A short zigzag between couches and china cabinets, bedroom suites and dining tables, and shoppers quickly recognize the deals here at Southern Comforts.
The furniture consignment store is almost hidden behind a drug store, but once found, there is a treasure to behold. And it’s not at all unusual in metro Atlanta.
“If you’ve never been to a furniture consignment store,” said Beth Richardson, owner of The Board of Trade, “you’ll see the quality and you’ll be shocked.”
Dozens of shoppers were introduced recently when they traveled by busloads on a seven-hour tour of stores. Some concentrated on clothing outlets; others on furniture stores. Each shopper paid $35 to take part in the AtlantaConsignmentStores.com event and spent 45 minutes at each location.
It was the first major event for the group of retailers who’ve joined forces to drive home the distinctions between consignment and thrift. Melissa Baxter, owner of Back by Popular Demand and Forever Young, partnered with her former employer, Bonnie Kallenberg, owner of three stores — Finders Keepers Boutique, Fashions and Furniture — to start the organization.
“Consignment, thrift, donation and pawn shops all get kind of lumped together,” Baxter said. “None of us [consignment store owners] had $10,000 to take out, but together we could make a brand. On average, only 10 percent of people know what consignment stores are.”
In general, here’s how they work: Name-brand adult and childrens’ clothing, bridal ware, high-end furniture and items in near-perfect condition are taken to the consignment store of your choice. The store decides which items it will take, sometimes turning down 50 or 60 percent of the offers. Stores require items be ready for sell. The store sets a price and the consignor gets a percentage of the selling price, which reduces by percentage each month. If it’s not sold, it can be picked up or donated.
And when it comes to furniture stores, bargains abound. They are newer to the shopping world than clothing consignments, but have experienced rapid growth, particularly since the economy turned downward. It’s not hard to see why.
“It’s a good model when you have money, and when you don’t,” Richardson said.
A Hickory Chair brand sideboard, $6,000 wholesale, is $1,995. This $1,700 leather sofa is $3,500 new.
“People with money are more apt to come to consignment stores than people who do not have money,” said Southern Comforts owner, Mark Eid. “They don’t have money because they are big spenders; they have money because they are good shoppers.”
The furniture may have a more classic than contemporary, but it depends on the store. While Board of Trade and Southern Comforts are more formal, Finders Keepers avoids antiques and looks for more unusual pieces. Stores complement the inventory with newer pieces they purchase.
“People who shop this way realize that you can’t always walk in and say, ‘I have to find a green armchair,’” Kallenberg said. “You have to be open-minded.”
Eid says his stores, including one opened two years ago in Alpharetta are “not a dumping ground.” It’s much more and the bus tour passengers saw that first-hand.
“It’s the tip of the iceberg with resale,” Kallenberg said. “Back in the early 80’s, there was a stigma attached to it; it was only poor people who shopped consignments. Now cool people buy used clothes and furniture.”