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Some competition for my3dogs' Craigslist

14 years ago

Well, it's not exactly the same, but today's L.A. Times ran an article (below)on the trend of consignment selling/buying of furniture. While the businesses described focus on the Southern California area, there is still a lot of useful information in the article. Following it is a shorter article on online sources for pre-used furniture & descriptions of the sites, that should be useful to everyone.,0,5952353.story

From the Los Angeles Times


Consignment shops have a thriving market in recession

Buyers and sellers are increasingly turning to the businesses for big-ticket housewares at bargain prices these days.

August 8, 2009

The bidding was fast. Inside a packed showroom at Bonhams & Butterfields, auctioneer Carolyn Mani was moving quickly through lots of antique furniture, clocks and artwork. Images of the items flashed on overhead screens as Mani solicited bids, selling most items in less than a minute and often under their preauction estimates. A Japanese elm chest sold for $397. Six Louis XV chairs barely fetched $300 apiece, and a George III mahogany side table -- appraised at $500 to $700 -- hammered at $305.

In the world of used home furnishings, bargains are the order of the day. And one old idea that's gaining new prominence in the secondhand market: consignment.

Mani's Sunset Estate Auction at Bonhams is essentially a high-end consignment store that happens to open just once a month and use an auction to sell its wares. Across Southern California, however, other forms of consignment are becoming newly popular as buyers and sellers seek alternative ways to survive a bad economy.

No matter what you need or want -- vintage pianos, affordable baby furniture or midcentury collectibles -- it's a market that's thriving like few others.

"Since October of last year, I've seen an increase in the number of buyers looking for a great value," said Mani, director of the Sunset Estate Auction. "I'm also getting a huge increase in the amount of calls from people who want to sell property. The majority of people are looking to sell things of value if they have hit the wall with cash flow."

Throughout that Sunday afternoon, bidders would walk away with bargain after bargain. The hammer came down at $200 for a beautifully worn leather Art Deco chair, at $325 for an intricately detailed English oak desk, and at $150 for a petite tea table. In an hour, nearly 100 lots were sold at prices that often were below their auction estimates.

Though the term "consignment" often conjures images of resale shops selling women's clothing, it's an attractive option to sell big-ticket items such as furniture. The consignors own their property until it's sold, so the consignment store needn't tie up cash in inventory -- a plus for credit-strapped retailers finding it difficult to keep aisles stocked with merchandise. Sellers also retain their privacy, gain access to sophisticated shoppers and, if all goes well, earn higher profit than if they tried to unload the goods themselves.

The consignment procedure is similar whether you deal with an esteemed auctioneer or your corner resale store: You sign contracts that specify how buyer and seller will split the proceeds, how the final purchase price will be calculated and how unsold items will be handled.

The proceeds can be split any number of ways -- 50/50, 38/62, perhaps a sliding scale that changes according to the purchase price. Some consignment stores define the length of a contract and the conditions under which an item may be discounted.

Consignment furniture stores used to be more common in Los Angeles, where several were clustered among the antique stores and vintage boutiques on La Brea Avenue. Now only a few antique stores take on consigned items, usually as a favor to a needy customer, and only then if the item is special. Many of the region's larger consignment stores -- including the Home Consignment Center in Foothill Ranch, Laguna Niguel, Yorba Linda and Irvine, and the Consignment Warehouse in Westlake Village -- are located in upscale suburbs that fulfill the business model's call for newer homes, well-heeled clients and lower rents on large commercial buildings.

Palm Springs has long been a mecca for vintage furniture, culled from the many second homes and retirees' estates in the resort community. The recession has changed the customers whom Sharon Dean sees at Estate Sale Co., the 21-year-old consignment furniture shop she co-owns in Palm Springs.

"I walked out into our parking lot the other day and saw three cars -- the first was a Bentley, and the next two were Jaguars," she said. "It's not poor people who shop consignment; it's people who realize that retail maybe isn't the way to go."

