Local Consignment Stores See Business Boom

By Katie Mills Giorgio, Correspondent

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Consignment stores are a personal business in the Corridor.

It's keeping both the shopping customer and the consigning customer happy, according to Stacie Frede, marketing director-corporate support for Stuff Etc., that is their major distinction — and challenge — in the world of retail.

"We have to serve both the shopper and the consignor. One doesn't exist without the other," Frede said.

"Without the consignor we have nothing to sell so we want to keep them happy and get the most money we can for them, merchandise it well, so they need to feel good about their experience. But the shopper also wants a bargain and an easy shopping experience."

Stuff Etc. — then called Kids Stuff and Kountry Kreations — got its small start nearly 26 years ago in a 700-square-foot space. Today, Stuff Etc. boasts three company-owned stores — in Iowa City, Coralville and Cedar Rapids — and two franchise stores, in Waterloo and Davenport.

"We consider ourselves a quality department consignment store," Frede said. "We accept on consignment and sell pretty much anything in your home and life.

"We have clothes for the whole family and furniture is a big seller for us, especially in Coralville and Iowa City with the transient student population."

Stuff Etc.'s largest store — in Coralville — covers 36,000 square feet on two levels and employs about 60 people.

On a smaller scale, Heidi Ipsan Sills opened Crazy Daisy in February 2008 in downtown Cedar Rapids. Perhaps best know for women's clothing, Sills's store also accepts home décor and small furniture items.

All items, must follow current trends or generally be less that two years old, a common resale requirement, she noted.

Crazy Daisy and Stuff Etc. take items by appointment — typically 12 to 14 per day — to help manage time and inventory.

"I am the only one who goes through the consigned items, and I am the only one who does the pricing of the items that come in for consignment," Sills said. "I feel this is an advantage in many ways — it keeps the shop uniform as far as the quality and quantity of the items we offer, and it also keeps the pricing in check and consistent."

Both Sills and Frede agreed price point is important in the consignment world.

"We typically price the items 60 to 80 percent off retail prices, depending upon the quality and demand for each item," Sills explained. "Items are marked down 25 percent after 30 days and marked down 50 percent at 60 days.

"Any items left at the end of the consignment period are donated to one of many wonderful local charitable organizations."

Stuff Etc. follows a similar pricing and markdown policies.
"Our goal is to price it right and get the best price for the consignor right out of the gate," Frede said.

Frede said that on an average day Stuff Etc. puts 1,800 to 2,000 items on the sales floor each day.

"We take in that many items each day, too, but it takes two weeks to get them out on the floor. It's quite a process," she said.

While Crazy Daisy hasn't been open for as long as other local consignment shops, Sills has years of resale experience, having started a consignment shop in Marion in 1993. In that time, she believes there have been major changes related to shopping at local consignment stores.

"I think people have a vision in their heads of what a consignment shop is — dark, dank, cluttered, crowded and smelly. Well, we strive to be none of those adjectives," Sills said.

"We offer fresh displays, hundreds of new items each and every day, a clean retail to shop where all of our items are sized and
hung. ..."

"Today it is looked upon as green because things are repurposed and recycled," she added. "We have certainly seen the clientele of shoppers change over the last 18 years.

"Today any one will shop consignment. It's OK to be seen in a consignment shop. In fact, it's the in thing to do."

The number of people consigning items has increased, as well.
"People are looking to us as an outlet for items they no longer need or use and make some cash along the way," Sills said.

Frede agreed and said the biggest trend they see at Stuff Etc. is customers "recycling" with them.

"People bring in what they are not using and then turn around and use the money they make off their consigned items to buy things here that they need now," she said. "More people are seeing the difference it can make in their home, on the environment and on their pocketbook."

In the last year Stuff Etc. has nearly doubled the number of consignors, with some 30,000 consignors at each location.
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