A guide to reselling and consignment in Chicago

We all have closets that are filled to the brim. Some of us may even have haphazardly thrown-together piles of clothes, each for separate destinations, whether it’s the trash or donation center.

After spring cleaning it seems there are some items we find ourselves holding onto purely because we don’t have the heart to get rid of them. This is where consigning and resale comes in.

This is a great alternative to giving away your old duds for free. You can take your lightly worn pieces and turn a profit – maybe even enough to buy the new handbag you’ve been eyeing. However, before you bring your things to any old place, there are a few things to consider.

Consigning versus reselling, what’s the difference?

Oftentimes when you step into a secondhand store, it is not clear whether the items were consigned or purchased outright from the seller. While the distinction likely does not matter to the shopper, there are important caveats to each that, as a seller, can make a difference.

The difference between consignment and secondhand selling is mostly time and money oriented. Consignment is in the best interest of both the shop and the seller, while reselling is mostly in the best interest of the shop.

When a person takes items to sell at a consignment or secondhand store, their items are evaluated and priced to sell in the store. How much money a person walks out with in-hand is typically a percentage of what the item is priced at to sell.

By contrast, consignment is when a person takes their items to a resale shop where they get placed on consignment. A payment for the items does not come until they actually sell in the store.

For sellers, this leaves one consideration – what is more important? The amount of money you’re getting for the item or how soon you get that money?

Consignment can take upwards of a month for an item to sell and for the seller to get paid for it. When reselling, items are paid for up front, but at a fraction of their value.

What about the online marketplace?

New on the horizon is online resale. This came with the advent of online resale giants like eBay and Craigslist. Both got their start in 1995, when the online market for resale was relatively minute; now, Craigslist gets an approximated 50 billion page views every month.

There are flurries of articles about how to “get rich selling on eBay” or “how to make money on Craigslist.” People like Sophia Amoruso used eBay to sell vintage clothing and turned it into fashion retail giant, NastyGal.

Popular ways that people are using the Internet to their advantage is through sites like Craigslist and eBay, but also through more niche sites like Tradesy and Poshmark.

Poshmark functions more like a social media site with features that allow users to follow sellers and favorite items while Tradesy is focused more specifically on higher-end designer items.

Online platforms for resale give most of the power to the seller, where in traditional brick-and-mortar stores, the sale is at the will of the store. Users of online resale platforms take their own photos, create their own listings, and get control over setting the price – often the most important part.

“In the past I’ve used Tradesy to sell clothes and even accessories and you get so much more control,” Tess Cvikota said. “In comparison to selling at places like Plato’s Closet you can get much more money for the things you sell.”

However, the issue of timeliness of sales and how much money you can bring in still stands. While users get free reign over the price of their items, it’s up to buyers on the platform to actually purchase the items and assess the value of an item on their own terms.

On top of trying to price an item reasonably, these online platforms still take a cut of your earnings.

On Poshmark, any item under that sells for $15 or less results in a flat-rate commission cut of $2.95 – anything over $15 warrants 20 percent commission of the total selling price.

Sellers on Tradesy can expect nine percent commission to be deducted from every sale – regardless of the listing price.

“With my experiences using Tradesy, the commission cut feels like less than what real stores take. Plus, the shipping costs are covered, you don’t have to leave your house,” Cvikota said.

The most major difference amongst all of the online platforms exists within the content and items that are being bought and sold. Sites like Craigslist are best for doing local buying and selling and eBay is pretty much an open exchange for anything and everything.

Poshmark and Tradesy are geared toward clothing and accessories and the latter is focused on more high-end luxury goods. Most items on Poshmark are listed in the $20 range while items on Tradesy tend to be listed in the triple or even quadruple digits.

Online versus brick-and-mortar stores, what’s better?

 With the ease and convenience of the online marketplace it begs the question of why brick-and-mortar secondhand shops are still up and running. The process of online selling seems to be much more accommodating – the possibility of making money without leaving the couch seems more desirable than lugging a white trash bag full of old clothes down the street to Plato’s Closet.

Even though the payout is relatively the same, people are still taking their old rags and trading them for riches in person rather than virtually.

