How many pounds of clothing do you own that you'll never wear again? What percentage of the clothes you own do you actually wear?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, clothing and other textiles accounted for 13.1 million tons of waste in American landfills in 2010, accounting for 5.3 percent of total municipal solid waste. What's worse, nearly half of us throw away perfectly good and reusable textiles instead of donating or reselling them.
As many environmentally minded people strive to become more green in their lives, an earth-friendly trend thrives — consignment shopping. Anyone can do it, but John Santore says it takes an “alpha” to really embrace the concept.
Santore owns Nearly New, an Oklahoma City consignment shop that's been in business locally for more than 40 years. Nearly New, located at 9218 N Western, specializes in formalwear, wedding gowns and offers an enormous selection of separates for men and women.
Alphas, Santore explains, are leaders — a club of socially aware people with a passion for enduring style and a willingness to experiment with unfamiliar labels and looks.
“Consignment is fashionability with a conscience. It's one of the most important hallmarks of a movement in our social consciousness to ‘go green,' ” he said.
At consignment shops, you can find high-quality clothing, accessories, shoes and even household items such as furniture. At most, owners bring in their items to be sold and eventually receive a percentage of the selling price.
Whether you're looking to blaze a new fashion trail for yourself in 2013, looking to lessen your carbon footprint or just trying to save a little money, consider stepping out of the mall and into a locally owned consignment shop, where you're likely to find a surprising selection.
10 reasons to shop consignment
1. It's a form of recycling and reusing.
Despite the great efforts of charities, consignment, vintage and thrift stores each year, only about 1.3 million tons of textile waste is actually recycled, the EPA reports, compared to the 13 million tons dumped. When you factor in the resources used to make, package, transport and sell things such as clothes, sheets and towels, the importance of reusing textiles becomes clearer.
Instead of tossing your old textiles, donate them directly to charity or drop them in a local collection bin.
2. Consignment shopping delivers more bang for the buck.
Maybe you just need a few wardrobe staples — a crisp white button-up, a pair of gray wool slacks, a tan trenchcoat. You could buy all three of these items on consignment for the retail price, or less, of a single item.
Pricing formulas vary from shop to shop, but consignment shoppers can buy most items for about a one-third or one-quarter of the retail prices. Clearance sales at the end of seasons tend to offer the best deals. And at consignment shops, the longer an item hangs around on the sales floor, the more it's marked down, so think ahead to next winter as you shop this winter's clearances.
3. It's an affordable way to stay polished as you lose weight.
How many times have you or a friend said, “I'll go shopping once I lose this last 15 pounds”?
If you're already losing weight, it's likely your old clothes don't fit anymore and you need a few interim wardrobe items to get you by. With consignment, you can reward yourself for small triumphs without going broke, then sell the items back once you've lost another couple sizes. Plus, seeing how good you're looking in clothes that fit will keep you motivated to stick to your weight-loss journey.
“As you grow out of them, you can bring those in and put them on consignment to pay for your new fashions,” suggests Barbara Braden, owner of Barbie's Consignment at 364 S Kelly Ave. in Edmond, formerly Anne's Resale. “We take all sizes.”
4. It's not your grandma's hand-me-downs.
Consignment shopping is for anyone who likes a great deal, but it's more grown-up than its cousins, thrift and vintage shopping. Thrift stores receive donated items to which the previous owner attached little to no value. Consignment shops have higher standards for the items they have in stock, Santore said.
“What's more important than the bargain is the fashionability,” Santore said. “It doesn't do any good if you pay a dollar for something and you look like you stepped from the set of ‘Maud' or something.”
5. You'll find treasures from all around the world.
Many of Santore's upscale consignors are quite well-traveled, and items from their worldly travels often end up on the shelves of Nearly New.
“We serve two masters. It's very exciting. We never know what's going to come in that door,” Santore said. For example, one of Santore's estimated 18,000 consignors recently brought in a Hermes clutch with a retail value of $12,000. Within a few hours, Santore said, he sold the bag for $9,000 to someone he knew was in the market for such a piece. On a smaller scale, consider finding a Coach handbag in perfect condition for under $100.
6. Consignment shopping offers style flexibility.
For the woman who wears many hats, no pun intended, consignment shopping can be extra helpful.
Most women need a varied wardrobe appropriate for many activities — working woman by day, soccer mom by weekend, morning workout warrior, date night fashionista and social sophisticate for formal events, just to name a few possibilities.
7. You can make a little money.
If you haven't worn it in a year, it's time to get rid of it. Take an afternoon and go through your clothing, designating everything as either “keep,” “donate,” “consign” or “throw away.”
8. Your husband and kids can benefit, too.
Kids' and men's consignment stores are far rarer than women's. Kid's resale shops such as “Once Upon a Child,” with locations at 13801 N Pennsylvania Ave and 10400 South Western Avenue #13, pay cash for “gently used” children's clothing and accessories.
For the man in your life, Nearly New has an excellent men's department, but otherwise, the menswear consignment market is fairly untapped in Oklahoma City. To find quality used menswear, typical resale and thrift stores and online shopping options such as Craigslist and eBay are the only options.
9. You're supporting the local economy.
When you shop at a locally owned consignment store, not only are you helping provide jobs, you're also financially supporting the consignors and the local infrastructure through taxes. All while saving and making money yourself.
10. You can satisfy your urge to shop without breaking the bank.
Confession from this shopaholic: It's gratifying to leave a consignment store with a haul of high-end designer clothes that fits well and is logically priced. If you enjoy a little retail therapy from time to time, consignment shopping can be a mostly guilt-free way to indulge.
There's real joy in finding a great deal on something you love: a gorgeous, classic Harold's blazer; an alpaca wool sweater made in Peru; a handbag you never thought you could afford; or a pair of tall Italian leather boots. Thanks to someone else's respect for the environment and awareness that clothing does retain value, consignment shopping is a chance to break new fashion ground without breaking the bank.