As shoppers began picking up new bargain-hunting habits during the economic recession, consignment retailers experienced a boon. And now, even as money begins returning to consumers’ pockets, resale businesses, including Labels Women’s Consignment Store in Bellingham, are still seeing success.
“I think the habits are here to stay,” said Sage Bishop, owner of Labels. “My view is I just want to stay flexible.”
Labels recently moved its original Bellingham location, which opened in 2004 at 1512 Ellis St., to a new, larger space at 2332 James St., next to Trader Joe’s and the Sunnyland Square shopping center.
Bishop also runs Labels Northwest, which opened last year at 3927 Northwest Ave.
The new, 4,000-square-foot James Street location doubles the space Labels had in its original spot. Bishop believes the store will benefit from the increased traffic nearby. With several new business additions in the past year and a Trader Joe’s popular with Canadian shoppers, James Street is emerging as one of Bellingham’s busier retail areas.
“There’s a flavor here, for sure,” Bishop said, about the James Street area. “There’s a lot of unique businesses.”
The available parking lot at the James Street location was also a determining factor for Bishop when she was deciding where to move. Bishop said offering accessible parking to customers at her Labels Northwest location can be challenging, especially when the store is busy.
The James Street store features an attached spa, called Polished, which offers manicures, pedicures, facials and waxing services. Polished is managed by Christie Raper.
Bishop said Polished has been designed to give customers a quick, drop-in spa experience, meant to energize more than relax.
Labels former Ellis Street location has been transformed into the new Labels Plus, which offers plus-sized women’s clothing and accesories. That store is managed by Erin Buchanan.
Bishop said she expects that, for her regular customers, the difference between Labels and Labels Plus—which is not run as a consignment store—might take a little extra time to catch on.
The consignment system, where customers bring in their own merchandise to have a consigner sell it for them in exchange for a percentage of the sale, has brought big business to Labels within the past decade. Bishop’s stores have accepted items for consignment from more than 26,000 people since the first location opened in 2004.
Growth continues in the U.S. resale industry, which includes consignment shops, thrift stores and other resale businesses.
NARTS: The Association of Resale Professionals, a resale trade group based in Michigan, counts more than 25,000 stores nationwide within the industry, which has total annual revenue close to $13 billion.
Bishop believes consignment fever should continue, even as the economy improves and people find themselves with more disposable income. Customers today are more driven to find good deals and prices, she said.
Labels’ business model has slowly evolved with customer demand, but the main aspects remain the same.
The target audience is women ages 30-50 (although Bishop said Labels gets a share of customers both younger and older). In addition to clothing and accessories, housewares have become a steady feature at Labels stores, and the new James Street location devotes an entire section to lamps, wine glasses, artwork and a variety of other non-clothing items.
Bishop said she thinks hiring good employees has been a major key to her success. With the growth and expansion of her company, she can only be in one of her stores at a time, so it’s important to have talented staff capable of grasping her business’ identity, she said.
Another key has been listening to customers and adapting to their needs and suggestions, Bishop said.
The James Street Labels store, which is managed by Shayla Jones, is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Polished is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and Labels Plus is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays.
More information is online at www.labelsconsignment.com.
Evan Marczynski, staff reporter for The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or email@example.com.
Evan Marczynski Photos | The Bellingham Business Journal