Friday, June 27, 2008

Shopping at secondhand stores can be good for wallet, environment, cluttered closet

By Samantha Critchell/The Associated Press

Monday, April 14, 2008

WESTPORT, Conn. — Go ahead, visit a secondhand store: It’s good for your wallet. It’s good for the environment. It might even be good for your cluttered closet.

On a recent shopping spree, $88 scored three outfits, including an of-the-moment safari-inspired Max Studio wrap dress with the tags still on it, and a pair of Calvin Klein shoes with soles that have never touched the ground. It also spawned good intentions to bring to Goodwill several unworn items that hang in the closet two sizes too small.

The mission: to find clothes that represented current fashion trends, even if the clothes themselves weren’t new. Since what goes around comes around in the world of fashion, you can always find old styles that look fresh even if “vintage” isn’t your look.

The savings could be significant, if relative. A Gap safari-style jacket in khaki twill was $9.99 from Goodwill, a two-piece Carolina Herrera evening outfit that would normally have a four-figure price tag was $275 at Designer Label Consignment.

Joleen Higgin, a teacher from Redwood City, Calif., recently scored a full-length cashmere coat for $10 and new Salvatore Ferragamo boots for $50.

For her, it’s not just a bargain, it’s a pleasant shopping experience. Sifting through rack after rack of used clothing may not sound like a good time. But many secondhand stores are laid out like a typical retail store — and the merchandise can be similar, particularly if you scour wealthy areas.

“I often go as a way to wind down from work,” Higgin said. “It’s kind of like ‘Cheers’ ... They all know me, it’s a friendly environment.”

Laurie Perren, owner of the four Roundabout Designer Closeouts & Consignments stores in Fairfield County and neighboring Westchester County, N.Y., said that some of her top consignors do their shopping in Europe and want to be the first to wear something. That means the following year, when they clean out their closet and bring the item to her, the garment actually is in line with the trends.

On the flip side, only the most fashion-conscious people would notice the difference between this year’s pinstripe Dolce & Gabbana pantsuit from last year’s “except it’s $450 here instead of $2,500.”

Perren also receives from boutiques brand-new merchandise that didn’t sell the first time around. She encourages her customers to visit traditional luxury retailers, such as Barneys New York or Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan, and then come to Roundabout to appreciate the savings.

At the Children’s Cottage in Ridgefield, a consignment store specializing in children’s items, owner Maura Sullivan said she sees a ton of unworn clothes because either the children didn’t fit into the items or the seasons never aligned with a growth spurt. She also gets a lot of dressy clothes that children need for that one big event and never again.

“I have such a big collection of navy blue blazers,” she said with a laugh.

But she also sells a lot of blazers, along with communion and flower girl dresses, because parents don’t want to spend big bucks on something children will wear once.

Sullivan said it’s not uncommon for customers to either call before coming to see what’s available or to ask her to keep her eye out for something specific — say, a pink raincoat, size 6.

But Barbara Lindsay of Palo Alto, Calif., said she has more success by just browsing.

“I mostly buy clothing, but I always look at accessories, furnishings, dishes, knickknacks, all of it,” she said. “I go sporadically with my daughter because we love bargains.”

No comments: