Years ago, I used to love watching “The Dr. Phil Show.” I had watched him on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and liked the no-nonsense, tough love approach he used with people. One question he posed frequently to guests who kept doing the same things over and over again was,
How’s that working for you?”
That question really cut to the heart of the issue. We often keep repeating behaviors out of habit or because we’re not sure what else to do, but how many times do we stop to ask ourselves if something is really working for us or not?
Resale Hits and Misses
Today’s post represents me doing just that. For a number of years, I have shopped at resale stores. I love the “treasure hunt” aspect of it and the possibility of finding something beautiful and unique at an amazingly low price. Of course, I shopped retail, too. Let’s face it; I pretty much shopped all the time and few shopping avenues were not on my list. But in addition to being a general shopaholic, I definitely became a “resale-o-holic.”
I knew that not all of my consignment purchases were “hits,” but I thought it was worth the risk for the few major winners that I found and ended up wearing into the ground (such as the black skirt I wrote about in my guest post for “This Kind Choice”). I continued to take my chances with secondhand shopping, doling out a few dollars here and there for the possibility of “striking it rich” and finding a wardrobe “workhorse.”
Crunching the Numbers
Those who have been reading this blog for a while know that I am big on tracking my wardrobe and calculating various statistics about what I buy and what’s in my closet. My wardrobe “benchwarmers” update earlier this week is a good example of that. But can you believe that I’ve never taken the time to analyze the success of my resale purchases? Maybe in the immortal words of Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men,” I couldn’t handle the truth!
Well, I am ready to look at the truth now and I’m sure it won’t all be bad. In this post, I look at my resale purchases for 2012-2014. I analyze which items were hits and which were misses and what might be the common characteristics of both groups. I also look at the resale “workhorses” that are in my wardrobe today. Finally, I compare my consignment shopping with my overall shopping to see if there is a difference in my success and failure rate. Lots of numbers – and quite a few pictures – ahead!
Words for Those Who Don’t Shop Resale
Before I move on, I want to mention a few things. Those of you who never do any secondhand shopping may feel as if you can’t relate to this post. However, the type of exploration and analysis I’m doing here can be applied to other kinds of shopping as well. Perhaps you buy a lot of your wardrobe pieces on sale or from a few particular stores or brands.
It might be worthwhile to take a look at your success rate in those areas, as I am doing for my resale purchases. You may find that you’re on the right track, or you may learn that you’re striking out far more often than you previously believed. In either case, the information you learn will help you to move forward more powerfully and purposefully, which is what I hope to do as well!
The Basic Numbers
Let’s start with some basic numbers relating to my resale purchases:
- So far in 2014, I’ve purchased 22 items from resale stores. This includes 13 garments and 9 accessories (3 pairs of earrings, 2 bracelets, 1 necklace, 1 belt, and 2 scarves).
- In 2013, I bought 23 items from resale stores: 19 garments and 4 pairs of shoes. I did not start tracking my accessory purchases until this year, but I know I bought at least a few pieces of secondhand jewelry last year, too.
- While I don’t have all of my 2012 data, I know I purchased at least 49 resale items that year (44 garments, 3 pairs of shoes, and 2 purses). The actual figure is likely much higher, but I can only go on the data I could find today.
Now let’s look at my success rates for these purchases, starting with 2012. Of the 49 items I bought secondhand that year, 43 are no longer in my wardrobe! Many of those items were either re-consigned or donated after only having been worn once or twice – or not at all. Looking at the image below, you’ll see that these items are all over the map in terms of color and style. Many of them were impulse buys that were not appropriate for my lifestyle (hello, corporate blazers, fancy tops, and itchy sweaters). What was I thinking? Or was I? I definitely didn’t put a lot of thought into what I was buying and I know I didn’t ask Bridgette Raes’ tried and true question,
Where are you going in that?”
I still have 6 of my 2012 resale buys and they have all been worn multiple times this year (none of them are “benchwarmers”). Four of these items are tank tops, one is a skirt, and one is a cardigan. They are all in my defined color palette and three include my favorite pattern, stripes. They all fit me very well, but four of them required fairly straightforward alterations, such as shortening straps.
