By Wednesday, Ivy Williams’ calendar was booked solid through the 17th.
Every workday through then, the owner of Designer Exchange in Burnt Hills is scheduled to meet with people looking to submit their clothes and jewelry to the consignment store and collect a share of the revenue from their sale.
“The month of October was overwhelming in terms of consignors,” said Williams.
As the economic slump deepens, a growing number of Capital Region residents are turning toward consignment stores to generate supplemental income. At Designer Exchange, which specializes in upscale used women’s attire, Williams estimates that she has seen a 40 percent increase in consignors during the first eight months of 2008, compared with the same period of 2007.
While the surge in consignors has not translated into an increase in sales at Williams’ 800-square-foot store, it has boosted revenues at many other similar businesses nationwide. A recent survey by the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops found that 66.2 percent of its members reported seeing an increase in sales from January through August, compared with the same period of 2007. Sales gains averaged 35 percent.
“We had our biggest month in October, and I’ve been here eight years,” said Tracey Harris, owner of Worth Repeating in Glenville.
Harris estimates that sales at her 1,200-square-foot consignment store are up 25 percent. She splits revenues with consignors 50/50 for regular apparel for men and women and 60/40 for fur coats. Among the items consignment store owners are seeing more of this fall are dresses and gold jewelry.
“We’re getting a lot of new consignors who are looking to make more money,” said Harris.
According to the survey by NARTS, a St. Clair Shores, Mich., trade organization, 85.8 percent of consignment stores reported increases in new customers. Almost 75 percent of them reported increases in new suppliers, including consignors, sellers and donors.
“I don’t know if it’s the economy or if it’s people realizing we’re here after seven years,” said Deborah Sauber, co-owner of the Panache consignment store in Gloversville.
Sauber also reported a 40 percent increase in consignors for the first eight months of the year. However, as at Designer Exchange in Burnt Hills, the spike in consignors has not resulted in increased sales.
The $4-per-gallon gasoline and inflationary pressures that dogged consumers for most of the year helped stoke the consignment boom. But consignment stores were not alone in benefiting from consumers’ attempts to offset higher prices by clearing out their closets.
In the NARTS survey, 48 percent of thrift stores reported increases in their volume of donations. Only 12 percent of the nonprofit shops said donations declined.
The Rockville, Md.-based Goodwill Industries International, which has 2,200 retail thrift shops in North America, saw same-store sales rise 6.7 percent during the first nine months of 2008, compared with the same period of 2007. During the same period, Goodwill donations rose 9.6 percent. The thrift shop operator has stores in Rotterdam, Colonie, Amsterdam and Troy.
“We’re doing good. We have a lot of people looking for things,” said Charlotte Morrill, manager of the Secondhand Rose Thrift Shop in Schuylerville.
Although Morrill said donations have remained steady at the volunteer-run Secondhand Rose, sales are up.