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Sell, buy, love


October 2012

Wooden Hanger, Pewaukee
Photo by Dan Bishop

You love the dress, but it no longer fits. The classic Chanel handbag you found in Aunt Sueís attic is dusty and a little worn but still Ö a Chanel. Both items might seem like throwaways, or at least charitable donations. But before you truck off unwanteds to a nearby drop-off site, you might discover that you could make more than a little cash by selling them on consignment.

Consignment stores look just like any other small clothier, but they operate by different rules. At a conventional retail store, customers check out the merchandise, make a purchase and leave. But clients of consignment shops have a vested interest in the storeís success because they can bring in their gently worn apparel, accessories and shoes and fully expect to make a profit once their items are sold.

Each consignment store is different. Many offer the consignor a 50/50 split once the item is sold. Others do a 60/40 split or some variation. Some pay up front for merchandise.

Yet, consignment is not a new concept. One of the oldest consignment clothiers in the area is the Third Ward-based East Town Womenís Shop, which dates back to the 1920s. "We started out as a new womenís shop. It was owned by a woman who sold dresses then the war came and people came to the back entrance during the Depression," says owner Kim Nelson of the store she purchased in 2007. "Eventually, she turned it into a new/used shop."

Now that shop and many others like it are known by a legion of cult followers for the incredible array of high-end resale merchandise they carry.

Many of us have steered clear of consignment in the past, not necessarily understanding how it works. While at a typical thrift store you might run across racks of scuffed, scarred and scratched pieces, that is unlikely at a consignment shop, where owners work with small showrooms with limited space and must be fastidiously selective (usually passing on items with holes, visible marks, pilling or other signs of wear) about what they put out on the floor. The result is higher-quality pieces sold for prices that may exceed typical resale shops but cost far less than full retail ones.

"Realistically, consignorsí items are priced for about a third of the original cost, and then they get 50 percent of that," says Allison Rozek, owner of Swanky Seconds. "Typically, customers donít want to spend more than $59 on most items."

Some area consignment shops include clothing for men and children, and even housewares, but the majority of them focus on items for women. Each has its particular wish list items of what they wished they carried to fulfill customer interest ó and that almost always includes high-end designer handbags and designer clothing and accessories.

Most stores offer a wide variety of dress sizes, but it often depends on the storeís focus and demographics of the consignors.

For store hours, and more specifically consignment hours, call, drop in or view shop material online, as times and policies may shift in any given season.

Consign for More Than a Dime

Thinking of becoming a consignor? Read on so you are a well-informed consumer and selling agent.

Save time (and face). Donít show up with clothes in a bunch. Review consignment policies online first, or call before you come. Maria Collins of Elite Repeat Consignment in Brookfield says potential consignors need to know that her store does not take "items with holes or buttons missing" no matter the label. And, Jessica Brittingham of U-Turn Apparel in Wauwatosa advises: "Donít come in with big garbage bags with wadded-up clothing; we prefer that everything is on hangers and laundered."

Presentation seals the deal. East Town Womenís Shopís Kim Nelson says her shop takes consignment items by appointment. Other things you need to know? "We request that items are on hangers, dry cleaned and wrinkle free," she says. "We donít have time to mess around with getting garments cleaned or ironed." But not all stores do. In fact, ReThreadsí Jen Kitzman prefers that clothes come in laundered and contained in boxes or bags because "itís more difficult to go through items if they are on hangers," she says.

Donít take it personally if your clothing is rejected. "Weíve had customers leaving and not feeling good about it," notes Mikelle Flanner, owner of E-Collectique Runway Boutique in Saukville and soon to open in Thiensville. "We can only buy what we know will sell and what we have a market for."

Be realistic about the returns. Just because a piece is brand new with price tags still attached is no guarantee of a good consignment, especially if it is no longer in fashion. Tricia Kohl of Once Again Consignment Boutique in Brookfield points to a sobering truth that many consignors would rather not hear about their wares: "Theyíre only worth what people are willing to pay," she says.

Where to shop

Consignment shops continue to crop up throughout the region. Hereís a sampling of what youíre likely to find at some area boutiques:

Another Look
1916 E. Capitol Drive, Shorewood
(414) 332-5665,

Brands: Everything from J. Crew, Ann Taylor and Banana Republic separates to St. John and Rena Lange knitwear and Ellen Tracy and Eileen Fisher suits.

Price range: $15 to $50 for Eileen Fisher tops and dresses, $32 to $35 for Ann Taylor items and up to $150 for Coach bags and $60 to $300 for St. John wear.

