Shopping at second hand stores has several advantages. First, it allows you to better stretch your budget dollars. Second, it supports your local economy when you pick a small merchant over a big box store. Finally, it's a better environmental choice because you are committing to reusing existing goods rather than participating in the sale of new merchandise.
Consignment stores, thrift stores and pawn shops are similar in that they all sell second hand goods. The types of good, prices and quality, however, will vary. Before you head out to the stores, here are some tips to help you understand how things work.
What is a Consignment Store?
When a store sells on consignment, the store owner, or seller, will display goods that are owned by third party, called the consignor. If the goods are sold, the consignor and seller share the profits. If the goods don't sell, they are returned to the consignor.
Most merchandise can be sold on consignment. Many stores, however, will specialize in specific types of goods, such as antiques, athletic equipment, books, clothing, furniture, toys or video games. Some stores will specialize even further. For example, a clothing consignment store may further specialize in baby clothes or maternity wear.
Generally, consignment stores are looking for unique or high quality merchandise that are too expensive to buy when new and that retain some value for purposes of resale. When shopping in a consignment store, you should expect to find name brand items in like-new or gently-used condition. Prices are usually set at one-third of what the item would have sold for when new.
What is a Thrift Store?
While thrift shops also sell second hand goods, they do it in a different way. At a thrift shop, the original owner of the items relinquishes all rights in the goods being sold, often by making a charitable donation. If the items sell, the store owner receives all of the proceeds. Proceeds from thrift store sales will often be used to benefit charitable organizations.
While some thrift stores may specialize in specific items, like furniture, most tend to be a hodge-podge of goods. In addition, thrift stores tend to place less emphasis on the aesthetics and display of their merchandise. So don't be surprised if you find an antique brass candlestick on the same shelf as a plastic garden gnome.
Since the items and donated and the store relies on donation items, the quality of goods being sold will vary. Items tend to be harder worn and you may find stained or ripped clothing. Make sure to inspect and test all items thoroughly before purchasing. The good news is that prices in thrift stores are usually rock-bottom. Expect to pay 10% or less of the retail price for the item when sold as new.
What is a Pawn Shop?
The business model for a pawn shop bears similarities to a consignment store but with a twist. At a pawn shop, the store owner, or pawnbroker, loans money to another person, the pawner. To secure the repayment of the loan, the pawner leaves items of personal property, or collateral, with the pawn broker. If the loan is repaid in the time specified, the goods are returned to the pawner. If the loan in not repaid, the pawn broker becomes the owner of the goods and they are offered for sale in the pawn shop.
Although you can buy almost anything at a pawn shop, some shops will specialize in particular items, such as jewelry, electronics or musical equipment. Most pawnbrokers have experience in assessing goods based on their condition and marketability. This enables them to display and sell higher valued and quality items.
Since pawn brokers will inspect and test items before accepting them as collateral, you should expect to items that are in good condition. Most items will be like-new or gently-used. While prices may vary, expect to pay approximately a third of what the item would have sold for when new.
A Couple of Tips
If you decide to shop second hand, it helps to understand the market in which you are dealing and the type of goods to expect. If you're looking for quality electronics, you're not likely to find it in a thrift store. A consignment store or pawn shop that specializes in electronics will be a better option. If you want old t-shirts to use for working in the garage, however, you're going to find the largest selection and best prices at a thrift store.
When heading out to shop second hand, make sure to bring cash. While many consignment stores and pawn shops are set up to accept charge cards, the local thrift store may have a cash only policy.
Also, don't be afraid to haggle. Second hand stores usually place sticker prices on items. Many, however, will negotiate with you, especially if you are buying a large quantity of goods.
Finally, when shopping second hand, try to keep an open mind. If you insist on only purchasing a specific brand item in a specific color, buying from a traditional retail store is probably a better option. If you are willing to consider alternative brands in order to get a better deal, however, second hand shops may have just what you need.
Now that you know the differences between the types of second hand stores, you'll have a better chance of finding the right deals for you. So don't delay. Get out now and shop the second hand way.