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Resale retail.

Resale Retail

Second-Hand Goods No Longer Second Rate For Cost-Conscious Retail Bargain Hunters

At a recent estate sale in the Hillcrest area of Little Rock one sunny morning, the line of bargain hunters started forming an hour before the doors opened at 10 a.m. By 9:30, over a hundred people stood in line, and 30 minutes later, the eager throng stretched all the way down the block as parked cars clogged the nearby streets.

Once inside the jam-packed house, the tight-fisted shoppers spent most of their money on items costing less than $1 in a frenzy of bargain hunting for 25-cent playing card decks and 50 -cent Christmas decorations. But even at those rock-bottom prices, the estate's weekend total sales will gross an average of $5,000.

"It's forever more interesting than shopping at a department store," says an older woman standing in line, waving at other estate sale regulars.

Obviously, some people have changed their minds about resale retail, and estate sales and consignment shops are more popular than ever as increasingly sophisticated consumers try to stretch their shopping dollars.

"Resale" used to conjure up pictures of Goodwill and Salvation Army stores and donations to charity for tax deductions. But in the old days, upscale buyers would never shop there unless it was for a Halloween costume. Today, however, resale is a thriving, arriving business among smart shoppers of all social classes.

The Art Of Shopping

Estate sale companies usually operate on a 30 percent cut of sales; the family gets the rest. An average sale grosses $4,000 to $5,000, about $1,500 for the organizer, whose major expense will be advertising to the tune of $300 to $500 per sale.

The recent Hillcrest sale was organized by Bette Bogart, who has been in the business since the 1970s. She has watched the cottage industry grow from a couple of local companies to a half dozen active today.

A thousand or more people will traipse through an average estate sale on weekends, with several hundred shopping in the first few hours.

"There is an art to successful shopping," says a young mother with her child in a stroller at the Hillcrest sale. She points to the people who have brought their own shopping bags, "to carry more items to the checkout table." The regulars, like blood-hounds, can scent out the rooms in the house they want to hit first.

A stranger literally falls out of the packed house that morning, trying to leave, and a sale novice muses, "You couldn't stir 'em with a stick in there, could you?"

Rare item collecting is part of the lure for some avid sale goers who are as likely to be collectors of Niloak pottery as first edition cookbooks.

"It's the element of surprise I like," says one young man waiting for the doors to open at the Bogart sale. He bought a Fiesta coffee pot that was missing a lid years ago in Chicago. To his delight, he recently purchased a matching lid from an Arizona couple who travel the country buying and selling.

Estate sale organizers aren't the only ones benefiting from a renewed interest in resale. Consignment shops have recently burst into vogue.

"Resale is the coming, be all, end all, smart way to do things," says Sharla Eudy, owner of Sharla's located on North Taylor in the Heights.

Eudy and her mom, Helen Hitt, opened Encore in North Little Rock in 1974, the store which is generally agreed to be the first resale shop in Arkansas. Today, there are close to a dozen consignment shops in the Little Rock area.

Eudy's new store oozes charm, with a front porch, fireplace, and tiled bathroom, all used to display merchandise. Late in the afternoon you may be offered a glass of wine or lemonade. This is not the Salvation Army.

Asked how she got started, Eudy says, "I called my dearest, richest, best friends and said, `You know that dress you bought a week ago you don't want any more? I want it'."

With some variations, most shops operate on a 50/50 split with their consignors. On special articles, a store may guarantee the consignor a price.

Upscale Resale

Why the change in attitude toward resale? For one thing, the emergence of "better" resale shops focusing on quality and designer clothing.

"I used to have people kind of sneak in," says Sally Street, owner of Poor Little Rich Girl. "One time I had a lady in and she saw a friend of hers crossing the street toward the store. She asked me where the bathroom was and hid there until her friend had gone."

Streett started her business 14 years ago after a divorce and encouragement from a sister in Illinois who had two consignment shops. Three years ago she added a west Little Rock store to her original Kavanaugh location.

Sales at Poor Little Rich Girl are relatively low, about $90,000 a year per store, but the growth illustrates the changing mentality of the shopping pool -- a healthy 350 percent since the early years, an average annual growth rate of about 25 percent. Find a stock doing that today.

Coupled with the change in attitudes, the general state of the economy has made the niche more appealing. As Eudy puts it, "Women are smarter shoppers now. Because of stores like Stein Mart, they've learned they don't have to pay full retail."

While Eudy declines to reveal her sales, she is running twice the volume of a year ago through the store. She has four employees and is bursting at the seams of her prized 1,600-SF location.

A Fine Consignment Store

Outgrowing their space has also been a problem for Biff and Nancy Vinson, owners of Private Collections, a "fine consignment store" in Bowman Curve in west Little Rock.

The store opened just over a year ago with 4,700 SF of space. Nancy Vinson says, "In the beginning, we even thought about building false walls so the space would look more full." That has never been necessary. The store has just completed a 3,000-SF expansion to make room for all the merchandise, and another expansion is a possibility.

In addition to women's clothing, Private Collections has gone into the consignment furniture market in a big way.

"Furniture just took off," says Vinson. "There was a real need for it."

Although Vinson would not disclose her store's sales either, she would have to have sales over $150,000 just to pay rent and consignors if she is paying the going rental rates in Bowman Curve.

The Vinsons have invested in a sophisticated computer system which allows them to accomodate extreme amounts of merchandise.

The store has over 800 consignors, and the number of new consignors is increasing each month. One person has brought in over 400 items.

Stores typically mail checks to consignors once a month. Checks for several hundred dollars are not unusual at her store, says Vinson. They have mailed out checks for $6,300 (furniture and clothing) and $2,000 (clothing).

Consignment appears to be a good deal for all parties involved. The consignor gets cash, the shop owner takes a cut, and someone else gets a bargain. Stores will hold the merchandise from 60-90 days. If the clothes have not sold by then, the consignor can pick them up, or they may be donated to charity.

One shop owner laughs as she says women often pocket the money and husbands are none the wiser.

Private Collections does a brisk wedding dress resale business, as does Penrod's in the Heights. Penrod's burned to the ground late last fall, but recently reopened at the same location. One woman, divorced and happily remarried, had her first wedding dress at the shop on consignment when it burned. She smiles and says, "My family told me I should have burned it myself a long time ago."

Resale retail is alive and well. If designer pants for $10 or an iron skillet, already well seasoned, for a couple of bucks gets your heart pumping, see you next Saturday.

PHOTO : RECYCLED RICHES: The success of Sharla Eudy's "better" consignment store proves one person's trash is another's treasure. Resale merchandise is experiencing an increase in acceptance among all social classes.
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Title Annotation:second-hand goods are selling well
Author:Ford, Kelly
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Aug 27, 1990
Previous Article:Merging egos.
Next Article:S&L bailout brings benefits to Arkansas.

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