Her 75,000-square-foot operation recently has been flooded by furniture from model homes and foreclosures. Prices are low enough that customers have snapped up half of her inventory every month, she said.

According to the National Assn. of Resale & Thrift Shops, stores that specialize in furniture make up one of the fastest-growing segments of the resale industry. Though the association doesn't track statistics on consignment apart from resale, all segments have seen a 31% rise in year-over-year sales. A third of the surveyed members said the quality of this year's new inventory was higher, too.

"There is a boom in every segment of this industry," said Adele Meyer, executive director of the trade association.

At his 15 Home Consignment Center stores in California, Nevada and Texas, co-owner Johnny Crowell estimates that an unprecedented 60% of his inventory is new or almost new. It comes from model homes, factory closeouts and furniture stores that are liquidating. Although business is bad for others, his stores are doing well.

"The typical store sells about 2,000 pieces every 30 days. Half of the product goes in the first two weeks," Crowell said. "That's the secret to surviving in this business -- price it so it goes quickly."

Discounts are significant for shoppers, who can expect to pay at least 50% to 75% less than the retail price. A $400 table might cost $100 to $150 at his stores. Now that more new furniture is in the mix, Crowell can suspend his "no upholstered items" policy and consumers can buy a new $2,500 leather couch for $700 to $800.

"The average piece of furniture sells today for about half of what it sold for last year," he said. "If you have money, this is probably the best time ever to buy furniture."

Though Bonhams typically deals with previously owned items, the auction house staged a July sale of new merchandise from high-end furniture maker Burton-Ching. The San Francisco-based manufacturer of 18th century antique reproductions recently consolidated its showrooms and contracted with Bonhams to dispense with the overflow.

"The estimates are anywhere from 50 to 80% less than the showroom cost," said Jeffrey Smith, Bonhams' North American director of furniture and decorative arts.

The group's starring piece, a George I-style red-and-gold lacquered bookcase, sold for $6,710, far less than the $25,000 to $30,000 original retail price.

Some fancy family heirlooms are now getting a cold, hard reappraisal by their inheritors. Ornate European furniture fills the two floors of the Eclectics Auction House, a large consignment and auction house that opened this spring across from the Beverly Center. Auctioneer Melissa Taraneh said many of her consignors have fallen on hard times.

"A lot of people are doing whatever they can to find ways to turn things into money," she said.

Consignment stores also offer manufacturers and their wholesalers a less conspicuous way to liquidate furniture that might otherwise compete with their retail accounts. That's partly why the inventory at the Consignment Warehouse in Westlake Village is filling with new furniture from stores and showrooms that are shutting down and consolidating, store founder Mike Pegler said.

It is with some despair that he describes how he's also more frequently helping private sellers salvage value from the furnishings of their foreclosed homes or raise cash from a family heirloom. He sees his store as providing a service to those sellers.

"Often, this is a way to make people feel better about letting it go," Pegler said. "It's being shopped by a clientele that recognizes a bargain and the quality. The sellers know that they will get decent money for it. But they really want it to be appreciated and go into a home that's worthy.

"To a lot of people, that's almost more important than the money.",0,831350.story

From the Los Angeles Times

For resale furniture finds, dare to go beyond Craigslist

Lushpad, Kijiji and Fyndes are just a few of the websites dealing in second-hand (but often high quality) furniture and antiques.

August 8, 2009

Sure, you've heard of EBay and Craigslist, but what about V&M or Fyndes? The market has seen a proliferation of websites selling secondhand furnishings:


Currently listed:One seller is offering this solid-wood Pottery Barn armoire large enough to fit a 42-inch TV. Seller says he purchased it for $2,199. Starting bid: $200.

What to expect: The mother of all resale sites. Inventory is huge -- a plus for some, a minus for others. Not all sellers offer accurate descriptions. A recent search for "Eames" produced nearly 5,000 results, few of which were actually designs by midcentury icons Charles and Ray Eames. Buying at auction can save money, but the process can be time-consuming -- and less than enjoyable.


