Flash sale websites, like Hautelook and Gilt, give me major anxiety. Even if I get on the website as soon as the sale starts, somehow all good items are already gone (seriously, how to people click that fast). I usually panic and buy something I don’t need (“I only have 3 minutes left until these designer napkin ring holders disappear from my cart and someone else gets them!”) or sit there dejected, staring at the “sold out” button.
It turns out my anxiety is justified because flash sales aren’t always such a great deal. The ticking clock gets you to make impulse purchases and the items are often non-refundable. These sites also charge for shipping and take a long time to deliver your order. Worst of all, flash sales don’t give you enough time to comparison shop for a better deal. Often, the same items can be found on the retailer’s website for a lower price (or they have free shipping).
That’s why I found another great way to score designer deals: online consignment shops. Buying “used” or “pre-owned” items used to have negative connotations but that stigma no longer exists. The demand for pre-owned ready-to-wear or couture is growing, meaning you can get barely used designer items for a fraction of the original price. Intrigued? Check out my tips for shopping at online consignment shops:
1. Consignment shops are not thrift shops: A thrift shops are usually associated with charities (and Macklemore) and sell items that have been donated. At a consignment shop, an individual sell their items through a dealer. The dealer only accepts items of a certain quality, so you won’t find any threadbare tees at a consignment. The shop then sells the items and takes a percentage of the profits. Typical consignment shops only give the consignor 30-40% of the sale price, but consignment websites tend to give sellers a larger cut (Forbes). Online consignment stores have a much wider selection and the items are seen by a larger audience (meaning they are more likely to sell).
2. Are you looking to make money or save money? Many people shop consignment to save money on pieces for their own wardrobe. Others look for deals on luxury items that they can resell for a profit. If you a shopping for yourself, always research the product first. What was the original price? Is it still sold by the retailer? I once saw a nice Kate Spade bracelet at a consignment shop for $75 (regular retail $88). I choose to spend the extra $13 to get the bracelet straight from Kate Spade, which gave me the benefit of picking the color of my choice. However, if the bracelet was retired or a hard to come by style, I might have considered buying it at the consignment shop. If you are shopping for a luxury purse or designer shoes, consignment shop prices can be hundreds of dollars cheaper than the retailer’s selling point. Online consignment shops are also a good place to shop for one-of-a-kind items. If you collect couture or luxury pieces, check out websites like TheRealReal, Rodeo Drive Resale and Vaunte.
3. Which site is best for you? There are ton of consignment websites and new ones seem to be popping up daily. Take a look at the list below for a quick summary of what each site sells and how they operate.
- Bib + Tuck: This is a members-only online community for women to trade fashion items. When you sell items, you receive “bucks” which you can use to shop other people’s closets.
- Copious: Copious is a social marketplace that lets you buy and sell everyday brands. It focuses more on the relationships between buyers and sellers than the actual items.
- eDrop-Off: This luxury consignment store based in Chicago but items are sold online exclusively through eBay.
- The Real Real: This membership-only website exclusively sells products made in the past 10 years (so stay away if you are looking for vintage merchandise). Shop here for luxury clothing and accessories from luxury designers like Lanvin and Hermes. Take note that the set up is more like Gilt than eBay, with “events” such as sales celebrity closets.
- Portero: This is the site to shop for luxury accessories. Look here for pre-owned, vintage and collectible merchandise from premium designers like Chanel and Cartier. Portero guarantee the authenticity and condition of all merchandise.
- Poshmark: Poshmark allows you to shop the closets women across the country. You attend selling “parties” with with themes, such as “Animal Prints,” “Designer Handbags,” and “Vintage Wear.”
- Threadflip: Like Copious, Threadflip sells everyday brands that are not “hard to come by.” Use the site to shop indie clothing, vintage jewelry and more. Items at 100% authentic and you don’t have to worry about bidding wars.
- Vaunte: Vaunte let’s you to shop the closets of leading stylists, editors and fashion personalities. This means you can find anything from vintage handbags to next season’s “it” shoes.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions: Many consignment websites, eDrop-Off, have agents that sell the items for consigners. It’s the website’s job to make sure that both the buyer and seller have a positive experience. These websites will make sure premium items are authentic and that you receive your purchase in a timely fashion. If you are buying an item directly from a seller, be ask the following:
- Where was the item was purchased?
- Do they have original purchase receipt?
- Can you see extra photos of the items?
- What are the exact measurements?
- Is there a serial number or verification code for the item?
- Is it from a smoke-free home?
5. Beware of fakes: The problem with online consignment shops is that you don’t get to see the item in person. High-end luxury consignment websites, The Real Real, Vaunte and Portero, verify that a product is real before they sell it. Their dealers are experts on designer items and know how to spot a fake. If you a buying form a consignment shop that doesn’t use a dealer, be cautious of counterfeit items. Unlike eBay, at lot of these website do not rate sellers. A seller might think they have a real Chanel bag, but it could be a very high quanity fake. Use Authenticforum.com to check the authenticity guidelines for brands. Also, see our tips on how to avoid buying fake handbags. Be sure to check the website’s return policy before committing to a purchase. For example, Threadflip doesn’t require individual sellers to take returns unless the items are “fake, faulty or falsely advertised.”
For more ways to save, check out what to do with your old nail polishes, high-end couponing and 10 sales & freebies you can redeem on your birthday.
[Image: My Style Pill]