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Consignment Shops Make A Comeback

By Lisa van der Pool, Boston Business Journal
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BOSTON (CBS) – Bill Soncini is president and CEO of the Boston-based upscale clothing reseller, Second Time Around.

He’s also a customer.

Soncini recently received a $424 check for unloading some designer shirts, coats and blazers from Barney’s that had been languishing in his closet.

“It was like found money,” Soncini told the Boston Business Journal.

That sentiment is shared by a growing number of budget-conscious consumers, hoping to find extra cash hanging up in their closets or stuffed in their overflowing sweater drawers.

Boston-area consignment shops have bucked the downward trend that has plagued many large retail brands in this economy, as many clothing resellers are actually expanding.

The popularity of clothing resellers has also been boosted by the green movement, as more and more people look to reuse and recycle.

Second Time Around, which launched in 1973, is one such brand.

Today, the chain has 29 stores, up from 11 in 2009, and is rapidly expanding, having opened seven new stores in the past 12 months, Soncini said.

Soncini, who joined the chain last year, says his 200-person company is on the cusp of opening four stores in the coming months.

Customers interested in selling their used threads for cash — stylish clothing is preferred — simply bring them in to a store and when they sell, Second Time Around will mail out a check every 60 days if it’s over $100.

If it’s under that amount, customers get a store credit.

So how much are those secondhand duds worth?

Pricing can be tricky.

At Second Time Around, associates are trained on how to price fairly. Usually, items are tagged at one third of their retail value, according to Jeanne Nicholson , director of marketing.

Still, because selling clothes is so personal, some customers attempt to haggle or get upset when they find out their favorite 70’s polyester shirt is only worth $5.

At Second Time Around’s flagship store on Newbury Street, roughly 20 percent of customers take issue with the pricing of some items, said Nicholson.

“We are doing very, very well,” said Soncini, who attributes Second Time Around’s success to an enhanced store experience, as well as the fact that consumers are more savvy about saving money.

Second Time Around’s expansion has also been driven by Generation Equity, a private equity firm and majority stakeholder that invested an undisclosed sum in the chain last year.

Nationally, the resale industry generates $13 billion in revenue annually, and is currently growing at a yearly rate of 7 percent, according to the Association of Resale Professionals, in St. Clair Shores, Mich.

Lisa van der Pool of the Boston Business Journal can be seen weekdays at 6 a.m. on WBZ-TV.

You can follow Lisa on Twitter at @lvanderpool.

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