Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 9
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
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Three Area Thrift, Re-sale, Consignment Stores Report Increased Activity In Leaner Times

Ellen Gilbert

In the business of both taking in and selling goods, thrift and consignment stores are apt economic barometers. The Nearly New Shop on Nassau Street, the One-Of-A-Kind Consignment Gallery at the Princeton Shopping Center, and the Princeton Consignment Boutique in Skillman have all seen an increase in activity at their stores.

Manager Moira Mittnacht said that since the fiscal downturn, she has seen more customers come into the Nearly New Shop to purchase clothing. “University students have always been a steady customer base here, since they’re looking for funky, vintage, theme-party stuff” but more recently she’s been seeing “more families with children,” particularly because “kids grow out of things so fast.”

But while more people are coming through the doors, Ms. Mittnacht has had to lower the prices on many items “because the ‘real’ stores have lowered theirs.” Since about 75 percent of the clothes and accessories in the store have been donated, she said it’s possible to lower the prices. “We’ve been here for 50 years, and people want to donate to us,” she added, noting that there is an increased incentive since the donations are tax-deductible.

Saying that she has seen a slight decline in the amount of goods donated to the shop more recently, Ms. Mittnacht is still adding over 200 items a day to the assembly of things sold there, and turnover continues to be fairly rapid. “If it’s here for 6 weeks, we pass it along to Goodwill,” she said.

Profits from Nearly New’s sales benefit the Princeton Day School’s scholarship fund.

Reporting similarly lively activity, Jan Gutowski of the One-Of-A-Kind Consignment Gallery, which primarily sells furniture, said that last October was “a record month for the store” and that November and December were also busy.

Consignment stores are different from thrift stores in that they sell products in conjunction with the person who brought the items in, and money from the sale is split between the individual and the store 50-50.

The process is something “that has always been good for people who are moving,” said Ms. Gutowski, and since the downturn she has seen an increase in people wanting to sell things. “The biggest change we saw was with stuff coming in, and many high-end pieces,” she said, adding that from the consignment perspective, it is evident that “people are making changes in their lives, either moving, relocating, or downsizing.”

On the other side of the process, sales have increased as well, Ms. Gutowski reported, saying that “people find this is a good option to still get really nice, quality things and save a little money.”

“We really feel like we provide a service to people looking for a place to sell things,” Ms. Gutowski observed, noting that many find consigning useful in leaner economic times.

These are apparently greener times too. “We were born green, and will be green for the rest of our life,” joked Lamis Faris, who runs the Princeton Consignment Boutique. She sees the store as a means by which to recycle clothing and accessories. “The whole concept of recycling clothing is like wearing your sister’s hand-me-downs, except this is better, because you choose only the ones you want.”

Characterizing the consignment industry as a “community service business,” Ms. Faris has noticed an increase of people partaking of the service, in terms of the volume of customers, and people wanting to consign their clothes.

She and many consigners have agreed that given the fiscal climate it is “important that people get a break” and thus have scaled back prices. “We know that everybody is hurting,” she said, and “we owe this to our customers and community.”

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