 The largest positive to selling your old things at brick-and-mortar stores is that it is off your hands forever. Even through the process of consignment, the items go to the store and stay there.

“I’ve been selling my clothes for years and going into a store is a much quicker process than selling online,” Makenna Eldridge, a serial consigner said. “You don’t have to keep your clothes laying around while you wait for them to sell online. They’re off your hands the day you bring them to the store.”

Rather than hoarding the items for weeks before they sell online, an afternoon trip to Crossroads Trading Co. will free you of your polyester burdens for good and you’ll get paid for it on-site.

Where to go in Chicago

 Crossroads Trading Co. has two locations in Chicago, one in Lincoln Park and one in Wicker Park. Both locations adhere to the same consigning and reselling policies, but have a different variety of pieces. They offer four different ways to sell, which gives a lot of control to the seller.

Crossroads Trading Co. offers in-store selling, with no appointment required. Sellers can choose to receive trade credit that is good at any Crossroads location. A seller that chooses to trade their items will receive 50 percent in trade of what their items are priced at to sell in the store.

The second, and most traditional option, is to receive cash. This option will only net the seller 35 percent of what the items are priced at to sell in the store.

Additional ways people can sell at Crossroads includes a drop off option and a mail in option. For drop offs, sellers can drop off items, fill out a form, and pick up their payment 24 hours later. The same payout options still apply for drop off as well as mail in. Mailing in items works similarly. Sellers can request a bag that comes with a pre-paid shipping label. Items can be shipped to a Crossroads location and sellers can be paid in their preferred method of trade credit or cash.

The last method that sellers can utilize when selling at Crossroads is consignment. They offer consignment on higher-end items and sellers receive payment once the item sells. After an item is sold, payouts 50 percent in cash only.

Plato’s Closet, in contrast, does not consign any items. All items brought into Plato’s Closet locations are bought outright. Sellers can bring their gently worn items to any location and a buyer will review items and create an offer based on the condition and value of the items.

Items that Plato’s Closet looks for includes pieces that are recent within the past 12 to 18 months, gently worn, and trendy. They will also purchase clothes from fast fashion stores, unlike a lot of secondhand shops around Chicago.

 Second Time Around lies on an opposite side of the spectrum from Plato’s Closet. Second Time Around never buys outright, functioning solely on consignment. Unlike both Crossroads and Plato’s Closet, Second Time Around consigns mostly higher-end items and some middle range items. Shoppers and sellers can expect brands like Steve Madden to be next to Manolo Blahnik, but won’t find any items from fast fashion stores like H&M or Forever 21.

Items brought to Second Time Around must be recent within the past two years, seasonally appropriate, and have been laundered or dry cleaned.

Consigners at Second Time Around receive 40 percent commission of the selling price, which is adjusted on a rolling basis dependent on how long the item is in the store.

“The longer an item is in the store, the more the price gets marked down,” Nicola, the assistant manager of Second Time Around’s Lincoln Park location, said. “After the inventory is marked down as far as it can be, it will be taken off the floor. The seller can then pick it up or if it goes unclaimed it gets donated to the Joyful Heart Foundation, a foundation dedicated to sexual assault survivors.”

 Luxury Garage Sale is another higher end consignment shop that is located in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood and was named one of Refinery29’s ‘Best Consignment Shops in Chicago.‘ They also work on consignment and deal with mostly designer items as well as some vintage pieces.

Like Crossroads they offer a mail in option with pre-paid shipping labels. They also offer a drop off option, but their main method is through a consultation with a team member, which must be set up in advance.

Luxury Garage Sale’s team prices the items and sends a receipt for approval. One thing that sets them apart is that they have pricing minimums, which make the consignment process lower risk so sellers are protected.

 Buffalo Exchange’s only Chicago location is in Wicker Park and offers a variety of clothing from vintage, to fast fashion, to some higher end items. Their selection is much more eclectic than the other shops around the city.

Buffalo Exchange operates much like Plato’s Closet and Crossroads. Items are purchased outright, on the spot, and payment can come in the form of cash or in-store credit.

Like Plato’s Closet, Buffalo Exchange typically looks for items that are seasonally appropriate, recent, and trendy.

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