Aspen second-hand store grosses $1M
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” An Aspen second-hand store claims to have grossed $1 million in second-hand sales in 2007, the same year that Gracy’s consignment store closed.
The seven-figure total was a benchmark gross for Susie’s Limited consignment store, an Aspen business for 17 years. But while selling used goods for top dollar has been a solid business model in Aspen for decades, downtown consignment stores are plagued by the same difficulties as other retail shops ” high rent and extreme payroll costs. Consignment shops also have to give 50 percent of the gross directly to the owner of the item, making their expenses even higher.
“To round if off, if I grossed $ 1 million in sales, some of that goes to taxes,” said Susan Harvey, owner of Susie’s. “Let’s say there’s $800,000 left over, $400,000 goes to the store. Then I have rent, payroll, advertising, workman’s comp, and so on. That would whittle it down to probably around $100,000.”
The profit margin for selling used goods can be slim. When Gracy’s closed in September, owner Brad Carner wrote in a statement that rent was an “enormous expense,” and the store has “enjoyed limited success in the high seasons and required additional personal funds to support the six months of [offseason].”
Della Pegolotti, owner of Aspen Home Consignment, said she has been able to avoid the rent pitfall by owning the building at 202 E. Main St., even though that is obviously not a simple solution with the high costs of real estate.
“I don’t have these huge gouges of rent,” she said. “I don’t know how people do it with this rent. I’m not being shuffled around.”
Gracy’s moved a number of times in its more than 30 years of business, and the sale of the building that housed its final location partly contributed to Gracy’s closure.
In his written statement Carner mentioned the sale, saying: “Clearly, a small one-story building doesn’t make sense on a $15 million piece of property.”
There is also a difference between consignment clothes and consignment furniture. Gracy’s was entirely focused on clothes and Harvey said the majority of her business comes from clothes sales. But the bigger profits come from the faster turnaround, which can be difficult, especially in offseason.
Aspen Home Consignment has a different emphasis.
“I didn’t want to deal with clothes because you have to sell a lot of clothes,” Pegolotti said.
Harvey said that some 30 people a day arrive in the offseason with clothes to sell, and about 10 people a day arrive during the high season. She accepts roughly 10 percent of what is brought in for resell.
“I try to keep my prices affordable,” Harvey said. “Everybody buys tons more than they would if it were expensive. They’ll buy 10 cashmere sweaters instead of two. And they’re getting them all for the price of one in a regular store.”
Furniture, on the other hand, often comes from houses that have sold.
“A Realtor will call me and say, ‘We sold this house and they don’t want anything in it,'” Pegolotti said. “It’s a fun business; it’s like Christmas every day.”
Susie’s keeps items for 45 days and then either donates them to local charities, gives them back or marks them down, depending on the owner. For Pegolotti, it’s 60 days.
“The most important part of the business is the recycling; it’s a community service,” Harvey said. “We even recycle bags.”
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