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Online Consignment: Out With The Old

Online Consignment: Out With The Old
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BY KITT WALSH

If you still think of consignment shops as your local Goodwill or Salvation Army, it is time to think again. Consignment shopping has gone upscale and online and cleaning out your closet can earn you some serious bucks or, if you are on the buying end of things, you can gorge on designer duds, real jewelry and shoes that would make Carrie Bradshaw drool at very low prices.

Let’s start with the top of the line—authenticated luxury goods being resold at The RealReal, an online site based in San Francisco that was started in 2011 by Founder and CEO Julie Wainwright because she wanted to make it easy for luxury buyers to get rid of last season’s goods discreetly and help us more mainstream shoppers to enjoy a bit of how the other half lives without breaking our bank accounts. (Where else can you get an Yves St. Laurent shift dress for $145 or a pair of Manolo Blahnik Sandals for $156?)

The RealReal has warehouses full of clothes, shoes, accessories (especially jewelry) from the likes of Cartier, Jimmy Choo and Prada and their consignment process is a simple one: You start by browsing the site’s Designer Directory online.

If you have 10 or more qualifying items in excellent condition, you may be eligible for their White Glove Service. They’ll send a Luxury Manager to your home to pick up your items and ship them to RealReal free of charge.

If you have less than 10 designer items in excellent condition, you are directed on how to create a packing list. Then you get a pre-paid Fedex shipping label and send your items off. Once RealReal receives them, the items are authenticated, photographed, priced and included in your profile under My Sales. The whole process usually takes between 10-15 days. Items that don’t make the grade, aren’t authentic or are not deemed to be resaleable get returned to you.

The RealReal pays sellers up to 70 percent of the sale price, which is determined by RealReal’s experts (they’ve sold 500,000 items so think they have a good handle on the market, but give you a heads-up by providing a pricing sheet for their price ranges http://docs.therealreal.com/TRRPricingGuide.pdf). They also refer you to RealBook, the premier guide to the resale value of luxury brands. It provides estimates of the resale price for tens of thousands of luxury products in women’s and men’s fashion, fine jewelry and watches based on brand and item type. You can download the app here: http://lnkd.in/bC8Ffxf.

Items usually move within two weeks, which isn’t surprising considering the ever-hotter online consignment market. Competitors like SnobSwap, Tradesy and ThredUp (the lower-end and largest competitor) are burning up the internet. Each product is put through a multiple-point, brand-specific authentication process by a team of luxury experts. All applicable leather goods are inspected for the appropriate date codes, serial tags and hologram stickers, ensuring that all handbags pass specific authenticity tests before they are placed in sales. For fine jewelry pieces, The RealReal’s gemologists use 10x binocular microscopes and loupes to inspect items, along with gem-specific instrumentation to determine the natural or synthetic origin of each piece which are then stored in a fingerprint sensored vault for safekeeping till they are sold.

The RealReal doesn’t mess around with fake or counterfeit merchandise. If a seller can’t provide proof of purchase, The RealReal reserves the right to confiscate the item and destroy it.

Most of the items on The RealRealWomen are for women, but they aren’t the only ones catered to in luxury consignment. Tailored Consignment stocks their eBay store with men’s suits from Alexander McQueen and Armani to Ralph Lauren and Versace, though the items must be from their list of accepted brands. Their shoe collection dazzles with Italian loafers and British Oxfords far below retail prices and there is no limit to the amount of items that may be sent in for consideration.

Online consignment venues are even changing the way shoppers shop at traditional retail stores. According to an article in the New York Daily News, shoppers are more willing to spend if they know they can easily resell items later.  It makes them more comfortable about coughing up big bucks in those brick and mortar stores. Some of the most familiar high-end retailers are even jumping on the bandwagon themselves, joining forces with the online consignors. Neiman Marcus recently gave $50 gift cards to their stores to first time consigners using The RealReal.

All of this bargain-hunting really took off during the dark days of the recent recession, but it is hard to break people of the habit of paying less than full price once they have become used to making money on their purchases. It is the retail equivalent of “how do you keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?” and there is, apparently no turning back. More and more online consignment shops are popping up all over the web, (you will instantly be directed to “How to start your own online consignment shop” once you start your research on them) but you may want to think twice. Industry experts predict some consolidation is going to happen and even some more team-ups between the hard-hit traditional retailers and their online counterparts.

Never pay retail seems to be the rallying cry for this new age.

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Kitt Walsh owns a web content company, Behind Blogs (http://www.behindblogs.com), is a regular contributor to CNN Money, a public speaker on Social Media, a book editor and ghostwriter, and freelances as a feature writer, editor and marketing consultant for magazines, newspapers and private clients around the world.