Isn’t it amazing how quickly babies and kids of all ages outgrow clothes, toys and gear? Repurchasing a whole new wardrobe, plus all the seasonal accessories, developmentally appropriate toys and extracurricular items your child needs can dig a deep hole in your budget.
Consignment and resale to the rescue! With some ground rules, a smart approach and a nose for a good deal, you can save a bundle and have the most prepared, well-appointed kid in town.
Here’s a guide to the most popular basics to buy cheaply second-hand with tips for getting the most out of the consignment/resale experience.
Pajamas and kids' sleepwear
Sleepy newborns might as well spend all of their time in footed pajamas, and potty-training preschoolers always need some spare pj’s in case of an emergency. Consignment shops have a bounty of cheap jammies, and often pj's for both young'uns and older kids are barely used. Look for high-end all-cotton jammies free of chemical fire-retardant at a fraction of the new price.
Consignment shopping tip: Carefully assess quality
Stores strive to only put out saleable, like-new items on the floor, but be sure to check for yourself.
Review clothing. Look at stress points, pocket attachments, knee areas and seams. Double check they are free of stains, tears and pilling. All buttons, zippers and snaps should be intact.
For toys and gear, make sure all parts and pieces are accounted for and everything functions properly.
Kids' rain boots, snow gear, swim and seasonal wear
In shoulder seasons, waterproof boots are a must-have, and winter requires extra warmth. During the summer, check to see if old boots fit so you can keep an eye out for another pair.
Little skiers will always need snow coats and pants in the next size up.
And, off-season swimwear is a popular request but often not on display in cold months, so ask your shop for assistance.
Consignment shopping tip: Always ask
“Always ask if you don’t see something,” says Wendy Powell, owner of Childish Things in Seattle. “We have probably twice as much stuff in our back room as we do on our racks, including off-season items.”
Many shops keep wish lists and will contact you if an item you have requested comes in.
Kids' musical instruments
Kids are dabblers by nature, and that's a good thing. But the process of trying so many pursuits in search of a passion can cost a pretty penny. Consignment is a great way to try out musical tastes without too much investment.
For a baby, toddler or young child, allow them to choose whatever instrument interests them tactically. For an older child, enlist them to help in the search for the perfect instrument based on a short list of requirements. With some hunting you can find guitars, drums, wind and string instruments at a discount, both kiddie versions and the real deal.
Consignment shopping tip: Check carefully
Instruments might be cheap because they are broken or don't play well. If you have an older student who knows how to play, have them test the instrument. If a small repair is needed, price it at a local music shop, because it might still be cheaper to buy a broken instrument and fix it than purchase a new one.
Children's dancewear, specialty shoes and sports gear
Specialty clothing rarely gets worn-out and in most cases can be eye-poppingly expensive at specialty supply stores. Check with your child’s instructor or coach to see if there is any guidance on clothing and gear. Ballet outfits and shoes, gymnastics suits, and a wide range of sports and protective gear for soccer, football, lacrosse, swimming and more can be found cheaply on consignment.
Consignment shopping tip: What not to buy
Avoid broken or overly worn equipment with cracks or tears, monitors, electronics, personal items (like breast pumps, unless the tubing system can be replaced or sanitized), cribs, car seats and anything potentially involved in a recall.
Books, puzzles and name-brand toys
Quality brands are great finds, like Duplo/Lego, Melissa & Doug, American Girl, Leap Frog, Plan Toys, Green Toys, Boikido and Manhattan Toys.
“Toys continue to have a quite a bit of life in them,” explains Rachel Kalous, owner of Jack & Jill Consignment in Seattle.
With planning, parents can do a lot of holiday shopping via consignment and simultaneously unload old, unwanted toys to make space for the new.
Selling consignment tip: Consignment versus resale
In consignment, the item belongs to you until it is sold, and then the store takes a percentage of the sale price. Typically you will need to wait a few months for the money.