Currently listed: A 90-inch-long Strut table from the modern design studio Blu Dot. Writes the seller: "Retails for $1,299.00. The frame is powder-coated steel, and the surface has a durable polyurethane finish." Price: $700.

What to expect: Welcome to the jungle. If it's all about the thrill of the hunt and the limitations of a budget, this is the place to find local bargains -- especially if you like catalog castoffs or used mattresses (ewww). Descriptions and photos can be annoyingly incomplete and downright misleading. Many ads are cheap furniture stores offering desperation discounts. Use search terms like "Danish modern" and "midcentury" to filter out the junk.


Currently listed: "Antique imported from India bench. I paid $600, yours for $200 or best offer," writes a seller in Studio City.

What to expect: This free local classifieds site looks like EBay, functions like Craigslist. It's searchable by categories such as "antiques, vintage" and "furniture, dor." (Those categories combined had about 1,500 items listed recently.) It's also searchable by regions, such as downtown, Ventura and South Bay. Photos and prices are displayed gallery style, 18 to a page, and clicking on items leads to concise descriptions with e-mail contacts for sellers and a link to their other listings. A bit of a grab bag but still worth checking out.

1st Dibs

Currently listed: 1960s Gio Ponti armchair manufactured by Cassina and used at the Parco Dei Principi hotel in Rome. Price: $14,500.

What to expect: Gaga for some Gio Ponti? You'll find it at this site, positioned as the place where high-end interior decorators find beautifully restored designer furniture from the nation's elite (some might even say elitist) retailers. Loaded with feature articles and other content, the site can be searched by location, designer and product category. Listings are exhaustively detailed, but some require contacting the dealer directly for prices. (And if you have to ask, you probably can't afford it.)


Currently listed: Midcentury iron mesh bar cart with glass on both levels and original casters. Price: $595.

What to expect: This 3-year-old site represents 120 retailers targeting decorators and collectors. A rival to 1st Dibs, V&M is smaller and less expensive but no less valuable. The site is designed for those who want to search visually -- looking at thumbnails captioned with prices rather than drop-down menus. Strong in vintage and modern, as its name suggests, V&M offers furniture and lighting that can be searched by style, era, country of origin and material. Additional pages focus on art, textiles and collectibles, all with descriptions written with expertise.


Currently listed: "Galley Proof Press With Hand Roller c.1890, as Console Table." Price: $1,550.

What to expect: In a setup similar to 1st Dibs and V&M, about two dozen dealers of antiques and vintage furniture, many of them from the L.A. area, offer their used wares in an "antiques" section that can be filtered by centuries or categories such as seating and carpets/rugs. A recent search yielded nearly 300 rather desirable items in styles such as Victorian, bohemian-ethnic and 1950s modern at fixed prices that start low and run well into the four-figures.


Currently listed: 1960s Marco radio (inoperable) in the shape of a globe. Price: $300.

What to expect: For the time- and cash-strapped modern and contemporary décor shopper, this fledgling site has the populist structure of EBay without the headache of bidding. Anyone can post "for sale" or "wanted" ads for a small fee (free to $12, depending on the type of listing and price of the item). Descriptions by the mostly West Coast sellers tend to be accurate, and fixed, fair prices allow for instant purchases. Stock is a fraction of what's available on EBay and other sites, but most of it is worth a gander.

Former Furniture

Currently listed: Eero Saarinen swivel chairs with his tulip base. Price: $900 for set of three; offers accepted.

What to expect: This site features showroom designs and interior decorators' custom work, as well as the kind of previously owned items one might find at 90210 estate sales. Easy to navigate by category, the sometimes-slim inventory is sold on consignment; nonretailers pay a 40% commission to the site. That can translate to higher prices, but some items feature a "motivated seller" button that allows buyers to haggle.

Here is a link that might be useful: Buying furniture sold on consignment

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