Skip to main content

It’s a Wednesday afternoon and pouring in New York. A soaked UPS deliveryman walks into an Upper East Side store and delivers a large box. He isn’t the only one bringing in goods though. As the morning rolls by a steady stream of customers make their way into Michael’s, The Consignment Shop for Women.

With more than 600 consignors, Michael’s has established itself as one of the leading consignment stores in New York, and while many small businesses are struggling to keep afloat amid declining sales, this shop has managed to keep the customers coming.

Prada, Gucci and Chanel against one wall. Christian Dior, Louboutin, Hermes and many others against the other. There are designer brands everywhere, and as customers dig through the racks of clothing and handbags, and browse the numerous shoe shelves, I couldn’t help but notice the look of delight on their faces.

As a matter of fact, how could a woman not be delighted? Imagine getting a stylish Marc Jacobs clutch at less than 50% of the retail cost, or that classic (and flawless) Chanel bag that’s never in stock for way less than a new one ... or some DKNY capris for less than $40.

(Like shopping for used stuff? Check out this article comparing prices at Craigslist, eBay and consignment stores.)

Now, while some people may thumb their noses at shopping at consignment stores because they don’t like the idea of purchasing used goods, it has become quite popular in this economically trying time. I must admit that I have always been quite wary of consignment shopping, but it didn’t take me very long to warm up. Before long, I too began flipping through racks with widened eyes in utter disbelief at the remarkable savings.

But while the huge savings often draw customers in, the fact that people can bring in their old clothing and bring home 50% of the proceeds keeps them coming back. Surprisingly many of the items brought in are practically new.

TheStreet Recommends

One consignor, who didn’t want to share her name, brought in a bag of goods that contained many unused items. “I bought those Chanel shoes for my daughter, but she’s never worn them,” she said. Won’t it be nice to pay half of what someone else paid for a brand new dress or pair of shoes? Sounds like a deal to me.

Designer clothing may not be everybody’s thing, but consignment shopping is a great way to save money while recycling, and it’s really not hard to do. Here is what you need to know to become a Michael’s consignor.

    Take your items into the store. If they are things that the store thinks will sell, the item will be priced anywhere from one third to one half of the retail price.

    Once the item sells, the consignor gets 50% of the sale price if it sells in the first month. The consignor owns the item until it's sold, so if you accidentally drop something off to the store, you can get it back in 24 hours if it hasn't been sold. If your item doesn’t sell in the first month your take-home is 20% less, and after the third month it’s 50% less. You get paid after the sale is complete.

    The store only takes goods less than two years old, and in excellent condition.

    By the end of my visit to Michael’s, I was sold. Closet: prepare to be raided.

    (P.S. If you’re looking for tips on raiding your closed, check out this recent MainStreet story.)