Have you ever wondered if one of these co-op consignment sales would work for you? I certainly did! Since we're getting for baby #3 (who happens to be a BOY, btw) I decided it was time to start purging some of the girl clothes that I have in order to make room for boy clothes! I was unimpressed with both of my regular consignment store and garage sale efforts, so I decided to give Just Between Friends a go. I started this project by scoping out the actual sale last Spring. It seemed like a good possibility, so I put it on my fall calendar. JBF ended up being quite the experience! In sharing my experience, hopefully you'll pick up some tips and ideas from what I learned by doing things the hard way!
Online preparation -
A few months back, I went to the Just Between Friends website (http://www.jbfsale.com/default.cfm) and located my local sale. Next, I applied to be a consignor by signing up online, Once I'd done that, I used their interface to set up my account in order to start tagging my clothes. THEN, I spent probably a good hour reading over what exactly I was supposed to be doing and exactly how I was supposed to tag. (I should have taken notes! The instructions and supply list are quite extensive!) Even still, I learned that I could set my own prices and that I could also track my sales results every night when the system updated. Both very nice features!
Clothing Preparation -
I started with hauling up my ginormous Rubbermaids and combing through each basket piece by piece to decide what I wanted to sell in in the Fall/Winter 2010 sale. Thankfully, everything was already clean! (This helped me a lot in the long run!) As I completed sifting through each Rubbermaid, I entered all of my items in to the online system for tagging, and I threw them in a few laundry baskets. I decided not to wash all of the items again, but I did run them through the dryer with a wet wash cloth. It really did a great job of helping everything look crisp! I pulled them out and hung them up while they were still warm. I had a hard time finding space to hang everything (or anything,) and my dining room ended up being completely overrun by clothes for about a week!The only other problem, I realized later, was that I had to sort them by size for delivery. Next time, I'll keep everything sorted by size from the get-go! It ought to save me an hour or sorting when I'm trying to get out the door for drop off!
Tagging and Pricing-
I really did have to read through the instructions like 8 times. About the 9th time, after nearly deciding that this process was too overwhelming, I decided I really needed to write everything down. I wrote down exactly what supplies I needed and exactly how clothes were supposed to be hung and tagged. (It is more specific than one would expect, but for good reason, I suppose!) Once I got all of the details out of my brain and on to paper, I felt better, but tagging did take awhile! Once again, I think I would have been better off if I would have kept my sizes sorted from the very beginning. Just finding the clothes to tag in my stack of 100+ articles got a little irritating! I was a little concerned about over or underpricing items, but I really just ended up going with my gut. I tagged most of my individual items and pairs of shoes around the $6 range unless they were Gymboree or GAP, which I priced closer to $8-$10. I had outfits in the $10-$16 range depending on the brand, and if they were 2 or 3 pieces. Of my higher priced items, I had a Gymboree winter coat that sold for $18, 3 pairs of maternity pants that sold for $15-$18 and three Christmas dresses (one of which sold) that I priced between $28-$32.
As I already said, before I left the house, I had to go through all of my clothes, group them by size and rubberband them together. I was tempted to NOT do this, but you will find out soon why I am glad that I did! I had no idea what to expect for delivery other than that I knew they would inspect my clothes. The website quoted to allow 30 minutes for inspection and delivery. I had a suspicious feeling that a 30 minute quote was overly cautious, and it also occurred to me that I had no idea how I was going to get all of these clothes from my car to the huge warehouse where the sale was being held. Thankfully, I was able to coerce my husband in to going with me to help haul clothes. I was HOPING there would be some sort of help there, but I'm so glad I took my husband because there wasn't! When we got there, I was filled out some consent paperwork while my husband hauled the clothes in from the car. It was standing room only -- just lots of people with huge mountains of clothes. If you were lucky, you could catch a rolling rack from one of the people who was finishing up. We were able to do that before we went back to have our clothes inspected, thankfully! At inspection, they were very picky about what they would take (especially for shoes!) I only had two items that didn't "pass," so that was lucky! If you think you might get a few items with little spots by, you won't! NOW, the biggest surprise of this entire experience for me was that we had to hang the clothes up ourselves! It doesn't sound like a huge deal, but think of what would have happened had I not sorted them by size!!! Scary! Even still, it took my husband a good 30 minutes just to find space on the racks where we could cram our clothes in. It wasn't the end of the world, but the entire process took about 2 hours -- a far cry from the quoted 30 minutes! I wish I would have kept track of my total time investment, but I didn't at all. I'm guessing it was in the neighborhood of 5-6 hours, and the better part of that time was just figuring out what and how to do go about things.
