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!

Lessons Learned From the SMM Trenches in 2015

If year-end is a time for reflection, then I have more than the usual amount to reflect on.

SAGE Relocation Services was launched in 2015 with a modest goal of providing Senior Move Management (SMM) services to the communities on the eastern fringes of Toronto.  As a business focused on seniors, we accepted and embraced the fact that the first year would be full of new learning and unexpected lessons.  What we didn’t anticipate was the strong degree of support and interest from our communities.

We are grateful! I’d like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of our clients for entrusting us with their projects.  We appreciate that we became part of your lives at a critical juncture.  Through working with each of you, we learned about each of your unique lives, the characteristics of your generation and the common challenges faced by seniors in transition.  It was a year full of joy and too many ‘AHA’ moments to recount.  

As a small ‘Thank You’ to our clients we’d like to impart a few ‘Sage” lessons learned that are worth sharing.

1.    YOUR home is NOT the messiest, most disorganized, overstuffed or cluttered house known-to-man.  Trust us when we say that we have seen worse - and have been able to create calm order out of seemingly insurmountable chaos.  Our message for new clients is this. “Feel free to invite us into your mess.”  Our job is to bring order to your world so that you can move on.

2.    The word ‘Collecting’ is a verb for a reason.  We have met avid collectors of fascinating artifacts of all description.  While each collection is impressive, the sheer number of items becomes a burden to an owner interested in downsizing.  Our message is this.  “There are creative ways to retain the joy and satisfaction of a collection – while letting go of many of the physical items.” Talk to us to find out how.

3.    Downsizing does not always equal less. It many cases, it equals more! How is this possible you may wonder?  It has been our experience that the clients we have downsized, emerge with a renewed sense of calm, energy and increased happiness.  They tell us this is due to their decision to let go of the previous chapter of life and move forward with less ‘stuff’ and more ‘purpose’.  Downsizing means fewer items to maintain, less housing-related costs, less space to clean and less home maintenance.  Inevitably, our clients state that they should have done it sooner.

These were just 3 of the many lessons we learned.  You are welcome to apply them to your own life.  Talk to us and we’ll be glad to tell you more.

In the meantime, SAGE would like to acknowledge and thank all our clients.  You made 2015 more joyful and meaningful than we could have imagined.  We move forward into 2016 with eager anticipation for the new clients, friends and experiences that lie ahead.