Nieman Marcus. Louis Vuitton. Chanel. You won't find these top-flight designer stores in the Capital City, but their product lines can command quite a business at local consignment shops.
Owners who previously owned those and other items frequently offer them for sale in Columbia-area consignment shops. Items include heirloom fine furnishings, jewelry, clothing and more. The brands can range from high-end labels to more common ones.
In a consignment transaction, an item’s owner negotiates how much she or he will get from the store and how long the item is available for sale. That price and time vary from shop to shop and, in the case of designer labels, case by case.
Four consignment shops – Revente in Five Points, The Curious Closet in Lexington, Roundabouts on Two Notch Road and The Gentlemen’s Closet, also in Five Points, are among the longest-serving consignment shops in the Columbia area. They are among nearly two dozen consignments shops uncovered in an internet search.
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To understand the lure, Revente, which will celebrate its 25th year in business in April, last week offered for $525 a Louis Vuitton Speedy Bag that originally retailed for $950.
“There aren’t those big retailers in the area, so the people (in Columbia) that like those labels shop consignment, because they can find them there,” said Heather Burns, who co-owns Revente.
And there’s no shame in the consignment shopping game.
“We’re in the mainstream – there’s no doubt about that,” said Executive Director Adele Meyer of The Association of Resale Professionals, the industry’s trade organization.
Twenty years ago, Nancy Peach, owner of The Curious Closet, was located at one end of a strip mall in Lexington County. At the other end of the mall was a liquor store, she said.
“This one lady came into my store, like, three times a week. . . . She parked in front of the liquor store,” Peach said. “She would rather her friends think she was at the liquor store three times a week, than at the resale shop.”
Things have changed drastically, she said.
“People love to brag about how little they paid for that Armani jacket or those Prada boots. Really, there was such a stigma attached to it. You had to buy new or (something was wrong).”
Customers who shop at consignment shops today are savvy shoppers who could shop anywhere they choose, she said.
“It is my regular shopping,” says Kathy Morganelli of Irmo, who has shopped at The Curious Closet for three to four years. “The majority of the shopping I do is consignment.” The Curious Closet is a high-end consignment shop, Morganelli said.
“You can be sure that when you go in there, you are going to get a lot of things very similar to what you get in the store, but at a fraction of the cost.”
Cost savings are a key aspect for consignment shoppers, of course, but the shops also bring with them a convenience aspect. They fulfill shoppers who feel strongly about recycling.
Morganelli also feels quite strongly about shoes and purses. “They (as a commodity) tend to be very pricey, so I always keep an eye out for good bargains on shoes and purses. It’s almost like having a personal shopper, once you’ve been there a few times.”
When special events such as holiday parties come up, consignment shops are an option to find something to wear, at a more affordable price. Women in particular, Morganelli said, have special occasion events they want to attend such as weddings or seasonal events, for which they’d like a new look, even though the outfit needed and the occasion may be rare.
“You can wear it a few times and take it back,” Morganelli, a watercolor artist, said. The Curious Closet features items such as jewelry, coats, shoes, purses. “I have a lot of girlfriends who go to Goodwill,” Morganelli said.
Thrift shopping has become extremely en vogue and chic, Peach said, as evidenced by the cars in the parking lot. Twenty years ago, jalopies were the norm. Now, it is not at all uncommon to see Jaguars and Mercedes parked in front of thrift stores and consignment shops, she said.
“It’s the thrill of the hunt,” Peach said. People love finding a bargain and relish even more finding the rare bargain deal. So, the stigma of thrift shopping has completely dissipated, she said.
Roddie Burris: 803-771-8398