Business Spotlight: Finders Keepers

Finders Really Are Keepers

How to buy and sell resale like a pro

WHAT WAS ONCE a market geared only for the cost-conscious, resale has become a shopping staple for a broader audience. In addition to spending less, second-hand shopping offers vintage finds, hyper originality and a more sustainable alternative to fast fashion.

“It’s really a win-win,” said Lee Ann Willis who owns Finders Keepers, a series of shops that offer slightly used furnishings and fashion and boutique apparel for men and women. “You get an original look that’s sustainable. And it’s good for your wallet.”

Willis credits more people getting into the stores and being surprised at the quality and price points. She said Generation Z’s efforts to be part of the climate solution are also creating a broader market for resale.

The pandemic has financially affected these stores depending on their products. Willis reports that being home more for work and school has brought customers getting desks for their kids or rethinking their living and working spaces. Outdoor spaces are also becoming more important.

At the same time, canceled social gatherings and reduced shopping has affected apparel shops negatively. Willis expressed hope that with the vaccine and the world slowly opening up, people will have more occasions to shop for.

A few things to consider before you shop:

Buyer Tip #1:

Treat it like a treasure hunt

Think about the shop as 100% one-ofa-kind. While it means you can’t try on a different size of the same item, it also means you are guaranteed an original look. Having a strategy will keep you focused on a find.

You’re also buying a story and memory. Willis explains that she once found a green coat by Anthropologie. “People ask about it all the time, and I love telling them how I got it,” she said. “These are the kinds of purchases people remember and feel good about for years.”

Buyer Tip #2: Know the trends

You’re more likely to find a larger variety of the things that are on-trend, according to Willis. Because the store is sourced locally, it’s a reflection of the community and what’s going on. For Finders Keepers, the sourced demographic keeps the inventory very eclectic.

She reports that for home furnishings the top sellers are desks, dining sets, and sofas and chairs. Trending right now in apparel is athleisure, flats and sneakers.

When turnover is high, don’t expect additional discounts and plan on being decisive.

Buyer Tip #3:

Avoid buyer’s remorse

The first step of making sure you’re sure to love your find later is to ask good questions, just like you would if you were paying full price. Then ask whether it’s the item you love or the bargain.

Once you believe the item is meant to be yours, do a thorough inspection to make sure it’s in the condition you’re expecting.

Buyer Tip #4:

Get to know the staff

No one knows the store better than those who spend hours with the inventory. And they want to move that inventory.

“The staff love helping people pull together a look,” Willis said, adding that “one of our managers used to be a personal stylist. They know what we have and what would go well together.”

In a time where social interactions are sparse, Willis added that her customers call her shops their “happy place” because “they know us, they can relax and have fun.”

Seller Tip #1: Don’t take the price or acceptance personally

According to Willis, stores have to be very selective about what they take in, which helps both the store and the seller. “If it won’t sell, it’s a lot of work for us in stocking and housing the item,” she said. “No one makes anything from it.”

Trends and seasonality affect the selection process. It can be the right item at the wrong time, or a factor of changing times. For instance, Willis commented on entertainment centers and curio cabinets. “It’s rare for us to carry one. People get their TVs mounted now, and they don’t collect as much,” she said.

Seller Tip #2: Ask good questions before you go

Sometimes sellers hold onto how much they paid for something rather than its current market value. Willis suggests asking, “Would I spend money on this again?” before considering consigning it.

Willis said that clothing needs to be seasonal and on-trend. Manufacturers change their labels over time and the store managers follow these updates to ensure their inventory stays fresh with the times. Willis suggests that items be in “awesome shape with no stains or tears.”

On-trend typically means sold in the past two years, she said, adding that there are always exceptions for high-demand designers or items considered vintage.

She suggests for furniture that a picture be sent ahead of time.

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