If you enjoy scavenging for bargains, you might have what it takes to start your own resale business. Adele Meyer, manager of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, says the number of thrift and resale shops has been growing among people of all income levels, thanks to the popularity of recycling. "The days of conspicuous consumption are gone," she says. "There's no longer a stigma attached to thrift shops. People are proud to be thrifty."
Jared and Debbie Kelner of Santa Clara, California, who have two young children, spent eight months and $1,000 stockpiling children's clothing, toys, books, shoes and videos they purchased at flea markets and yard sales. "We wanted a business where we could work together and watch the kids," explains Jared, 26. "We really wanted to keep the family together, and we saw this business as a way to do it."
When the Kelners had collected a healthy supply of used items, they converted their garage into a makeshift shop and put ads in local papers. The rewards were greater than they expected: The Kelners made $3,000 their first day.
Convinced they were onto something, they used $7,000 from a savings account to open The Well Dressed Baby, a children's resale shop, in mid-1997. Less than a year later, the shop has grossed $240,000, and the Kelners hope to open five more stores within three years. "There's a real need for this," Kelner says. "People want to dress their kids nicely, but they don't have the money to buy new clothing."
The biggest challenge for a children's resale business is maintaining quality merchandise. The Well Dressed Baby accepts only name-brand clothing, such as Gymboree and Baby Gap, that's in excellent condition. Customers whose clothing passes muster receive store credit, while the Kelners sell the clothing for 30 percent to 40 percent of the retail cost.