As I mentioned above, I purchased 23 resale items last year. I no longer have 15 of those items, including three of the four pairs of shoes. While some of these pieces were in colors and styles I liked, many of them were risky purchases. Some needed too many alterations or were just “off” in terms of fit, fabrication, or color.
Looking at the photo below, I probably wouldn’t give many of these items a second look today. I have a much better sense of my preferred style aesthetic and what does and doesn’t look good on me, so I’m far more discerning about what I even try on in a resale – or retail – store these days.
Only three of the items I bought at consignment stores last year have been worn multiple times and could be considered successes. These items all include black and stripes, my dominant neutral and dominant pattern.
There are also five 2013 resale items that I’m on the fence about. The four garments were included in my wardrobe benchwarmer update. The shoes have been worn twice this year, but I don’t consider them to be an unequivocal “hit.” Most of these pieces are relatively dressy, which is the primary reason they haven’t been worn much. Of these purchases, my favorite is the polka-dot cardigan, which I believe would have been worn this summer had the weather not been so unbearably hot.
Of the 22 resale purchases I’ve made this year, at least five have been mistakes. The items shown below have either already left my closet or will soon (in the case of the blue jacket). The issue in all cases was fit, usually in terms of being too large (but the blue jacket was too small in that the sleeves weren’t long enough).
I definitely try to “make things work” too much when the price is very low. In the past, I would have made risky alterations on all of these items, but I only had one tailored this year (the grey skirt). Of course, it would have been better not to have purchased any of these pieces in the first place, but at least I’m not adding insult to injury as often as I used to.
In terms of good news, I feel that I made the right decision to buy the six items (3 garments and 3 pieces of jewelry) pictured below. Yes, the top and the coat are currently sitting in benchwarmer territory, but I really love both garments and believe I will wear them in the future (read more and see photos in this post).
The velvet coat may not get worn often, but I feel it looks great on me and is a classic style. The top is more versatile and I plan to wear it regularly once the weather cools down. The dress was a recent purchase, but I really like the style, fit, and comfort level. I believe it will be a winner. As for the jewelry pieces, they are already being worn regularly.
Most of the ten items shown below have not been worn yet and were all purchased fairly recently. The geometric print skirt has been worn a few times, but I’m not sure about it at this point. I liked it when I styled it for a dressier outfit, but was less thrilled with it for casual looks. I’m not yet sure whether I will keep it or pass it on, so it’s in the “uncertain” group. I can’t categorize the other items until I wear them, as we often don’t really know how we feel about something until we spend more than a few minutes with it on.
Resale Accessory Success
Although I’ve only been tracking my accessory purchases since earlier this year, I do have quite a few accessories that were bought at consignment stores and are serving me well. The photo below shows some of my favorite secondhand scarves and pieces of jewelry. Many of these items have been worn countless times and are loved as much or more than many of my retail accessory buys.
Although I don’t have the concrete statistics to prove it, I believe that I’ve experienced greater success with buying accessories at resale stores over garments and shoes. Of course, I still need to be careful not to overbuy in general or purchase too many similar pieces, but I believe that it’s far less risky for me to buy accessories at consignment shops over clothing.
Retail vs. Resale?
When looking at the information above, it might be tempting to conclude that I either shouldn’t shop at resale stores at all or I should confine such shopping only to accessories. But without looking at how I fared with my overall shopping, we only know part of the story. To fill in the gaps, I did a bit of number-crunching about both my resale and overall shopping.
Let’s look at 2013 first. I bought 76 total items last year. Of these items, 53% were successful purchases; that is, things that I still own and am wearing regularly. On the flip side, 36% of my 2013 purchases are no longer in my closet and can be considered shopping mistakes. Finally, the jury is still out on 11% of what I bought last year. Those items are among my closet benchwarmers and will either be integrated into my wardrobe rotation soon or passed along via donation or consignment.
My 2013 resale statistics are clearly worse than my overall shopping numbers. A full 65% of the consignment purchases I made last year are in the mistakes column, while only 13% can be considered successes. The remaining 22% are in benchwarmer territory and will be decided upon shortly. It’s clear to me that I would have been better off staying out of resale stores last year, as my track record was not very good!