Sales Outlook -
I tagged about 80 pieces (outfits, individual pieces, pairs of shoes, maternity pants, etc.) worth about $626 in prices I set. The JBF website quoted that you could expect to sell 80% of your merchandise unless it was infant sized. They did not provide a quote for infant sized clothes. (I will tell you that the 0-12 month selection was TREMENDOUS. I'm talking tens of thousands of articles of clothing. It was crazy. Seeing the volume really scared me in terms of selling my clothes. I felt like finding my clothes would be a needle in a haystack!) Knowing that I would make 65% of my sales because I didn't volunteer (commission is 70% if you volunteer 4+ hours,) I decided it would be reasonable to expect half of my stuff to sell. I was really pulling for making about $300.
If you are a volunteer or a consignor, you get "special access" on the first day. Since I didn't volunteer, I didn't get in until the end, which was really fine. Honestly though, a lot of the bigger items like outdoor toys, bouncy seats, cribs, etc were LONG gone. I did spend some time combing the clothes for shoes for my girls and new baby boy clothes. I ran out of patience quickly because the racks were SO full, and it was hard to manuever around the tons of ladies with mountains of clothes. (These people take this SERIOUSLY!) My allergies also started flaring up really bad which freaked me out a little bit about where these clothes were coming from! Regardless, I got an 18-24 months new looking Gymboree flannel shirt for $4 and a Children's Place 18-24 month fleece jacket for $2, and a pair of size 10 Cherkee boots for $3. All really great deals -- especially the Gymboree shirt!
After extensive drop off procedure I was really worried the pick up procedure would be really time consuming. I was pleasantly surprised because it was the easiest part of the process! Everything was pre-sorted by my consignor number, and I just grabbed what I wanted and left! I also was pleasantly surprised that all of my items appeared present and accounted for. I was REALLY afraid that I would experience some loss from theft. For some reason I was especially suspicious because I thought I had some really nice things that didn't sell, so I was afraid they were just "gone."Regardless, they weren't! I think it's nice to know that I can really trust my items are in good hands!
Sales Results -
I was really interested to watch my sales reports online. I thought it would be good to know what days had the highest volume and what items were really selling. As I was tagging things, I was really concerned about overpricing or underpricing things. I was also afraid that there would be some sort of pattern to what sold (everything super cheap, everything Gymboree, etc.) and that everything else would just sit. Here's the good news -- there was NO pattern to what sold. I sold a little bit of everything! I can also report that the first day (the consignor shopping day) was by far the most productive. After that, Thursday, Friday and Saturday got progressively worse. I only sold one item on Saturday! Talk about disappointing! On Sunday, sales were a little bit better as I sold some of the items that I had OKed to sell at half off the tagged price. The other factor that is a little disappointing is that because I sold a lot of everything, I also DIDN'T sell some of everything. I will be bringing home several really nice, well priced items that I fully expected to sell. The end result of my sale and hard work after fees and the JBF cut will be a check for approximately $166 -- a far cry from my hoped for $300. I only sold 33/80 some pieces. (Again, a far cry from the closer to 80% number I was hoping for from the JBF recommendation.)
Final Word -
Initially, I said I wouldn't do it again for anything less than $300. Now, I'm thinking that I am not making any money with a basement full of clothes, and I will likely do the Spring sale as well. I think the key will be to be MORE organized, and if I'm more efficient, I won't be expecting a hefty payout. Other than that, knowing what to do is half the battle! (Which is why I'm writing this!) Also, since I was also able to set the items I never wanted to see again for donation, I also donated about $98 worth of clothes, which I will be able to claim as a tax deduction. The best news is that I cleared out a lot of space and got rid of a bunch of stuff that I will never have to see, touch, carry upstairs or organize again!