How consignment can run with the big dogs this Christmas

October 27, 2017

7 tips for consignment stores to compete with the “big dogs”

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about the impending “doom” of brick and mortar stores. Some analysts are suggesting the rise in online shopping means physical stores will become a thing of the past. However, according to recent reports, over 70% of shoppers still like to see a product in the store before they buy it. As a result, retailers are fighting back and changing the way they do business. Consignment stores should too. Here are 7 tips for consignment stores to run with the big dogs this Christmas.

Tip #1 Create an awesome bargain area in the back

Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor, recently wrote an article titled, How should independents prepare for Black Friday? He suggested shops gather items throughout the store that have been there awhile and then slash prices. For consignment stores, choose the “I’m-not-sure-my-customers-will-like-it-but-I’ll-consign-it-anyway” items and gather merchandise that has converted to store inventory. Discount those items heavily and add them to a special sale section in the back. If Black Friday shoppers are looking for bargains, you’ll have them.

Tip #2 Promote an event, not a deal

Black Friday was built around the deal. It is designed to bring the crowd in with a loss leader and count on them spending more. Instead of emphasizing the merchandise, concentrate on the events. There are several opportunities to take advantage of.

  • Friday, November 24 is Black Friday
  • Saturday, November 25 is Shop Small Saturday
  • Sunday, November 26 and Monday, November 27 are Cyber holidays.
  • Tuesday, November 28 is Giving Tuesday
  • Monday, December 11 is Green Monday

Of course, you can always create your own holiday too. A few years ago, a group of small retailers came up with the idea of Plaid Friday. Make sure, whatever you do, your event is well publicized on your website, Facebook page, Twitter feed and in-store. Assign someone the special task of photographing for additional publicity. Be sure everyone has lots of fun!

When consignment stores run with the big dogs there are certain things they need to doTip #3 Treat shoppers with kid gloves

Consider every person that enters your store a gift. With the rise of online shopping, brick and mortar will only thrive if they offer what online can’t…personal service. Your shop should look, feel and smell like the holidays. Adding a couple of these ideas will boost your image and your bottom line.

  • Invite a Girl Scout troop or senior’s group to offer free gift wrap in return for a donation.
  • Offer a hot beverage and/or Christmas cookies or candy canes.
  • Set aside a place for shoppers to rest their weary bones.
  • Make sure your cash wrap and store aisles are cleared and capable of handling the purses and many packages of shoppers.
  • Partner with another local business and offer free foot or shoulder massages, makeup or scarf tying demonstrations or a children’s play area.
  • Provide concierge service to pick up or drop off merchandise.

These days, it’s all about the experience. Create a relaxed atmosphere that’s a breath of fresh air from the hassle of holiday shopping. Show shoppers how they can get the best without spending the most.

Tip #4 Take advantage of video

Nowadays, video is the medium of choice. From Facebook live to short, animated videos, start using them. I wouldn’t watch a video of someone making an Amazon buy, but show me fun aspects of your shop behind the scenes and I’m hooked. If you do furniture consignment, create vignettes with your merchandise and video shoppers enjoying them. Highlight your salespeople and tell a funny fact about each one. Poke fun at the owner or manager. Show a shopper entering the dressing room then cut immediately to her appearing in her new outfit. Make videos that are short, light-hearted and fun. Even something as simple as Ripl, can dramatically increase the engagement in your Facebook posts.

 Tip #5 Pin to Win

Who’s looking for a fun contest idea that draws shoppers into your store and builds your brand? (This is where you raise your hand.) Try a Pinterest contest. Retailer, TopShop created a wonderful Christmas contest using “moodboards” that would be perfect for any consignment store. Encourage shoppers to create a Pinterest board that is specific to your store. Pick a theme such as My Perfect Christmas Morning or A Special Christmas Dinner (for furniture and decor shops). Shoppers either re-pin from your site or come into your store to photograph and pin items they’d wish to have. Participants email their board to you and one “pinner” receives a very special prize. Be sure to create a store-specific hashtag that can be added.

Take care of your greatest consignment store assetTip #6 Invest in your biggest asset

You and your employees are ultimately the biggest asset to your consignment business. Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, co-founder of Vera Bradley, quoted her father as once saying, “In business, you sell yourself first, your business second and the product third.” As I shared in, 6 tips to build your secondhand store’s brand, you are your business. Invest in relationships. Take care of yourself and your employees. It will ultimately show on the sales floor. Even the smallest gesture of kindness will reap great rewards. At Vera Bradley, employees receive a $50 bill in their birthday card each year. As the company has grown, the payroll department asked if they could just put extra money in an employee’s paycheck. Baekgaard refused. She feels that cash is more personal and so much more tangible. I would agree.

Tip #7 Be honest about resale

The only way consignment and resale shops will thrive is to face the #1 reason shoppers do not buy secondhand. They’re uncomfortable buying merchandise previously used by someone else. As one potential customer put it, “All of this belonged to dead people.” Combat that image by making sure your shop is as clean as it can possibly be. Curate your merchandise and purge the junk. Be diligent about the way your store smells. Let shoppers know that you only accept items that are in perfect condition. If necessary, tie-in with a local dry cleaner and let customers know your clothing is cleaned and ready to wear. Often, some consignment and resale shops can be the worst enemies of the consignment industry as a whole. Remember, it isn’t just about your store, it’s about the perception of resale overall. Let’s work together and we truly can “run with the big dogs.”

Deb McGonagle

I have been a writer for various forms of marketing for over 40 years. I've written my share of radio and TV scripts, magazine and newspaper ads as well as direct mail brochures and newsletters. Currently, as the Marketing Director for Traxia, home of SimpleConsign software, I've moved into blog posts, eBooks and website text. It's been an ever changing and ever challenging journey but I've loved it all along the way.