Is consignment worth it?
August 10, 2014 9:34 AM   Subscribe

I've never consigned clothes before. Given my selection, should I even bother?

I have a couple dozen items of clothing in good condition – light wear at most – that no longer fit (heh) my carefully curated personal esthetic (a heh heh heh). They range from mid-range men's suits to Macy's-brand men's button-downs to a whole bunch of cotton and polyester Ann Taylor shirts.

The clothes were a moderate investment ($20 jackets, $20-50 shirts, $50+ slacks), so it'd be great to recoup some of the cost. However, I deal with epic levels of depression and fatigue, and my motivation/patience/general wherewithal is very limited. I'm just tired of this stuff taking up space in the guest room.

Should I bother taking these items to a consignment shop? The Internet has told me that I'll get less than half the return on the posted price, and it may take months for items to sell. Time isn't a limiting factor, but energy spent keeping track of the transactions is.

Or should I try to sell them on Craigslist? If so, what prices should I set? Should I just make someone's day at Goodwill? (The women's suit and old bridesmaid dresses are being schlepped to appropriate charities.)

All of the items need to be dry cleaned – thanks, kitties – and Yelp tells me there's a local cleaners that'll do it for $2.75 per item. I live in Tucson, Arizona.

[Last should-I-consign question was asked in 2008; not sure if the issue is evergreen.]
posted by kwaller to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
ThredUp will send you a pre-paid bag that you can put your stuff in and give to a USPS carrier or drop off at FedEx. If your stuff doesn't sell, they'll donate it to one of their "charitable partners".
posted by unknowncommand at 9:50 AM on August 10, 2014 [11 favorites]

Consignment sounds like a lot of work for little potential benefit. Either donate them outright or sell them on Craigslist.
posted by dfriedman at 9:51 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Depending on the number of items you have, the net effect of going consignment could be worth the trouble, but by the time you dry clean them (even at $2.75 a pop) it will likely eat considerably into the profit.

If you feel up to it, I'd go through the clothes and pick out the items that were the most expensive and most likely to get you back some money after the dry clean costs. Also, keep in mind that many consignment shops only want clothes that are no more than 2 years old. This is to ensure that the clothes are still in style. Obviously, this isn't as much of an issue if it's a classic item that does not go out of style (like a blazer).

Note: white clothes don't hold up as well as other clothing items. Take a careful look at any you may have before considering them for consignment. Few consignment stores will take white clothes because they so easily show signs of even minimal wear and tear.

I too have depression/fatigue/motivation issues. When I have too much stuff taking up space in my home, clothes especially, I usually just toss them in a black trash bag and hand them off to the thrift store. To be honest, even THAT is a pain in the ass most of the time, but I feel so much better once I get rid of the clutter. Out of sight, out of mind, phew!

Consignment is always worth it for high end designer labels (Chanel, Dior, etc). In fact, if you have anything from a high end designer label, that's where it becomes beneficial to have the items dry-cleaned (and not by a cheap dry clean shop - I've had bad experiences with places like Zips - you risk that they may not know how to properly steam or iron clothes!) and placed (by yourself) on Ebay where you'll get all the profit.

So, my question to you: what's more important - recouping some of the cost of buying these clothes, or improving your physical space and alleviating the stress of unused items laying around your home?

Depending on your current priorities and responsibilities, you may find that the latter takes precedence.
posted by nightrecordings at 9:59 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Last year at about this time Men's Wearhouse was collecting suits to donate for guys getting out of prison, to wear to job interviews and things. You might try that.

I doubt consignment will get you much. My mother drops off some of my (40-year-old male) clothes once in a while, but they never sell.
posted by themanwho at 10:20 AM on August 10, 2014

Charitable groups are flooded with women's clothes, but they have a constant, ongoing need for men's clothes. I'd urge you to donate them.
posted by jgirl at 10:24 AM on August 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think you should drop them off at Goodwill and then deduct the value if you itemize your taxes. In Chicago, the consignment stores only want designer clothing. Perhaps it is different where you live though.
posted by parakeetdog at 10:35 AM on August 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Donate them. I too have depression and motivation issues, and it was demoralizing to me when I'd schlep my clothes to consignment stores, only to wind up taking 75% of them home because the store didn't want them.
posted by virago at 11:24 AM on August 10, 2014

I consign all my clothes, but it's only worth it to me because I also shop in that store with my credit for items sold. For clothing like what you describe, I'd imagine you might receive 10-25% of the cost you paid per item, depending on wear and demand. If I had your inventory and depression and motivation issues, I would much rather donate everything to Goodwill in one fell swoop and take the itemized tax deduction on my 2014 return.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 11:36 AM on August 10, 2014

If your consignable items were like-new children's clothes or designer pieces, I'd encourage you to investigate consignment in your area. (Most consignment stores would not be interested in items at the price point you describe unless you paid at deep discounts from the full price, like if you'd bought at consignment.)

If you were my client (I'm a professional organizer and deal with this issue all the time) with the clothing types and issues you have, I would spend a session (or have you work with a friend) to:

1) Sort the items in your spare room into category piles. (Jackets, dress pants, casual pants, sweaters, etc.)

2) Itemize them using It's Deductible. (Basically, next to "long sleeved collared shirts," you put "6" or whatever in the column under "excellent" or "good" depending on the quality of the item. It's kind of like a game, and if you sort into piles first, it goes really quickly. It calculates the value, and if you use TurboTax, you can even import values directly, with a click, at tax time.

It really doesn't take very long. I have a client in your EXACT situation, and we processed over a thousand articles of clothing belonging to the client and her deceased parent, from sorting to logging to packing it all in the car, in 2 1/2 hours!

3) Donate them to charity and feel good about all the people who will benefit from your donation. Personally, I wouldn't pick Goodwill, but a charity where the donated items are offered directly to those in need (like a domestic violence shelter), but whatever floats your boat.

If you don't own your home and don't itemize, you can skip directly to #3, knowing you have done a good deed for yourself, and one for others, and have avoided what would likely be a waste of effort re: consignment.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 11:58 AM on August 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

If you want, take them to Buffalo Exchange, they'll assess value and give you cash on the spot. It won't be half of what you paid, if you're lucky, it'll be about 15%.

I'll warn you, all consignment stores are VERY picky and they know what they want for their stock. They may take half of what you bring in, or less.

Also, you have to make an appointment as the buyers aren't always in, or always looking for items.

Frankly, for what you might realize, I'd donate the lot and just go out and get things that please me.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:47 PM on August 10, 2014

Unless the consignment shop you have in mind is a place you love to shop, I'd just donate them.

When I do consignment, the shop usually gives me a larger amount in store credit than they would if I took cash--so I just look at it as a way to get a discount on some new clothes.
posted by inertia at 12:15 PM on August 12, 2014

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