Moving on to this year… I am happy with two-thirds of the items I’ve bought so far and I’m only dissatisfied with 14% of my total purchases. The remaining 20% have either not yet been worn (I bought a lot during July and August and the hot weather has prevented me from wearing these things) or are “on the bubble” at present, to be decided upon shortly. I have done much better with my shopping this year than in all previous years to date. Clearly, the work I’ve done through this blog has helped me to become a more conscious and successful shopper. Of course, I hope to continue to improve my success rate and decrease my number of mistakes in future months and years.
As for the resale shopping I’ve done this year, my success rate has not been quite as high. I regard 27% of my 2014 consignment purchases as successful, while 23% of what I bought were mistakes that have been purged from my closet. The remaining 50% sit in uncertain territory, mostly because they have yet to be worn.
My plan is to wear and evaluate all of my uncertain pieces within the next month and decide upon their fate. I no longer want to hold on to closet items for long periods of time without wearing them, as I definitely want to get the most mileage possible out of my wardrobe. If I’m not loving and wearing something, I want to pass it along to someone else who will.
So What Now?
The numbers show that while I’m improving upon my shopping success overall, I continue to struggle with resale purchases. I believe that’s because I still have a tendency to “settle” for the sake of getting a lower price. I also tend to veer off-course and buy items that aren’t on my shopping priorities list when shopping in consignment stores.
Does this mean I should stop shopping in resale stores completely? Some of you would probably answer that question in the affirmative, but I am not an all or nothing person. I don’t like to lay down strict edicts on myself and my behavior. I prefer to learn to use moderation in what I do. After years of eating disorders, starvation, and restriction, I no longer go on diets and I don’t forbid myself from eating any foods (except those things that give me migraines). Instead, I allow myself to eat whatever I want but mostly choose healthy foods. Occasionally, I eat so-called “junk food,” and I indulge my life-long sweet tooth in very small quantities (such as one piece of dark chocolate each day).
My peace with food was hard won and took me many years to reach. I’d like to reach that same type of peace with shopping. I started my recovering shopaholic process with a number of goals and rules, but I’d like to start easing up on some of these and focus less time and energy on “policing” myself. I’d like to cultivate a sense of moderation with the shopping that I do, and that includes resale shopping. So I’m not going to forbid myself from setting foot in a consignment store from this point forward. However, now that I have the numbers in black and white about my track record with secondhand buying, I’m going to proceed very cautiously.
I’ll likely make most of my purchases in retail establishments and only drop by a resale store once in a while. When I do visit such stores, I’ll be extra mindful about what I even try on, let alone buy. I will only buy things that will add something to my wardrobe and are rated at least an “8” on a scale of 1-10. I won’t settle for less just because an item is priced to sell and the risk is low. All of those little purchases add up and I could have bought at least a few high-ticket items had I just said no to those “close but no cigar” consignment buys from 2013 through to now.
It was very useful for me to review and analyze my resale purchases, as I’m now armed with information I didn’t have before. I can no longer delude myself into thinking that I don’t do all that bad with my secondhand shopping. I now know the truth – and I can handle it! Not only can I handle it, but it will help me to improve. When we know better, we can do better, and I intend to do just that!
I hope you enjoyed reading this post and found it helpful. If you’re not a resale shopper, I hope you were able to apply my analysis to some other area of your shopping. Part of why I share the bad and the ugly as well as the good on this blog is to normalize it. So often, people only share the positives with each other, such that we can end up thinking we’re the only ones who falter. Not true! We all make mistakes, but we can all grow from our foibles, too. We all have different strengths, weaknesses, and perspectives, and can learn a lot from each other.
If you’d like to share what you’ve learned about your own shopping through analyzing your successes and failures, I invite you to do so. If you have feedback for me, you’re welcome to share that, too. Just try to be respectful (most of you are and I appreciate that) and remember that I’m still learning. I’m still a recovering shopaholic on the path toward shopping less and enjoying more. There is now light at the end of the tunnel and I believe that eventually I’ll be able to trade my full closet for a full life!