Work to shop strategy makes sense

My Friend‘s Closet consignment sale of ladies clothing and accessories opens on Sept. 21(Photo: Submitted Photo)

For most businesses, finding good enthusiastic workers, and the money to pay them, is one of the biggest challenges.

But these popup seasonal consignment sales seem to have cleverly solved the labor problem and virtually eliminated that pesky expense by getting their most eager shoppers to happily fill shifts in exchange for early shopping privileges at the sales.

The model, which most of the sales use these days, is sort of a “will work to shop” concept.

Connie Hasty and Russie Carter,  who started their ENCORES consignment sales in the summer of 1993, manage to fill more than 120 six-hour shifts with volunteers who are itching to take advantage of the early shopping perk.

“The more they work, the earlier they get to shop,” said Hasty, who said some of her volunteers work as many as 40 hours in order to get first dibs on the children‘s merchandise, which is consigned by more than 600 consignors.

Encores South sales, whose children‘s sale opens to the public on Sept. 17, and adult sale opens 10 days later, has lots of different levels of volunteering, including some where husbands or grandparents work a few shifts to give the super shopper moms extra points toward early access. Hasty and Carter also offer other worker perks like waived fees and gift certificates to the volunteers who work at the higher levels.

The shifts range from the “Red Shift” that requires four hours of work to get  access to the merchandise before the consignors pre-sale and the public sales, all the way up to the highest level, the Blue Shift,  which requires 40 hours of work and gets you in to both sales before anybody else shops them. Plus Blue Shift workers get a $50 gift certificate and a waiver of their consignment fee ($14-$20) as extra rewards for their long hours.

Hasty says volunteers jump at the chance to put in their hours in exchange for the prime access. “They love it because they save money by shopping early. And they have fun working it.” Plus, she said, they enjoy being able to shop “in a quiet, relaxed environment with a small number of people” as opposed to the hectic public sale opening days.

Hasty said the weekend shifts are are easy to fill because people are off work, but the weekdays are a little harder. “So we have some who take a day off to volunteer,” she said, noting that most of the volunteer jobs are on the sales floor — stocking, organizing, setting up tables, cleaning, checking customers out and handling other sales issues, but there are also a few who barter services or bring food, help with social media, deliver racks etc.

“It takes a lot of people and a lot of shifts to cover two weeks,” said Hasty.

A smaller sale, Kathy Sellers and Marla Armstrong‘s My Friend‘s Closet, also makes good use of a willing  volunteer workforce.

“We have about 20 ‘friends‘ who volunteer,” said Kathy Sellers, whose sale is coming up Sept. 21-22, featuring ladies clothing, shoes, jewelry, handbags and other accessories. “They want to work (as volunteers). It is worth it to them because the volunteers get to shop before the consignors and we have so much good merchandise.”

This really is a successful  business model, keeping the sale‘s costs down and rewarding hard working wannabe shoppers with the first picks!

Stay cheap!

Reach Ms. Cheap at. Follow her on Facebook at facebook/mscheap, and at Tennessean/mscheap, and on Twitter , and catch her every Thursday at 11 a.m. on WTVF-Channel 5’s “Talk of the Town.”

Sales are Not just for Kids 

The fall/winter consignment season usually consists of dozens of children‘s consignment sales, but there are a few popup consignment sales for grown ups too. Here are three that you should check out in the next few weeks.:  

My Friends Closet sale of consignment ladies clothing, shoes and accessories is 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Sept. 21 and 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Sept. 22 at the Hunterwood Clubhouse off Hillsboro Road in Brentwood.  Sale organizers Kathy Sellers and Marla Armstrong expect to have 100 consignors and the merchandise runs the gamut from Target to boutique brands, with sizes from 0-14. Sellers said shoppers are particularly excited this season about the Kayce Hughes inventory (new merchandise with tags still on) that will be included in the sale. “There are lots of designer items at cheap prices,” she said.  For more information,  

The Ladies of Charity fall sale, where all of the workers are volunteers and where the sale proceeds go to help the needy in the community, sells consigned clothing and accessories for men, women and children. The sale opens Sept. 23 and runs Mondays through Saturdays through Nov. 5. at the shop, 2216 State St. 

Encores South adult and home goods sale opens at 7 pm. on Sept. 27 and runs through Oct. 1 in the former Piggly Wiggly store at 1022 Columbia Avenue in Franklin. Typically there are about 300 consignors in this sale, which includes men‘s and women‘s clothing and furniture and all sorts of housewares and home decor. (Encores also has a children‘s consignment sale that opens to the public at 11 a.m. on Sept. 17 and runs through Sept. 24 in the same location.)

Kelley Beaman and her fashionista friends will have their fall sale of high end ladies clothing, shoes and accessories,  from 8:30 a.m.- 6 p.m. on Oct. 7 and from 8 a.m. – noon on Oct. 8 in the Auxiliary Gymnasium at Montgomery Bell Academy at 4001 Harding Pike. The sale usually includes 30 consignors and thousands of pieces of ladies clothing (through size 12) and jewelry, as well as shoes and handbags and a large selection of jeans.  There are $1 bins all the way up to ball gowns priced at more than $1,000. Details:   

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