In resale, the store offers an amount up-front for the entire lot without a breakdown and the profit per piece is entirely theirs. A resale store may be choosier about items since they take on all the front-end risk, while consignment stores can cast a wider net with inventory since their risk is minimal.
Baby toys, gear & nursery items
You may not know that you need a swing or exersaucer until you really need it.
Likewise, a gently used play yard or travel crib becomes standard equipment as activities and travel options expand.
When the outdoors beckon, jogging and high-end strollers are especially popular in addition to umbrella strollers for travel.
Keep an eye out for the next developmental stage, check equipment well for cracks or wear especially at joints and seams, and avoid recalled gear.
Selling consignment checklist: How to resell once you're done
● Launder clothing and check that everything else is clean.
● Organize clothes by gender, size and season.
● Put together sets (like top and bottom outfits, onesie sets, socks or underwear).
● Edit your collection. Bring only your best stuff — stores are very discriminating.
● Determine if you want to go through a store, a large event sale, or an online option.
● If you use a store, find out if they pay out in cash, store credit or both.
High quality kids' shoes on the cheap
Look for brands like See Kai Run, Primigi, Umi, Pediped, Lelli Kelly and Keen.
For those who are concerned about the condition or hygiene of second-hand shoes, Wendy Powell of Childish Things notes that they receive many pairs that have rarely or never been worn.
Selling consignment tip: Get organized to consign
Presenting things in an organized manner helps the consignment shop see that you take care of your items and allows them to see everything quickly and easily.
● Follow any specific policies on making appointments, the quantity/type of items and any other presentation requirements.
● Try layering items flat in a clear storage bin, instead of crumpled up in a garbage bag.
● Place any parts, manuals or accessories in a large, labeled Ziplock bag and keep it with the gear or toy.
● You can expect to receive 40–60% of the sale price but read the fine print — sometimes the payout is only for store credit.
Boutique or unique kids' clothing
You’ll find an abundance of infant clothes, but size 2 and up are in high demand.
Look for quality brands like Naartjie, Pumpkin Patch, Tea Collection, Oilily, Gymboree, Gap, Hanna Andersson and Mini Boden.
Selling consignment tip: Try a consigning event
Brick-and-mortar stores abound for consignment and resale but there are also big events that invite hundreds of consignors and customers to a large space (e.g. convention centers or community centers) for a major weekend sale.
● You’ll be able to sell many more items with control over pricing and presentation.
● Commission percentage is 65–80% of sale price (People who volunteer at the sale get higher percentages).
● For those extra commission points, hanging, pricing, tagging and cataloguing is all your responsibility.
● Keep in mind the selling window is usually no more than a weekend and items ultimately need to be priced to sell.
● Make sure items hang nicely from the top of the hanger and don’t slide to one side, because hundreds of competing items are on the racks next to yours.
Large outdoor and ride-on toys
As the weather warms up, bikes, ride-on toys and outdoor climb-on toys are popular, though some stores have space constraints that limit if they stock this category. Look for brands like Little Tykes, KidKraft, Step2, Kettler, Skuut and Radio Flyer.
Selling consignment tip: Scan the store
Wendy Powell of Childish Things reminds consignors that just because they see an identical item to theirs in the store, it doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to be chosen.
“If it’s on the rack, it isn’t sold,” she notes.
Seattle-area kids consignment & resale stores
Childish Things (Crown Hill)
Me N’ Moms (Ballard)
Wish Upon (Magnolia — Opens this month!)
Kids on 45th (Wallingford)
Sugarlump (Madison Valley)
smallclothes (West Seattle)
Sela’s Small Couture (Queen Anne)
Sweet Pea’s (Columbia City)
Retroactive Kids (Columbia City)
Le Petit Shoppe (U Village)
Hopscotch Consignment Boutique (Bellevue)
Tree House for Kids (Redmond)
Cruzin Kids (Woodinville)
Kali Sakai is a Seattle-based freelance writer and an avid consignor of stuff her two young children outgrow.