The Fashionista is in: How to sell clothes to a consignment store

It’s more than dropping off old duds.

Melanie Richtman

After months of staring at the same bulky sweaters filling your closet, it might be time to make some space for new clothes.

Because most college students don’t have the money to simply replace their wardrobe with new items, they’re forced to try to sell their old clothes.

Selling your clothes to a consignment store can be terrifying. Your closet is a reflection of you and your personal style, so it can be disheartening when consignment store buyers don’t want to give you money for your stuff. But don’t worry — there are some things you can do to make the entire process easier.

First, it’s important to understand the difference between vintage, thrift and consignment. Vintage indicates that the clothes are more than 20 years old and are specific to a certain decade. Stores specializing in vintage are going to be very selective about merchandise.

Consignment stores buy and sell trendy, quality items that are usually less than two years old. This is where you’ll have the best luck getting money for your clothes.

Thrift stores, like Goodwill and the Salvation Army, sell donated merchandise at deeply discounted prices, often benefiting a nonprofit.

Most likely you’ll be heading to a consignment shop, which means you’ll need to be selective about the items you’re trying to sell — they aren’t going to want the gaucho pants you wore in eighth grade (but boy, were those things comfy).

When selling your clothes, there are several things you need to keep in mind.

First, consignment shops are usually only looking for merchandise that is one to three years old. Anything older is almost always rejected, regardless of the quality.

Next, buyers look for trendy items. If they don’t think it’s relevant enough to sell in a timely manner, they won’t want it.

It’s also important to remember that each store has a different aesthetic, so you should tailor what you’re trying to sell to each store.

B. Resale in Minneapolis looks for hip, street style brands such as H&M and Urban Outfitters, whereas Elite Repeat in St. Paul looks for classic brands like J. Crew and Ralph Lauren.

The last and possibly most important thing that buyers look for is quality. Because consignment stores specialize in high-quality secondhand merchandise, they can be rather picky about the condition of an item.

“Quality is definitely the biggest factor,” B. Resale owner Allison Bross-White said. “It can’t be stained; torn or worn out; and it needs to be clean.”

Another way to help guarantee a higher success rate is to call the store ahead of time. When sales are slow, consignment shops might take a break from buying or will be much more selective. Save yourself the trouble and wait until you’re certain they’re buying.

It’s also important to know how the store operates. Do they want you to make an appointment? Should you bring your clothes on hangers? The process varies from store to store, so make sure you know what each one prefers.

Consignment shops typically buy seasonally, so try selling spring and summer clothes in March and winter clothes in September (or maybe a little earlier in Minnesota).

Additionally, most consignment stores in the area don’t buy formalwear or professional wear, so don’t expect to get any money for your old prom dress.

“Selling clothes can be a really intimidating thing. Don’t take it personally if we aren’t able to buy everything you bring in,” Everyday People co-owner Liza Youngscap said. “We have to be selective.”