Boutique specialty: This Shorewood consignment shop, owned by Kay Bergemann, carries a mix of casual and dress clothes, with a healthy offering of business essentials and suits.

Bozís Clozet
104 W. Friestadt Road, Thiensville
(262) 643-4772,

Brands: Designer and higher-end boutique brands

Price range: Accessories start at about $9; designer handbags can go up to $250.

Boutique specialty: Better and designer brands

East Town Womenís Shop
159 N. Broadway, #1, Milwaukee
(414) 273-1030

Brands: Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Gucci. Shop will not take anything that looks worn or used and no Kohlís or Target brands.

Price range: Handmade silk scarves for $4 up to $1,200 for a Ferragamo or even $2,000 for Hermes new gloves.

Boutique specialty: High-end designer brands

Sizes: Petite to Plus

E-Collectique Runway Boutique
234 E. Dekora St., Saukville, (262) 536-4537
174 S. Main St., Thiensville, (262) 242-2110,

Brands: Banana Republic, J. Crew, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Chanel.

Price range: Basic separates average about $8 up to $1,000 for formal designer gowns.

Boutique specialty: Buy items that are two years and newer ó and vintage items 25 years old and older.

Elite Repeat
2205 N. Calhoun Road, Brookfield
(262) 789-9359

Brands: St. John, Eileen Fisher, Diane von Furtstenburg, Chicoís and Brighton.

Price range: On average, summer dresses range from $20 to $40; winter offerings are a bit more expensive.

Boutique specialty: "We will take something that is 30 years old if in perfect condition, something reminiscent of Jackie O or a Chanel look," says owner Maria Collins.

Lela Boutique
321 N. Broadway,  Milwaukee
(414) 727-4855

Brands: Nanette Lepore, Calvin Klein, Susana Monaco, Ports 1961 and Laundry.

Price range: $15 for shirts and up to $100 or more for a designer handbag

Boutique specialty: Special occasion dresses, but not for mother of the bride, says owner Carrie Arrouet: "Itís dresses for the first anniversary date when you want to look a certain way."

The Once Again Consignment Boutique
15790 W. Capitol Drive, Brookfield
(262) 781-4747

Brands: For jewelry, Tiffany and David Yurman; for clothing, Prada, Gucci and designer jean brands like Miss Me, True Religion and Seven for All Mankind.

Price range: Jeans and shoes start at $9.99 and go up to $89.99; handbags can start at $6 and go up to $600.

Boutique specialty: "Some things, like St. John knits, if in excellent condition we price accordingly. Thereís a market for that, even it is older," says owner Tricia Kohl. "There is also a hot market for faux Louis Vuitton handbags. Itís just something that I can sell."

2943 N. Humboldt Blvd., Milwaukee, (414) 263-1690
2671 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Milwaukee, (414) 482-4111,

Brands: J. Crew, Anthropologie, Forever 21 and H&M.

Price range: Basics, like tank tops, $2 and designer items that range from $20 to $100-plus.

Boutique specialty: Current fashions, regardless of label.

Swanky Seconds
2223 E. Capitol Drive, Shorewood
(414) 313-4042

Brands: Ann Taylor Loft, Banana Republic, J. Crew, Rena Lange, St. John, Giorgio Armani, Prada and Chanel.

Price range: Most clothing and handbags from $10 to $120, although some items, like Prada handbags can go up to $1,100.

Boutique specialty: Designer wear, mostly for women, also jewelry and household items.

U-Turn Apparel
6905 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa
(414) 443-0143

Brands: "Weíre not brand specific; weíll take about any brand, except not a lot from Target and Kohlís. It has to be pretty current or unique," says Jessica Brittingham, who co-owns the boutique with Deb Kruse.

Price range: $5 for jewelry or scarves; shoes range from $20 to $30; and designer handbags can reach the $300 mark.

Boutique specialty: "We want the high-end quality stuff, if itís a Marc Jacobs and is stained, bring it in," Brittingham says.

123 W. Capitol Drive, Milwaukee
(414) 899-7107

Brands: Ermenegildo Zegna, Brooks Brothers, Perry Ellis, Hugo Boss and Trussini.

Price range: Brooks Brothers ties for $10; Giorgio Armani suits for $130

Boutique specialty: Bow ties, watches, mostly upscale menís clothing, some contemporary womenís apparel.

Wooden Hanger
169 Main St., Pewaukee
(262) 746-9009

Brands: Everything from mall brands to Moschino, Dolce & Gabbana and more.

Price range: Prices vary by brand.

Boutique specialty: The boutique promotes hot "picks of the week" on its website, allowing shoppers a birds-eye view of whatís in store before making the trip.



This story ran in the October 2012 issue of: