What Everyone Should Know About Consignment Retail

You may be selling yourself short if you assume that high-end designer items are out of reach, even if you are operating on a limited budget. Emily Elbert, owner of Byrd Designer Consignment in St. Louis, sees firsthand how the consignment model permits savvy shoppers to develop a closet full of timeless pieces at a fraction of the retail price.

For apparel that’s chic and stylish without breaking the bank, designer consignment stores like Byrd offer pieces that are a mixture of both pre-owned and never-worn items, in a boutique environment. Elbert’s highly curated store features an evolving collection of clothes, shoes and accessories, appealing to current trends and classic style. It’s an attractive option for consignors looking for a way to offload items they no longer wear, and for shoppers who are after quality apparel on a budget. Keep reading for our conversation with Elbert, who divulges what she thinks everyone needs to know about consignment and how she entered into this line of work.

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How did you come to own Byrd?
I’m actually the third owner of the store—initially, I was a customer. I approached the owner and said that if she ever wanted to sell, I would love to be contacted. I had been toying with the idea of purchasing a small business for a while, and in April 2013, I bought it. I had been a consignment shopper for quite some time at that point. I lived in Los Angeles for a few years before, and I fell in love with higher-end resale while I was there. I wondered if consignment was a niche that needed to be further explored in St Louis.

What do you find most exciting about running Byrd?
We have become a haven for people who are looking for designers that you can’t find in St Louis. There are a lot of lesser-known designers that fall into our store, and those pieces really are gems. You can’t find them at the big retailers, but you can find them here, where they’ll be discounted. So they also become accessible to a wider range of people.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when starting out?
Back then, and even now, the challenge is always expanding the base of supply. We have consignors, and we work with individuals—not stores—so we rely on keeping those supply chains open. Another challenge is the competition on the consumer side. Customers come into the store with their smartphones and search online to see if they can finder a cheaper price somewhere else. There is a lot of competition. That is why we try to offer a personal touch. We aim to endear ourselves to our customers. If someone tries something on, and I think they should hold out for something else, then I tell them that. I want them to leave truly happy with what they were able to find.

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What are the benefits of shopping at a consignment store?
Savings are probably the highest driving factor for anyone shopping pre-owned items. Generally, items are priced between 50-90 percent off original retail prices. We also have upwards of 20 percent off our inventory that’s new with tags, from consignors who have never actually worn the garment. That surprises a lot of people. Customers can find items in the store that are new, with tags. Most people don’t expect that.

People also often call me to ask if I have something in stock. I know our inventory. If someone has a special piece they are after for an occasion, I can quickly let them know if I have a piece that will work. A lot of people come to Byrd before they visit retail stores just to check if I have something that fits their needs first. We’re also environmentally friendly, by extending the life of these items and recycling pieces.

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