Thine to Consign. Giving Your Furniture a Second Life.

Let’s talk furniture consignment. In our quest to help downsizing clients find new homes for old things, we sometimes recommend consignment as an option. Recently we introduced the concept of online auctions as one option for selling items; this month we examine consignment as another viable alternative. We’ll give you the highlights here, and we also invite you to listen to our recent podcast on the topic. Listen below. 

But what is consignment? How does it differ from typical retail sales and what can a consignor (you) expect from the transaction. Let’s start at the very beginning – a very good place to start (Julie Andrews – The Sound of Music).1

Consignment stores exist to sell ‘previously loved’ merchandise that is entrusted to them by the owner for the purpose of selling. No longer in need or want of an item, the consignor assigns it to the owner of the store (consignee) in the hopes that it will attract a buyer.

While well established as a selling model, the consignment or ‘resale’ industry is experiencing a literal metamorphosis. Once thought of as a sale’s channel of last resort for items that had lost their luster, the industry is experiencing unprecedented growth at a time when traditional retail is struggling. The resale segment has posted annual gains of 7% over the last two years and 12 – 15% of Americans will shop at a consignment store this year alone.2 The consignment store is no longer the dusty, musty cavern that you once sidestepped in horror. In a stunning turnabout, some resale stores have reemerged as sexy and chic. How the heck did that happen?

The reasons for the change are multi-faceted. The recession of the early 2000’s and the continued weak economic recovery, shocked many consumers into becoming more value conscious at the same time as recycling became rooted in public behaviour. The process of reselling used goods in order to extend their life at a bargain price is the ultimate expression of recycling. In a 3-way ‘Win, Win, Win’ equation everyone goes home happy. The seller divests themselves of unwanted things in return for $; the buyer enjoys a valued item at a bargain price and the environment is relieved of the need to add yet another item to an overburdened landfill site.

For the uninitiated, here’s a snap shot of how furniture consignment works. As the consignor, you retain title to and responsibility for the item even as it sits on the retailer’s floor. As the consignee, it is the retailer’s job to attract the right buyers, present the merchandise in a compelling fashion and complete the sale. Both parties are bound by a contract that outlines mutual rights, responsibilities and division of the sale proceeds. The most common method is the ‘decreasing ticket price model’ where the ticketed price of an item decreases at a predetermined % over a stated period of time. Generally, an initial price is assigned to the product when it hits the sales floor and is then held firm for 60 days. If not sold, it decreases by 15% each additional month that it remains on the floor. If not sold during the agreed on time period (i.e. 4 months) it is then donated or picked up by the original owner. Interested buyers have the option of purchasing it at its current price, or rolling the dice to see if it continues to be available as the price decreases.

Note that consignment works best for ‘in-demand’ furniture and the items in this category may not be what you expect. As more and more boomers downsize, the glut of dining room sets, china cabinets, full-size sofas and other large scale items have driven down the value of the very things that you might prize the most. We advise our clients to adjust their expectations about the ROI on such things and redefine their sense of value. In many cases, the real value of such items resides in the pleasure and utility they have given you over their lifetime and not in their current market value.

While there are several ways to divest yourself of used furniture, we advise our clients to consider consignment as one option. Be aware that you will be responsible for providing the consignee with good quality photos of items you wish to sell as well as any product information that is available. In most cases you will also be responsible for shipping the product to the store. And remember that not all consignment stores are created equal. Make sure they are capable of attracting the right type of buyers for your products and that the rest of their inventory is compatible with your collection.

Good luck with your adventure in consignment selling! And be advised, that it is best to wear blinders in the store. A good store will offer a host of things that you just might be tempted to take home with you!

 

1 http://www.sound-of-music.com/

 

2 http://www.narts.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3285 National Association of Resale Professionals

 

Concierge Services Come of Age

Imagine the lobby of a luxury hotel. Tucked in the corner, behind an elaborately carved desk, sits an exquisitely coifed concierge. Male or female, their purpose is the same. To provide you, the vaunted guest, with an endless supply of suggestions and solutions to enhance your stay. They provide recommendations about tried and true places plus an extensive array of services.

Now change the time and place. Picture yourself as a guest in your own home. There may be no lobby of consequence, or mahogany desk in the foyer, but you too could have access to concierge services to enhance your life.

Take a moment. Make a mental list of the many things you no longer have the desire or capacity to do. While many of these things still require doing, the very thought of executing them exhausts you. What you need – is a personal concierge. And chances are pretty good that there is one someplace close to you.

No longer the exclusive domain of the rich and famous, personal concierge services have become ‘democratized’ as a range of services has emerged to support the needs of a wide variety of people at all income levels. While some businesses have carved out a niche working with high net worth individuals, an emerging group of concierge businesses is focusing on fulfilling everyday needs of people like you and me who do not have the time or inclination to complete certain tasks themselves.

The list of services provided is limited only by the imagination and a good concierge is recognized by their capacity to create tailored solutions. However, the services that are easiest to visualize, and the ones in highest demand by most clients, are the very same ones that you might value. Louise Nettleton, owner/operator of Simplify Lifestyle Concierge in Port Hope, breaks down her portfolio of services this way:

  • Running errands: Picking up groceries, providing personal shopping, picking up dry cleaning or returning merchandise

  • Transportation: Driving you to medical appointments, social events or the airport

  • Party Planning: Birthday, anniversary, retirement etc.

  • Home Organization: Creating order out of chaos so that you can live more comfortably

  • Home Watch Service: Someone to keep an eye on your property when you cannot

  • Virtual Assistant: Booking reservations, research, document services etc.

