Carrie Kirby, an Oak Park mother of three and the author of the Chicago Tribune column Frugalista, buys nearly all of her kids' clothes secondhand - including their underwear.
When it comes to searching for gently used finds, Kirby says many people confuse thrift shops with resale stores.
"I think of my shopping options as a spectrum," she says, "from the cheapest thrift stores to rummage sales, consignment events, eBay auctions, and then on up to the higher-end resale shops."
Children's resale and consignment is big business-nationally, and here in the Chicago area. According to an industry trade group, the number of resale/consignment shops has increased at a rate of about 7 percent annually for the past two years to more than 30,000 stores in the U.S. Some stores work on a straight consignment model, others buy the merchandise outright and some use a combination of approaches.
Kirby shares some tricks of the trade:
Kirby reminds sellers and consigners to keep the following in mind when they try to sell their items:
Here are five resale shops we're raving about. Do you have a favorite? Comment below!
954 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, 2ndchild.com, (773) 883-0880
The basics: Amy Helgren has been at the helm of this upscale Lincoln Park kiddie resale shop for 23 years. She unapologetically deals with only high-end brands. “No Old Navy or Carter’s,” says Helgren. The Second Child also offers maternity clothes and a selective assortment of gear and equipment, books and toys. Store highlights: The Second Child features brands such as Janie and Jack, Oilily, Ralph Lauren, Papo D’Ango and Catamini.
Best tip for buyers: Bring your child with you because the brands are all sized differently and items may have shrunk in the wash. It’s best to try things on your child right in the store before you buy. Best tip for sellers: Put some work into it. Ironing the clothes can really help get your items purchased.
823 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, ojoykids.com, (708) 383-3437
The basics: O Joy works on a straight consignment system. Clothing has four months to sell, and unsold items are then donated to local charities. “We have a totally automated point-of-purchase system, so consigners can call anytime and find out the exact status of their stuff,” says co-owner Andrea Mounadi.
Store highlights: “We really work to offer a full range of product for parents,” Mounadi says. The inventory is split with 50 percent clothing and 50 percent gear, games and toys. An art table is available so kids can play while mom or dad shops.
Best tip for buyers: Shop often. Merchandise changes all of the time. Use patience and take the time to look through the racks.
Best tip for sellers: Make sure you differentiate between consigning your merchandise and selling it at a garage sale. Ask yourself, “If I went into the store, would I buy this for my child?”
4546 N. Western Ave., Chicago, allnewtome.com, (773) 506-1333
The basics: Kim Huster bought the business from the former Thrifty Baby owners and reopened it in February 2010. "We have pretty much anything a parent would need for their child, from clothes and gear to books and toys. We take everything on a 50/50 consignment and return any unsold items back to the owners after one season," says Huster.
Store highlights: The store tries to have something in everyone's price range-from brand new Radio Flyer toys to Carter's and Hannah Andersson.
Best tip for buyers: Always ask if there is a better price. No price is firm.
Best tip for sellers: Sort your items into outfits, rather than separate bags of pants and shirts.
614 Dempster St., Evanston, handmedownsevanston.com, (847) 475-0803
The basics: Owner Monica Williams is proud to welcome third-generation shoppers to this 30-year-old Evanston institution. The store mainly sells children’s clothing—infant to size 10 for girls and to size 14 for boys. “We buy Gap or similar or better labels,” says Williams. The store buys clothes, books and toys outright for 30-35 percent of the price they plan to put on the item. Gear and equipment are accepted on consignment.
Store highlights: Features a popular kids play area and a knowledgeable staff. First-time parents can “test drive” the merchandise to see what they like before they buy. The store also has a wish list program to help parents locate hard-to-find items.
Best tip for buyers: The sizes vary from brand to brand, so shop in the bigger and smaller size as well.
Best tip for sellers: “We are very particular about what we buy. We reject 75 percent of what is brought in. We like to see items freshly laundered, folded and sorted by sizes.”
551 W. Liberty St. (Route 176), Wauconda, kinderclosetresale.com, (847) 526-6160
The basics: Owner Rachel Newby offers a wide range of items that families need—everything from infant to teen clothing, maternity clothes, strollers, bedding sets, books, toys and DVDs. KinderCloset consigns some items and buys others outright. “If people come in and want store credit, they get 10 percent added to their buy offer. Otherwise, we use a consignment system where they get a 50 percent split when the item sells,” says Newby.
Store highlights: KinderCloset focuses primarily on mall brands such as Gap, Gymboree, Ralph Lauren, Janie and Jack, Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister.
Best tip for buyers: Resale isn’t what it used to be. You don’t have to wade through six bad shirts to find one good one. “Everything is clean and organized, and we have only quality things to sell.”
Best tip for sellers: Match items together in outfits by size because store owners will pay more for outfits than single pieces.