It all stemmed from a worry that came to Erica Fallon when she was pregnant with her first child.
How were they going to afford it?
“It was surprising to me how many things you needed to buy that you then have to get rid of after a couple of months when they grow out of it,” Fallon says of having kids.
So she came up with a plan. Fallon started a children’s consignment sale, Harford Kids Consignment, where people can have the option to clean out their closets and make a little money, or shop for new and second-hand items at discounted prices.
The idea took off.
She started with a spring and a fall sale at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Bel Air. She added a third sale every November two years ago due to popular demand.
The increase in popularity isn’t just apparent for Fallon. Large-scale consignment events are taking off locally and nationally, and a 2016 report from First Research estimates that used merchandise is a $17 billion industry.
“It’s an interesting concept that not many people knew about in the beginning,” says Fallon, who has now been running her sale for seven years.
Lori Oliphant, owner of Growing Kids Mart, has seen so much growth in her own local consignment sale since her first event four years ago that she is moving this spring’s sale to a larger location.
Her sale has grown from a few friends consigning to now about 100 consigners and 10,000 to 15,000 items.
“Last year I had to cut off our consigners because we had limited space,” says the Fallston resident, who has moved her sale from the Bel Air Moose Lodge to Jarrettsville Gardens near the Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company house.
The concept is simple. Consigners sign up online, input the information and price of what they want to sell and print out tags with unique barcodes for each item.
Oliphant says the ease of signing up and the appeal of selling items in a safe place are part of what makes her sale successful.
“It’s really easy to list all of your items and have them ready to go before it is time to drop them off,” she says. “It’s also a much safer way of selling those items you want to clean out of your home. It’s much safer than exchanging payment information online with strangers or meeting someone in a parking lot.”
Melissa Krawczyk created her consignment sale, Maryland Fashion Exchange, after realizing that there was a void in the selection for women at local consignment sales.
“I was selling my kids’ stuff at one of those sales, and I thought, ‘This is really great,’ but what was missing were clothes for women themselves,” Krawczyk says. “I had some of my own items, including pre-pregnancy clothes that didn’t fit anymore, and I really needed a little extra money.”
Krawczyk has always had two sales each year, but due to popularity and requests for other dates, she is expanding this year to include a third sale in July.
“I thought that adding a sale in a different month will help shoppers and consigners navigate another season by either adding or getting rid of some summer clothes,” Krawczyk says.
Harford Kids Consignment, Growing Kids Mart and Maryland Fashion Exchange all have similar deals for consigners. The sale organizers get 40 percent of the sale price of each item, while the seller gets 60 percent.
Consigner registration for each event is a flat $7 fee for Growing Kids Mart and Maryland Fashion Exchange. It’s $6.50 for Harford Kids Consignment.
After the sales, consigners have an opportunity to either pick up their items or donate them to local charities. The sale owners take truckloads of what’s left to those in need.
Harford Kids Consignment and Maryland Fashion Exchange have a “dollar dash” at the end of their sales after the consigners have had a window of time to pick up their items, giving shoppers that one last shot at scooping up deals.
“It’s really fun to see people scoop up full bags of things for a cheap price,” Krawczyk says.
At Harford Kids Consignment, they often get a long line waiting for the doors to reopen for the “dash.”
“We usually have a line of 45 to 50 people waiting to get in,” Fallon says. “People love it.”
Shopper and consigner Anne Edquist of Forest Hill is especially looking forward to the children’s sales this year. She is pregnant and will know her baby’s gender by the time Growing Kids Mart comes around for a baby-shopping spree.
“I’m so excited to hit the racks this spring,” Edquist says. “It’s super easy to shop and no one’s bugging you like in retail stores sometimes.”
When it comes to running the sale, it’s now a family affair for Fallon, who homeschools her three children and even pays her 8-year-old son to help work the sale.
“He greets customers and helps at the register,” Fallon says. “When you’re homeschooling, everything is a lesson.”
Oliphant, who once worked at a financial institution, says that running the sale has been a life-changing opportunity for her.
“I had a regular full-time job and when I had my second child, I said I’m going to take some time off and be with my kids, and the sale seemed like an exciting thing to do at the time,” Oliphant says. “I never looked back, and it’s been amazing.”