by Phil Yacuboski
You can spot a trend anywhere, and retail is no exception. While the big box stores and shopping malls are struggling across the nation, consignment and resale shops are popping up in downtowns and on main streets in many towns across the country – including here in northeast Pennsylvania.
“We are very busy, and every month is busier than the previous month,” said Esther Rosenfeld, owner of Esther’s Consignment Boutique in Dunmore.
The shop, which has been open for nine years, sells designer label clothing and home décor.
“Everybody likes a bargain,” Rosenfeld added.
Items are typically priced at around one-third of what they would have been new, said Rosenfeld, and sellers get 50% upon the sale of the item. Sellers are paid once per month.
“But to be truthful, most people end up spending their check right here,” she said.
A multi-billion dollar industry
The secondhand market will reach $51 billion in the next 5 years, according to thredUp, a web-based consignment company that recently did a large study on the consignment industry. The company also found the resale market has grown 21 times faster than the retail market in the past three years. They estimate 56 million women shopped consignment in 2018 – up 10 million from the previous year.
“Business has been really good lately,” said Brittany Allan, owner of Rumor Has It, a consignment shop in Luzerne. “It’s especially picked up with all of these stores closing and people cleaning out their closets.”
The store on Main Street in Luzerne only takes name-brand clothing, shoes and accessories.
“We sell a lot of prom gowns and homecoming dresses,” Allan said.
She explained when items come in, the seller gets half of the selling price. There is an expiration date on the items, and if they do not sell by that date, they are then donated to charity.
“We then get rid of everything to get ready for the new season. If you bring something in right at the beginning of the season, you’ll have a longer time to sell,” she said.
Allen, whose mother has owned My Sister’s Closet for the past 30 years near her location, said consignment is cheaper, and with younger people being more conscious about the environment, it has been a great business model.
“I think recycling is the new way to go,” she said. “And why throw it away? If you can get money to buy other stuff, why not?”
A successful business model
With larger amounts of inventory, On and On, a vintage and consignment resale complex along Scranton’s Capouse Avenue, has been a successful business model for Meegan Possemato for the past four years.
“They set up their own little shop within our shop,” she said of the vendors who rent 10-by-10-foot spaces for $195 per month in the old industrial building.
The vendors are responsible for keeping track of and replenishing the vintage, handmade and repurposed items that are sold.
“It’s not like a flea market,” she said. “It’s curated.”
Possemato currently has about 60 vendors along with more people who are anxious to sell. Vendors do not have to be at the shop; Possemato and her crew do the selling. She said shop owners make their monthly rent, and the rest is theirs to keep.
“Business has been great,” she said. “We wish we had more space, because we have a waiting list of people who want to sell.”
She, too, believes the environment has something to do with the business model.
“It’s not about being wasteful, but reusing,” she said. “That’s a big part of why people shop with us and buy things that are second-hand. Plus, things were made with better quality years ago. Something that’s 30, 40 or 50 years old was made better than things are made today.”