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"I love My Girlfriend's Closet, because we all know that recycling is good for the environment. I love the high quality and the super low price of clothes. Why would you go anywhere else,? Plus the ladies are very fashionable and can steer you in the right direction when it comes to selecting coordinates." - Ruby Pasco

Bad economy good for Inland consignment shops

Bad economy good for Inland consignment shops

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The notice on the door of Robin Elder's upscale consignment store -- a picture of a turkey and the phrase "I'm stuffed" -- is a sign of the times. Good times for resale.

A bad economy equals a boost in business for consignment shops, say owners, who report a marked increase in customers looking for bargains. They're also seeing a jump in the number of people wanting to exchange their old clothes for cash.

"More people are bringing things in to sell. I have so much," said Elder, owner of My Girlfriend's Closet in Temecula. Thus the sign on her door.

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Frank Bellino / The Press-Enterprise

One business that is doing well in the down economy are consignment shops such as the Ritzy Ragz in Temecula, which is owned by Monique Sapia.

More people are willing to take an instant payout -- basically "garage sale" prices -- for their Coach bags and True Religion jeans, she said. Otherwise, they agree to a 90-day contract and 40 percent of the selling price.

But sales are up, too.

"People are trying to watch their money, but women want to look good and feel good ... and we don't have hundreds or thousands of dollars to drop on new wardrobes," said Monique Sapia, owner of Ritzy Ragz in Temecula.

Consignment shops carry everything from clothes and furniture to sporting goods and DVDs. Most shops display the goods from 30 to 90 days and, if they don't sell, return them to the owner or donate them to charity. The shops typically pay their consignees 40 to 60 percent of the final selling price, though some pay a lesser price for the goods up front.

Consignment shopping is an "unguilty pleasure," Sapia said. "For 50 bucks you can come out head to toe in something you look dynamite in." 

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Customer Ann Cameron, of Murrieta, checks out a jacket at the Ritzy Ragz. In a bad economy, more people are looking for deals.

After nine years in business, Sapia recently doubled the size of her store to 2,500 square feet. She constantly rotates her stock of Chanel, Soul Revival, Frankie B and Nanette Lepore. True Religion jeans, one season past, sell for about $75, less than half the retail price.

The trend is not limited to the Inland area, said Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Retail and Thrift Shops.

A recent survey of the trade group's 1,000 members showed that 66 percent of stores saw sales climb between January and August, compared with the same period a year before. Sales were up an average of 35 percent.

More than 85 percent of stores said the number of new customers has increased, and 75 percent have seen new people bringing in merchandise to sell, Meyer said.

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Frank Bellino / The Press-Enterprise

Michaela Costantino, left, of Fallbrook, gets some shopping help from boutique owner Monique Sapia.

"Business has been pretty good the last couple of months," said Mary Irey, owner of New 2 You in Grand Terrace.

She's noticed an uptick in new shoppers looking for big-ticket items such as appliances, furniture and cookware. Irey gets some of her merchandise from auctions of moving and storage units that are abandoned, and she figures some of it has to do with the rash of foreclosures.

Rhonda Sher, of Murrieta, is a consignment aficionado, seeking out "upscale and bling," like the one-of-a-kind, hand-painted Saks jacket she scored for $49, worth hundreds at retail. She also likes the green aspect of recycling clothes.

"A lot of the stuff is brand new. A lot of the people do what I do, they buy it on sale and then they never wear it and the tags are still on it," said Sher, who sells back as much as she buys.

Sher, an author who travels throughout California as a keynote speaker on business networking, programs consignment stores into her GPS for the cities she visits. Some of her favorite detours are Sparkle Plenty Resale Boutique in Oceanside and the annual white elephant sale at the Oakland Museum of California. "In this market, it's just a fabulous way to shop," she said.

Sher also frequents Ronni's Resale in Sun City, where a $1,000 St. John knit can be had for $160. Clothes are marked down regularly until they make their way out the door after 60 days, owner Ronni Kantra-Peters said.

"If it's been in a lady's closet for more than a year, we're not interested" in buying, she said. "This is current, current."

Reach Janet Zimmerman at 951-368-9586 or [email protected] 

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