The Skinny on Furniture Consignment Stores


We’ve all read the stories.  Grown children don’t want the furniture       their parents and relatives would love to give them. It’s not their style and they don’t want to accumulate a lot of stuff. If you’re downsizing and preparing to move into a smaller space, here’s what would be helpful to know if you’re considering selling your furniture through consignment stores.

Tip #1: Plan ahead. Email photos of the furniture you would like to sell at least several months in advance of your move. Consignment stores have limited floor space and can’t always take large items, or a number of items, on short notice. By contacting them in advance, you’ll get a sense of whether they would be interested in what you have to sell. They’ll probably tell you to check back closer to the time of your actual move, but at least you’ll be on their radar.

Consignment furniture for saleTip #2: Do your research. Consignment stores are selective. Like all retail stores, they have rent, utilities and salaries to pay.  So they look for furniture and decorative items that they can sell quickly at a good price. But the selection can vary from store to store, depending on their location and customer base.  One store in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., sells high-end pieces by manufacturers such as Bernhardt and Barbara Barry while another, close to condos and apartments full of young professionals and empty nesters, stocks multi-purpose pieces that work well in small spaces. Check out their websites to get a sense of their inventory or, even better, visit their stores.

Tip #3: Timing matters. Consignment stores like to have a mix of different types of furniture on display. So even if they like your bedroom set, they may pass when you’re ready to sell if there are several already in their current inventory.  Be prepared by contacting more than one store in your initial outreach.

Tip #4: Sixty-day contracts are standard. The split between the consigner (seller) and the store is usually 50/50 or 55/45. If an item doesn’t sell within 30 days, it is usually marked down.  If it remains unsold at the end of the contract, it is donated to charity unless the seller retrieves it. Also, it is the seller’s responsibility to get items to the store although stores will recommend movers.

Tip #5: Current and timely furniture sells.  In other words, by and large consignment store buyers want transitional and contemporary furniture and accessories, not antiques or traditional furniture. Think sofas in solid, neutral colors with clean lines rather than rolled arms and floral or striped upholstery.  Or modern-looking lamps rather than old-fashioned brass ones. Most stores pass on entertainment cabinets and armoires and china or curio cabinets as they don’t sell well. What sells best are beds, dressers, cabinets and useful tables of all sorts, including coffee, accent, occasional and end tables or nightstands (preferably in sets).

Tip #6: Condition also matters. Case goods (tables, chests, dressers and the like) can have minor dings or scratches, but upholstered pieces should be clean with no odors, stains or visible tears. As one store owner said, “Buyers want furniture they can move in right away; they are willing to pay for that.”

Tip #7: You’ll get one-fourth to one-third of the original price if your furniture sells. If it’s five years old or less, in mint condition, a brand name and still being sold, it might be priced at 60-70 percent of what it sold for initially. If not, it will probably be priced at 50 percent. “We research by style,” said another store owner, “look at either the listing or sold price” at auction houses and Ebay to determine a price.

Tip #8: Decorative items are welcomed. Consignment stores round out their inventory with lamps, mirrors, rugs, artwork and tchotchkes. But they run hot and cold on china and crystal. One Washington area store only sells  Wedgwood, Tiffany and Waterford and the like while others don’t bother at all.

Have you sold furniture or accessories through consignment stores?  Share your experiences.


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