Local News

Consignment stores get holiday bonus from economic woes

Posted December 15, 2008 1:48 p.m. EST
Updated December 15, 2008 6:03 p.m. EST

— Amid falling retail sales this holiday season, one type of store is seeing its sales go up: Consignment stores are benefiting from the rush to buy pre-owned.

My Girlfriend's Closet in Apex is packed with all the clothing needed to fill up a closet – and with shoppers.

Owner Lois Cozart said that sales have grown as the economy has worsened and that trend has continued into the holiday shopping season.

"The way everybody's talking about the economy, it's just interesting how our business (has done)," Cozart said. "We have seen our sales increase over last year. Every month, it's just getting better and better."

The situation was the same at Around Again, a second-hand store in Raleigh.

"For the month of November, our business over last year increased 21 percent," owner Carol King said.

In contrast, nationwide retail sales fell by 1.8 percent in November – a record fifth-straight monthly decline.

Shoppers could pinpoint their exact motivation for dropping money at consignment stores, rather than traditional stores: lower prices.

"The prices are beyond compare," said Dorothy Hager, who was browsing through skirts at Around Again. "If you go retail and you try to find a designer skirt, it's going to be a designer price – even with the markdowns."

Some shoppers said that the rough economy has made it even more necessary to seek out those secondhand prices.

"We have to do our shopping at places like this," Carolyn Hannah said of shopping at the Salvation Army Thrift store. "We can't afford to do it anywhere else. It's been a rough year for us."

Workers at many consignment stores said they have also seen more people coming in to sell clothes, hoping to get some extra cash for the holidays.

Big retailers have responded to pressure to lower prices, slashing them as much as 50 or 70 percent.

But consignment-store customers said they are more likely to come back to stores where they can reliably save money.

"We've got to learn how to save money again. ... This is the way to do it," Hager said.