Consumers who take advantage of deals on designer pieces at resale shops often get another benefit. Simply put, pricier name brands are often well made. "Parents can get more bang for their buck, when they buy higher-quality pieces for a fraction of the cost," says Fields. Keep in mind: resale shops are interested only in items that they can sell. In general, pieces don't make it to their shelves unless they're durable and in good shape.
Before she started shopping resale, Treadwell spent weekends combing garage sales for a plastic outdoor playset. "I've learned now to check the consignment and thrift shops—you can find lots of popular toys more quickly and for less than half the price."
Another factor in resale's growing popularity is the benefit to those who sell to the stores. Most of us get at least a few gifts of baby clothing that never get worn—either we don't get around to putting them on, or they're out of season when they're the right size. Selling to resale shops means parents get a little extra cash, plus the satisfaction of knowing someone else will get some use from the clothes. NARTS' Meyer points out that, "Consignors and sellers make money by selling under-loved items at our shops, without the expense, work, and bother of a tag or garage sale. Having stores' resale experts market and price their goods, sellers realize more income than if they tried to do it themselves."
Tips for Successful Resale Shopping
- Talk to the people behind the counter. It's important to get to know the staff of your favorite resale shop, particularly if you're looking for a particular item. Store owners who know you're looking for an Easter dress or an infant snowsuit are usually happy to keep an eye out for you and give you a call when they're in.
- Sign the store's mailing list. This is a great way to get valuable information, special sale notices, and customer-only premiums.
- Learn the store's buying schedule. Especially if you shop consignment stores (those that pay sellers only once items sell), it's important to talk to the staff about the best day to find merchandise. "Some stores will consign only on a specific day of the week, take a day to price it, and offer their best selection on that third day," explains Fields.
- Think location, location, location. People are unlikely to drive across town to sell items into consignment, says Fields. "So, shop the resale stores in the upscale or rich parts of town. Cast offs from the people in those big houses tend to be better stuff."
- Know what NOT to buy. In his book, Baby Bargains, Fields says there are three things you should never buy in a resale store. One is a car seat, since you can't be sure it was never damaged in an accident. The second is a crib—it's almost impossible to know if a second-hand crib is missing any important pieces. Plus, safety standards change frequently, and a used crib may not comply. Finally, you should never buy a baby's mattress second-hand. According to Fields, "there have been some studies linking second-hand mattresses to cases of SIDS."
- Don't limit resale shopping to traditional stores. More and more websites are popping up with used clothes and toys to sell or swap. According to Fields, the key to trying online resale is getting a few facts first. "Pick a seller that uses a system like 'PayPal' (found on eBay and other sites). This offers greater protection if the seller doesn't follow through." It's also a good idea to confirm shipping charges and check independent message and bulletin boards for reviews from others who've used the site.