Wardrobe Change

Back Bay consignment shops make room for fall fashions

WHILE MANY OF US ARE DESPERATELY grasping on to the last weeks of the summer for some, fall is already here. The fall collections are already showing at the high-end clothing shops on Newbury Street and beyond, but savvy Back Bay shoppers know that the way to buy designer for less is to hit the consignment stores. Newbury Street is home to two well-know designer consignment shops — Second Time Around and The Closet -- where a lucky shopper can snap up an almost-new Birkin bag or Chanel suit for a fraction of the original retail cost.

This time of year is particularly busy at the Back Bay’s consignment shops, with both Second Time Around and The Closet clearing their racks of summery tank tops to make way for cashmere sweaters and shearling coats. Second Time Around and The Closet are consignment shops — not thrift stores

so expect never or gently worn designer label clothing, none more than two years old. Also expect prices marked down to a third or a fourth off the original retail price.

Second Time Around offers two floors of men, women’s and maternity clothing. Manager Marissa MacNoughton says a shopper can find anything from designer T-shirts to gowns straight off the runway. Recently, four Hermes bags (quickly) sold to customers who knew these handbags normally sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

“Our customers can always depend on top quality clothing at great prices,” MacNoughton says.

The Closet began as a men’s clothing store, but now about 70 percent of its business is in women’s clothing, says Manager Robert Van Giels. He says consigners from all over the country send in hundreds of new pieces a day, so the store’s inventory is always changing. For shoppers who have a few hours to dig through the organized — though cramped — racks, deals are just waiting to be discovered.

“We’re not the most glamorous-looking store, but the things we get in — it’s unbelievable,” he says. “And we’re not the biggest store on the street, but we have the most merchandise per square foot.

Gucci and Prada abound, as do designer tees from trendy labels such as Splendid. Recently, Van Giels says a beautiful Louis Vuitton handbag was snatched up for more than $300 less than its $900 retail price. And he still remembers an Armani Black Label beaded shirt that was sold three years ago for much, much less than its original price.

Consigners at both stores make money once their merchandise is sold — and they split the profit with the store 50/50. Consigners need to make an appointment, and all merchandise is closely inspected and only accepted if it meets standards. Both stores have built reputations and relationships with consigners and shoppers over their decades in the business.

The first Second Time Around store opened in Newton 35 years ago, and now there are 12 stores in New England, with the’ Newbury Street store serving as the headquarters. The Closet is entering its 30th year in business.

This success is also indicative of the larger growth trend resale industry in general. According to the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, the multi-billion dollar industry is experiencing growth of approximately 5 percent.

With the current focus on reusing and recycling and continued obsession with fashion and style, the consignment business may continue to grow.

“If there’s something specific you’re looking for and we don’t have it today, hopefully we’ll have it here tomorrow,” Van Giels says. “The wonder of consignment is there’s something new every day.”

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