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Shop Like a Pro: Tips from the Racks

Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your consignment shopping experience.

1.  Figure out how to shop before the public.

Check the shopping schedule on your sale’s website. volunteers often shop first, followed by consignors, then the public. Some sales offer a special shopping time for new parents, teachers, first responders, military families, etc. between the consignor sale and the public sale.

2. Volunteer during drop-off

If you work shifts before the preview sale, you can observe (scope out) what high-demand items you’d like to buy for your family. It’s not a guarantee that you’ll be the first one to reach them, but you’ll know to head in that direction.

3. Make a List

Make a priority list and create a shopping plan. After you’ve hit your high-priority areas, head to the next tier on your list.

4. Give Yourself Time

Depending on your sale’s size, plan 1 – 2 hours per child to go through clothing and shoes. You’ll want to go through the entire rack in your child’s current size, as well as consider shopping up a size or two. You’ll be surprised at what you might find by just taking your time.

5. Review Your Items

After you’ve “culled” the items you want from the racks, find a quiet area and go through your things again. Check zippers, look for spots, stains and tears. Work your finds into three areas: Must-haves, Like-to-Haves and Walk-Aways. It’s easier to stick to your budget if you take a purchase or purge approach to what you’ve selected. You might be surprised at what catches your eye a second time. Don’t forget to give your unwanted items to a volunteer. They’ll make sure they get back in the right place.

6. Check Bundles

When buying a bundle or lot of items, check every piece. You might need assistance from a volunteer to open a package, but check everything you want to buy. If the top sleeper is adorable, but two of the remaining 3 are stained or excessively worn, it’s not a great value.

7. Use the Hold Area (If Available)

Does your sale have a holding area? Use it to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed or worn out while shopping. If you’re not sure, ask a volunteer for help. They’ll be happy to help. Note of caution: If you use the hold area, go back and get the things you don’t want or ask a volunteer for help with returning them to the sales floor. No one wants to think they’ve sold something, only to find it was stuck in the holding area the whole time.. Some sales have a limit on how long you can hold items. Make sure you know (and follow) their guidelines.

8. Be Patient

Bring an extra dose of patience for shopping and check-out. As quickly as sales try to get customers checked out, you may still have to wait in line. Use that time wisely. Check for stains again. Add up what you’re purchasing to avoid surprises at check-out.

9. Shop often and come back for the discount days.

You’ll not only save more money, but you’ll be able to find items you may have missed the first time you shopped. Even when there’s not a discount sale, shop! You’ll be amazed at what you missed on previous trips to the sale.

10. Check Sizing

Know your child’s measurements. Make a cut-out of their feet and use a ribbon or measuring tape to keep up with inseams, arm lengths, waist sizes, etc. Mark these measurements on your ribbon or tape, then use it to measure against sizes and items. Foot cutouts can be used to see how shoes will fit without trying them on in the middle of the aisle.

Bonus Tip: Get Connected!!

Join the sales’ mailing list, follow them on social media, stay informed. For example, our sale hosts a Facebook virtual pajama party two to three weeks before the sale. Typically, we give out 30-50 prizes over that hour. You have to know about it to participate. If you love a sale, make sure you’re getting their updates on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram. You might be surprised at what you can learn. . . and win!

About the Author

Elizabeth Renfroe has a passion for all things consignment sale-related.  She enjoys coordinating the Children’s Market Sale at First United Methodist Church, Jacksonville, Alabama.