1. Find a consignment shop that fits your item. Some shops have a reputation for selling certain types of items. When you visit a shop, see if the shelves are stocked with goods similar to yours. Ask an employee how long those items have been offered for sale. If they're having trouble selling those items, they'll likely have trouble selling yours too. On the other hand, if comparable items are flying off the shelf, you're more likely to take home a check.
2. Find a shop that displays merchandise well. Shoppers are turned off if items aren't neatly displayed. Quality goods deserve quality display, so find a consignment shop that understands how to present products for sale.
3. Avoid new consignment shops. You'll have more success with a shop that's been in business for a year or more and has built up a reputation and clientele. A new shop owner is still learning how to run the business. He or she may be unsure what will sell, and are likely to price some items too high and some too low. A shop that has been in business for a number of years demonstrates that the owner knows how to sell items to earn a profit.
4. Get to know the store personnel. People working at consignment stores are just like the rest of us. They tend to go a little further for people they like. So take the time and effort to get to know them – establishing a relationship with your sales force will pay off.
5. Know the deal. Most consignment shops are owner-operated. No matter how nice they are, don't rely on a verbal agreement when handing over your item. Get it in writing. Shops have different policies on setting prices, fees and revenue splits. An experienced shop will have an agreement the owner can print out and give to you.
6. Know the worth of your items. Before you consign, check the prices of similar items in the shop. Then do the math to see how much the seller's share would be. If your share isn't enough to make you happy, don't consign the item.
7. Pick the right items to sell. High-quality clothing usually does well. Furniture, especially retro items, also sell – as do home accessories and contemporary lamps. Things that don't sell well include figurines, rugs, China and TV entertainment centers.
8. Prepare your items for sale. Make items look as close to new as possible: make any repairs, remove stains and launder or clean as necessary. You want buyers to think of your items as if they were new, and set your price accordingly. Shoddy goods will be priced lower than ones that are in good condition.
9. Know when consignment is not your best choice. Some items, like collectibles, require a special kind of buyer and do better online where collectors congregate. Other lower-priced items could sell better on Craigslist or eBay where you don't need to split the money you receive. More expensive items, like jewelry, will sell well in a store dedicated to that product.
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who founded The Dollar Stretcher website and newsletters. The site features thousands of articles on how to save your valuable time and money, including an article onselling through consignment shops.