Recently, consignment ‘warehouses’ offering used clothes at affordable prices have become increasingly appealing to shoppers, consigners and intermediate consignees alike.
Consignment or ‘warehouse’ stores are retail outlets that stock and sell goods on a sale-or-return basis, or through an agent working on a commission basis.
Modeled after well-known consignment chains around the world, including Second Time Around and Once Upon A Child, such stores in large Vietnamese cities have served as middlemen connecting consigners who no longer want their used items with shoppers on the hunt for inexpensive, trendy brands.
The model, which takes in a wide range of second-hand articles, including clothing items, accessories, cosmetics, kids’ toys and even household appliances, is believed to have first appeared in Hanoi and later expanded to other large cities, including Hai Phong in the north, Da Nang in the central region, and Ho Chi Minh City in the south.
Shops booming in Ho Chi Minh City
On a recent weekend morning, a 60-square-meter Give Away shop, located in Binh Thanh District, was packed with dozens of eager youths hunting for their favorite items.
Many had waited patiently for half an hour to get in before the shop opened at 9:00 am.
Minh Trang, a student, said that she prefers going to consignment stores than to flea markets, which are typically brimming with people and offer too many items to choose from.
Hong Loan, 23, the owner of the Give Away shop, has brought the best out of her space with neat rows of attire and footwear, visually-striking décor and a cozy atmosphere.
Her clientele are mostly youngsters and families.
At 7:00 pm another day, Second Chance Shop, situated in District 1 in the city’s downtown, was teeming with young shoppers perusing brand fashion items.
Meanwhile, used goods offered at Consignista Shop in District 3 looked as good as new.
Dozens of shoppers were still inside the store as it approached closing time.
A number of consignment outlets, including Ustore in Tan Phu District, only receive goods based on the trust of their business colleagues.
Goods consignment can also be conducted online as some intermediary consignees cannot afford a physical retail space.
According to Loan, the Give Away Shop owner, as long as their items are in good order, of good quality and not obsolete, consigners can suggest their own prices.
After fixing rates ranging from VND30,000 (US$1.3) to VND150,000 ($6.6) apiece, consigners can receive sums from the sale of their items with the shops’ commissions deducted after 40 to 70 days.
Ngoc Hang, 25, Second Chance Shop owner, revealed that the model has allowed middlemen consignees to run their business with only a small investment.
“Consigned items sell relatively well thanks to a diverse mix of styles and materials and affordable prices compared to their brand-new counterparts,” she explained.
Loan said she has opened two Give Away subsidiaries in Ho Chi Minh City and another in Hanoi.
Consignment has also benefited consigners.
Huong Tra, 29, has entrusted shops with 40 of her used items, which has netted her a considerable sum and relief at being able to seek new owners for the items.
Consigners can also rest assured that their pieces will never go missing thanks to shop attendants’ meticulous coding.
Trong Danh, 32, who had to close down his own fashion shop, disclosed that consignment has offered a convenient, lucrative outlet for 70 percent of his unsold stock.
Potential and risks
Ho Chi Minh City is a fertile breeding ground for consignment stores, as the bustling market is characterized by a large number of frequent shoppers, affordable rents, and ready access to online consignment and promotion.
However, several owners of consignment shops have stressed that their business is unlikely to grow without patience and dedication.
As middlemen, they have worked hard not to compromise shoppers’ and consigners’ needs while also ensuring a return.
For each sold item, they earn between VND10,000 ($0.4) and 30,000 ($1.3) for articles worth less than VND150,000 ($6.6) and 20 percent of the sale price for those fetching more than VND150,000.
Some ‘warehouse’ owners also charge service fees depending on how long the items are held at their shops.
They also come up with different ways to attract clients.
Since opening, the owner of Give Away shops has organized a charity event once a month to donate articles unclaimed by consigners while promoting and selling other items to potential customers.
The events’ revenues have gone toward charity funds or as gifts to orphans.
‘Warehouse’ attendants also pick up goods at consigners’ suburban homes.
However, the consignment model is by no means a bed of roses. Some shop owners have had to close down or stop trading.
Thanh Tung, 26, who shut down his consignment store nearly a year ago, explained that though returns are satisfactory, shop owners and attendants had to spend too much time on consigned goods and marketing and faced a higher risk of loss compared to trading new clothes, given the poor condition of some older items.