Seniors, as a group, are embracing the idea of concierge services. They fulfill critical needs like transportation (for individuals who no longer choose to drive) or home watch services (for snow birds who want to ensure their homes are under a watchful eye). The services can also relieve seniors of more mundane tasks that require doing, but deplete their energies. Imagine outsourcing weekly grocery shopping to someone who knows your specific dietary needs. Picture the ease of door-to-door transportation when you visit your doctor, book club or grandchildren. Have a few drinks after the theatre knowing that a trusted driver is available to shepherd you home.

What about Price? Many concierge services are priced À la Carte reflecting the complexity of the task and the time and resources required to fulfill it. In the Toronto area, rates can range from $30 – 150.00/hr, depending on the provider and the service required. Some companies have embraced the idea of a monthly subscription model that allows you to tap into a specific number of hours each month for a fixed fee.

SAGE’s recommendation is to take the time to investigate local concierge providers and choose one that provides the best combination of services, price and personal relationship. A successful concierge relationship has all the hallmarks of a good friendship: dependability, confidentiality and trust. Invest the time to find your best fit and watch your life get easier!

All About Online Auctions

ARRRGH! How am I going to sell this stuff? Who’s going to buy it? What’s it all worth?

As Move Managers, these are 3 of the most common questions asked when working with clients who are downsizing & divesting themselves of ‘things’. As creatures bred in an acquisition-prone culture, many of us have bought & stored more items than we even remember owning. The day of reckoning finally comes when downsizing and you realize that many things simply can’t & won’t fit into your next place.

Increasingly, one of SAGE’s ‘go-to’ solutions is to coordinate an online auction event for clients through providers such as MaxSold. If you are one of the many who are unsure about online auctions & how they might benefit you, we’d like to offer our perspective.

First, let’s define an online auction event. Unlike eBay or Kijiji where sellers post individual items for sale, an online auction event focuses on selling a collection of items from one client. This is SAGE’s preferred solution when clients want to clear a large number of goods quickly with a minimum of disruption & promote their goods to the widest audience possible. Benefits include:

Ease: Unlike traditional auctions, items never leave the home until the buyer picks them up. Before the auction, a project coordinator will photograph & measure the goods while collecting all relevant data. This information needs to be is accurate & well photographed because it becomes the basis for what the buyer bids on.

Viewing Time: A typical online auction runs for 5-10 days allowing buyers ample time to examine the info, do competitive research & consider their bid. Contrast this to a traditional auction when buyers have a limited preview period followed by mere minutes to bid.

Marketing Muscle: By its’ very nature, online auctions are unlimited in their geographic reach. Running 24/7, they have the ability to reach buyers in any location at any time. In reality though, good online providers understand that most buyers come from geographic areas close to the seller’s location. With this in mind, they tailor their online marketing efforts to reach & influence buyers in this zone.

Value: What’s it all worth? As the saying goes, the value of any property is defined by what someone is willing to pay for it. The Internet has made it possible for anyone with time & interest to verify current values of goods in their market. Ready access to this data helps both buyers & sellers set realistic expectations. Be forewarned that prices of many products continue to decline as boomers flood the market with merchandise. No matter what you think it’s worth, the ultimate arbitrator will be marketplace demand.

If you are downsizing, chances are 100% that you will need to divest yourself of a variety of items. If selling is part of your plan, we encourage you to consider online auctions as one alternative. When part of an overall plan that also includes donation & disposal, an online auction can help match your items with new owners & free you to move one step closer to your new home.

 

 

 

Is There a Second Life for Formal Frocks?

And so they wait.  Oh so carefully boxed up, tucked up and shielded from light.  When was the last time your vintage gowns, tuxedo – or wedding dress saw the light of day?

Like many of us, you’ve stored them for safe keeping expecting that someday you will pass them on to someone who will cherish them as much as you: a daughter, daughter-in-law or favourite niece.  But now the move date is fast approaching and you break out in a sweat.  What to do with those lovely treasures now that you are downsizing?  Friends and family you had counted on to enjoy the gifts have all politely declined.  The frocks don’t fit, may not appeal to current fashion sensibilities or they simply have no opportunity to wear them.  Whatever the reason, you now have an unexpected challenge. 

As Senior Move Managers, this is a situation that we are all too familiar with.  Like other treasures of by-gone eras, aging formal wear is richly imbued with memory but has limited market appeal.  Before you cry over crimped crinoline though, here are suggestions for re-use or sale that might provide some relief:

Consignment Stores: Seek out stores that specialize in formal wear and have strong brand awareness. If you do not live in a region with such a store and you have items that are more modern or classic in nature, consider exploring online options such as the Smart Bride Boutique.  SBB makes it easy and affordable to expand your exposure, as they do not charge commission.

Donation:  There are so many wonderful options available here.  You will enjoy the satisfaction of knowing your gift is delighting someone who could not otherwise afford such a luxury.  A few in the Ontario market:

Forever Loved Angel Gowns is devoted to transforming wedding gowns into miniature angel frocks for infants born too early or still born.  Volunteer seamstresses deconstruct each wedding gown and give it new life as a free gift to parents who are dealing with the loss of an infant.

Theatrical Groups exist in most communities, colleges and universities.  Many of them rely upon donated items such as gowns and tuxedos to stock their wardrobes. 

Choral Groups are also a donation destination for tuxedos.  Members of such groups look for for classic and affordable suits to help them present a polished and professional image.

Creative Recycling:  Consider the many ways that fabric from treasured items can be repurposed to allow you to enjoy it in a new way.  A talented seamstress can transform your treasure into a lovely quilt, christening gown, tablecloth or piece of fabric art. 

Whatever solution you settle on, take heart in knowing that you are freeing up storage space as part of your commitment to a new chapter in your life.  The many memories associated with the garments don’t consume space, and there is no limit on the amount of times you can replay them!