech school students on the merits of dressing well for job inter views.
Resale’s once unsavory image “is quickly wearing off,” she said, but buying used remains a new idea for some. “People are still unaware of consignment shopping.”
While come misconceptions exist, selling resale has become a booming business for many entrepreneurs. And for the latest generation of price conscious consumers, buying for less is hip.
Resale is one of the fastest growing segments of the retail industry, said Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale Thrift Shops.
The number of stores is hard to track with openings and closings every year but Meyer estimates there are about 15,000 nationwide.
And while consignment stores offering the best designer clothing have been around for decades, the “upscale” designation that stores such as Deja Vu use to describe merchandise probably came into vogue about a decade ago, Meyer said.
Consignment shops tend to follow similar guidelines, accepting clean,
in style designer and name brand clothing on hangers. Stores keep merchandise displayed for anywhere from two to three months; whatever remains is usually put on sale, and finally unsold merchandise is donated to charity.
Shop owners split the proceeds with their consignors, paying them from 40 percent to 60 percent of the profit when and if items are sold.
Thrift stores are usually run by not for profit organizations as a money maker to fund services. Most accept merchandise as donations, although some do operate on a consignment basis.
The resale industry overall is growing by about 5 percent a year, Meyer said. The furniture category is seeing the biggest growth, as are apparel stores targeting a specific market such as high end clothing, men’s and teens clothing, and shops featuring plus sizes.
Store owner Patty McCourry thinks a wave of new interest in shopping secondhand hit consumers about 15 years ago just about the time she and her brother and sister in law took over Echo Shop.
“Mother started the store in 1968, with two racks in a 10 foot by 10 foot space in London Square with a $200 investment,” McCourry said.
At the time, she recalls there was only one other resale shop in town. And the types of people who brought in their unwanted clothing probably didn’t admit doing so, she said.
But since McCourry and Mike and Pam Graddy bought Echo Shop in 1988, a big shift in buying trends has made for a huge increase in sales.
Almost all the consignors now “are just like you and me,” she said, and there are fewer suits and dresses and more casual clothes hanging on the racks.
It’s still brand name, though, McCourry said; merchandise like gently used Dooney Burke and Coach handbags, couture apparel like St. John Knits, and sought after business wear sporting labels from trendy merchants like Ann Taylor and Talbots.
About 70 percent of those who bring in clothing for consignment are also customers who are more likely to brag about their bargain price finds, she said. Enthusiasm for Echo’s offerings has expanded the business into additional space every five years there is now Echo Man and a 3 year old Echo Home store and created a pool of 25,000 to 35,000 consignors among the three shops at 5932 S. Lewis Ave.
To McCourry, it seemed that soon after she became Echo Shop’s owner, being frugal got popular even among those with plenty of disposable income.
“More and more people say they love it,” she said. “Once you start buying consignment, it’s hard to go back to retail.”
And through good and bad, the business has thrived, McCourry said. “We’ve found over the years that consignment does well regardless of the economy.”
Many in the resale retail industry, including NARTS director Meyer,
say tough times entice more people to shop secondhand.