Here are my top-five tips for making the most out of your second hand shopping experience:
1. Know your demographic. Identify the high end neighborhoods in your city and locate consignment stores in that area. The idea is that the stores will generally have higher quality inventory as the people who live there are likely to be the ones consigning there. Again, consignment and/or resale shopping is different than thrift shopping. Inventory is hand picked at consignment stores whereas thrift stores except all donations. Knowing this key difference will help you overcome the biggest challenge of finding quality stores and items.
2. Know your labels. It may or may not be a problem that I can tell you what store just about any label is from, ha. I am not a label snob by any means, but it comes in handy when I am searching the consignment racks.
For example, I am more likely to purchase a Deletta (Anthropologie) blouse versus a Marona (Target) blouse because I know that I am truly getting a deal and would probably not have paid full price for the item. Most of the time, that is. Which is why it's important to:
3. Know your prices. Ensure that what you are purchasing used is indeed less expensive than what you would spend for something new at the same store. Gap, for instance, has killer sales and it's rare that I would be spending less on a consigned item than just waiting for a similar item to go on sale at the store.
4. Know the tags. On most items of clothing, you can find the season and year it was displayed in the store. Generally, it's a small tag located on the inseam of a blouse or near the hips inside of the pant seam. And occasionally it's located inside a pocket. It's a different tag than where the size and wash instructions are listed. If you are wavering between purchasing an item or not, often times the date will make the decision for you. I tend not to purchase anything that is more than two years old. And trust me, I find them. Just the other day I saw a jacket from 2000 despite the stores "policy" on only accepting items three years or newer. The dress below is from the Summer of 2011 - pretty self explanatory.
5. Know the quality. Often times consignment owners will purchase an article of clothing just because it is a high end brand, paying little attention to the quality and/or condition it is in. This is especially true of jeans. You can purchase designer jeans all day long, but unless they are in great condition you will just be wasting your money. Specifically look for wear on the inside of the thigh area, the corners of the back pockets and the hemline. If the denim is especially soft and light in color, a hole may be in your near future.
If you LOVE the jeans and still think they're worth the price, you can have a seamstress reinforce these areas for about $10 (which may or may not be worth buying them used in the first place).
Hope this helps and happy treasure hunting!