Jenifer Gifford attended several consignment sales and found herself instantly hooked! She loved the hunt for great deals and the fun and excitement of consignment sales. So much so that she started selling and volunteering in these one-week events offered twice a year.
As a volunteer, she learned the ins and outs of consignment sales. Soon, she was organizing the consignment sales herself.
After years of organizing these sales, she decided to put all her knowledge about starting a consignment sales business on her website Consignamania. She published a compilation of what she learned about the consignment sales business in the guide Consignamania- The How-To Guide To Starting Your Own Seasonal Consignment Business.
WomenHomeBusiness.com talked with Jenifer who shared with us how to start a consignment sales business:
How did you become involved in consignment sales?
I began shopping for consignment sales after the birth of my first child in 2000. By the birth of my second child in 2003, I had become so addicted to the great bargains I was finding (and money I was making as a consignor) that I wanted to start a consignment sale on my side of town. Once I made the decision to start a sale, every time I volunteered, I was taking notes about what I liked and how I could use that to improve the sale I wanted to host.
What should a seller consider when making the decision to sell by consignment?
One of the toughest things for sellers is to emotionally let go of items. We joke around about “emotionally tagging” your items. Items that you say you want to sell but because it was your daughter’s first Easter dress and she looked so adorable in it, you price it really high in hopes that it won’t sell.
Sellers also need to realize that there is a time commitment involved. Hanging, tagging and preparing your items for the sale, is a lot of work, but the financial rewards can be significant. It’s not uncommon for a consignor to sell $500-$1000 worth of “stuff” from their kids closet at one sale.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of consignment sales?
There are huge advantages to consignment sales. As a seller, you receive a higher percentage of your sales, typically 70% of the selling price. You also have the advantage of pricing your items, so you can price them as high or as low as you want. The disadvantage of a consignment sale is that they are typically only held twice a year. If you miss the sale, you have to wait until the next season to see it again.
What are the products that sell the most (and easiest to sell) in consignment sales?
Because of the limited availability of big items like baby furniture and outdoor toys these items usually are the first to go and they have a high resale value. Toys and infant items (layette, feeding, bathing, etc) are hot sellers. Clothes are the meat and potatoes of a consignment sale, and are the predominant items that sell, specifically boys sizes 5 and up and girls size 4-6.
How has the economic downturn affected the consignment sale business? Is now a good time to get into this business?
Now is a great time to get into the consignment sale business. As families are tightening their budgets, there is more need for these types of events. These seasonal events are seeing tremendous growth in the current economy because they are a win-win-win business. Families are able to sell their outgrown items and make money, shoppers are able to buy name brand items at discounted prices, and the consignment sale organizer receives a portion of the selling price of each item sold. At the end of a sale, local non-profits are able to benefit from leftover items that were donated. It truly is one of those businesses where everyone benefits.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced when you started participating in consignment sales?
The biggest challenge as a consignor is trying to figure out how to price your items. It takes participating in three to four sales before you get the hang of pricing so that your items sell. There is an art to pricing so that you aren’t selling too cheap or asking too much for items so that they come back home to you. The other challenge that faces participants is that seasonal consignment sales tend to rarely be in the same place twice, so you need to pay attention to where the sale is actually being held.
As a sale organizer, the biggest challenge is finding a location that will allow you to host a one-week event in their facility. Most commercial agents are looking for long term tenants rather that one week events. There are great locations out there it just takes some time to find them.
What inspired you to collect all the lessons you’ve learned into Consignamania? What is your product about and what can buyers learn from it?
My team of volunteers inspired me to write Consignamania because I was always being asked to consult on new sales start-ups. They saw how excited I was to help other sales, but they also saw how much time it was taking away from my family. Consignamania is more than a “How To” business start-up guide. It is everything I have learned in the last 8 years that have made my consignment sale so successful. I was fortunate to have other successful sales organizers mentor me before I got into the business, but most new sales organizers don’t have someone who is willing to help them. As a result, new sales organizers make lots of mistakes that could have been avoided.
Consignment sales look simple from the outside looking in. But there is more to it than picking a name, putting up some racks and announcing that you are open for business. There is an art to hosting a successful and fun event that everyone looks forward to, and that’s what you will find in Consignamania. It’s 196 pages of what to do, what to avoid, and how to make a sale fun for everyone involved.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far as an entrepreneur?
The biggest lesson I have learned is to always be thinking ahead. Just because my business is doing really well, doesn’t mean that I can rest on my laurels. I am always thinking about how I can better my business. What can I do to expedite and streamline processes? How can we help more people? What can I do to make this the best business out there?
What are the challenges of working and running a business from home?
The hardest challenge for me is to set limits. It’s just so easy to slip into my office and check my emails, or just do this “real quick” and get sucked into a project that could have waited until my children are in school.
How are you balancing your personal life and family with the demands of your business?
I have had to make a conscious effort to set times for my business so that I am not working during my family time. During the weeks my sale runs, it is not uncommon for people to call at 5 am or as late as midnight. I now have set times and post them on my website, and I don’t answer emails or phone calls except for during a specified time frame.
What are your goals for Consignamania? How do you see the business five years from now?
My goal for Consignamania is to help as many families as I can not only start a consignment sale but for them to be successful at it; to have it be something that they enjoy. In the next five years, I see Consignamania growing into a more knowledge-based consulting business where I will be helping current sales organizers fine-tune their sales, helping to streamline their process so that they are maximizing their profit and their impact in their communities.
What tips can you share with other women entrepreneurs?
The best tip I can give to other women entrepreneurs is to find something that you are passionate about. When you are passionate about it, you get excited to do it every day. I love what I do because it impacts so many families in a way that as a stay at home mom I could have never done alone.