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Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Resale Revolution: Searching for Chic

My infatuation with second hand shopping started in the 1960’s. In my funkier days, I would scour military surplus stores for bell bottomed button fly sailor pants and then head to Goodwill to look for anything that was suede with a heavy dose of fringe on it. In the 1970’s and 80’s and on a tight budget, I made weekly trips to my neighborhood thrift store to search out bargains for myself and my family. I also frequented vintage stores looking for standout pieces that nurtured my eclectic style personality. Once I experienced the elation of finding Ferragamo heels for $9, and a black Coach purse for $20, I knew that shopping second hand would become a lifelong practice. 

Now when I visit my favorite haunts, the parking lots are full and the lines at the check out are long. According to the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops (NART), resale shopping has become hugely popular among consumers everywhere. In fact, the 2010 NART survey reported that the number of new consignment stores increased by 7% over last year and there was a 12.7%  net growth in resale shop sales from 2008 to 2009. This figure compares to a 7.3% decline in retail sales for the same period. Experts point to a number of factors to explain this widespread shopping phenomenon.  First of all, the economic downturn has influenced people’s shopping habits. They are spending less and when they buy, they want more bang for their buck. Shoppers all over the globe have discovered that they can find high end used clothes in mint condition for a fraction of the cost of what they would cost new. Rather than holding on to those 7 for All Mankind jeans that no longer fit or the Free People sweater that was an impulse buy, consumers are turning them in for cash to expand their shopping budgets. Those who have an eye for style are also shopping resale to find unique pieces that are either difficult to find at chain stores or very expensive at retail boutiques. As the green movement gets traction, more consumers are recognizing the environmental and social benefits associated with the resale trend. Buying pre-owned goods cuts down on the enormous quantity of clothes that end up in landfills and uses less energy than it takes to manufacture and transport new clothes (  Additionally, shoppers who support nonprofits such as Goodwill, Salvation Army and Amvets, are helping to fund training programs and other worthwhile services for those in need.

I always keep my antennae up for new and exciting resale shops. While working on a voter registration campaign in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia in the fall of 2008, I stumbled upon a real treasure. Appropriately named Current Boutique, it is an upscale, modern store with a relaxed vibe. The store opened its doors in April 2007 and expanded to a second location in Old Town Alexandria in November, 2009. Unlike many consignment stores, Current Boutique also carries new clothing and accessories that the owner, Carmen Lopez, selects from New York and Los Angeles. Current Boutique has gained a reputation for offering gently worn, high quality women’s clothing, shoes, jewelry and designer handbags for approximately 1/3 of their retail price. When you browse through the well organized and neat display racks, you see trendy to classic styles and designer wear by Marc by Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, BCBG and Trina Turk to name just a few.  I go there whenever I can to shop as well as consign my clothes. The staff is always helpful, friendly and professional. I never leave empty handed and I am always satisfied with the speed at which my consigned items are sold. Current Boutique also allows consigners to accrue store credit when their items are sold. This feature is especially seductive because I can almost convince myself that I’m getting clothes for free!  Some of my fabulous finds include a next to new Nordstrom brand leather jacket, a long, chunky Anthropologie sweater and a lovely fine gauge Tahari  merino wool cardigan.

The consignment procedure at Current Boutique is stress free because it is not necessary to make an appointment. Amanda DeSanto, manager at the Clarendon store, did mention that the busiest day for shopping as well as consigning is Saturday and that the wait could be long if customers consign on that day.  First time consigners sign an agreement in advance or at the time of consignment.  All consigners also need to make a complete list of their items on a store form. Then, a store employee reviews the items and decides which ones to accept. The store only considers items that are in style (no more than two years old) and in excellent condition. Current Boutique splits the sale price with the consigner and will either mail a check or leave it at the store for pickup within 90 days of the date that the items were consigned.  As I already mentioned, there is also the option of establishing store credit.

Current Boutique is all about offering personalized service to its customers. Now, the store offers private, after hours parties so that a group of friends (ten or more) can enjoy leisurely shopping together and also get hands on advice from a professional fashion stylist. What could be better?  For more information, customers should contact the store.

Visit the Current Boutique website www.CURRENTBOUTIQUE.COM and their Blog (linked to site) for more store information and hours. Each week the blog also features photos and a description of the “Outfit of the Week” which is an entire ensemble created from existing store inventory. Their Blog is also a good place to get breaking fashion news.

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea that resale shopping was so popular. I especially enjoyed reading the statistics about the growth of the industry.