Jamie VanWinkle of Yantis is helping parents celebrate back-to-school with a Sellebrate Kids consignment event the whole community can be a part of as sellers, as well as shoppers. Events similar to this are quickly becoming one of the hottest trends around the country as parents look for the best way to sell and shop for gently-used, high quality children's clothing, according to VanWinkle, who is pictured above with 3-year-old daughter Jadyn.
Staff Photo By Patti Sells

Sellebrate consignment event comes to Civic Center

By PATTI SELLS, News-Telegram Feature Writer

August 12, 2008 - Back to school bargain hunting has changed over the years, with parents now taking advantage of sales tax holidays and online shopping.

But never has it been made so convenient and affordable thanks to the new trend of consignment events such as the upcoming "Sellebrate Kids," to be held at the Hopkins County Civic Center Friday, Sept. 5, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"Prepare for one of the most exciting shopping experiences you will have this side of Lake Ray Hubbard," said Jamie VanWinkle, organizer of the Sellebrate Kids consignment event. "The response so far has been incredible. And, parents will be so glad to learn about this opportunity as they prepare to shop for back-to-school."

Events similar to this are quickly becoming one of the hottest trends around the country as parents look for the best way to sell and shop for gently-used, high-quality children's clothing, according to VanWinkle, who began participating at sales after the birth of her second daughter.

"There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of these sales all over the country," she said. "I am just so excited about how all of this is coming together. It is such a win-win situation for everyone involved."

While shoppers benefit from discounted prices, sellers will profit 70-80 percent of the earnings and the city of Sulphur Springs will gain sales tax revenue collected from everyone coming into town, not only shopping, but eating, purchasing gasoline and possibly some overnight stays in area hotels, as well.

"So far, I have nearly 50 families signed up from all over the area -- some from as far away as Arkansas," said VanWinkle. "I think it is realistic to expect that number to double (or triple) during August as people begin to clean out their closets in preparation for fall shopping."

VanWinkle, a former teacher and now a stay-at-home mom of two preschoolers, plans to have the sales event biannually: fall/winter and spring/summer, and anticipates the spring 2009 sale will be considerably larger as word about the event spreads and those who may be skeptical see what it's all about at the upcoming inaugural sale.

"It all started for me about three years ago," said VanWinkle, explaining how she learned about the wonderful world of consignment shopping and selling. "I was a middle school teacher in Winnsboro, and after the birth of my first daughter in December of 2004, I decided I wanted to quit teaching and be a full-time Mama."

To make the transition to one income she began research about living more frugally, searching the Internet and reading books for inspiratinon.

"One thing I learned from my 'research' was how much money I could save, especially on kids' clothes, by shopping garage sales," she admitted. "This did turn out to be true, and it became a Friday morning hobby for my first-born and me. We found clothes, toys, a few things for the house, etc."?

In early 2007, she and husband James VanWinkle, vice president of City National Bank, had their second daughter, and suddenly Friday morning garage-saling was a thing of the past.

"It was over a year before she would sleep through the night, and getting up and getting two kids ready was just not something I cared to do," she said with a laugh. "In addition, soaring gas prices made it not so much of a savings anymore."

Since the VanWinkles, who reside in Yantis, do not plan to have any more children, and a garage sale so far from Sulphur Springs is out of the question, Mrs. VanWinkle began to look for someone to give baby clothes to when daughter # 2 grew out of them.

"Believe it or not, that was much easier said than done," she exclaimed. "Everyone I knew that was pregnant was either having a boy or their baby was due in the summer, and that first year of clothing is so seasonal as they grow so fast."

About this time, her sister-in-law told her about a clothing consignment sale for kid's clothes in a town about 75 miles away.

"I thought, 'Why not?' since I couldn't even give the stuff away," VanWinkle said. "I put my stuff in that sale and found it to be a great experience. Besides selling my stuff, I found great clothes for my girls. Yes, the prices were a bit higher than a garage sale, but it was nice, name-brand stuff in excellent condition, and I did not have to drive all over looking for it."

She never dreamed she would be organizing such a sale a year later.

"Rising grocery and gas prices are really starting to put a pinch on my family," VanWinkle admitted.

She said since she is still not ready to go back to teaching with both her girls so young (ages 3 and 1), she began to pray about a part-time job opportunity that would allow her to continue to do everything she needs to do at home, but at the same time provide extra income.

"I can't remember exactly how I started planning this thing in my head, but I did, and so far, things have just fallen into place," she said. "I have received so much positive feedback from mothers who are thrilled to have a sale like this in Sulphur Springs, as many other local moms have also participated in consignment sales in other cities.

"And those that have not are very excited about the concept," she added.

Here's how it works:

Families can sell children's clothing that is in very good condition in sizes infant through preteen. They can also sell maternity clothes that are less than three years old (to ensure things are stylish and up-to-date). Also acceptable for consignment are shoes, all kinds of toys (big and small), infant gear (strollers, high chairs, play pen, etc.) and furniture and room dcor for infants and children. (There is a comprehensive list of acceptable and unacceptable items on the website: www.sellebratekids.com.)

According to VanWinkle, consigners may sign-up on the website or over the phone at 903-335-4471. Participants will be assigned a consigner ID number. They should then make tags using 3 by 5 index cards that include their ID number and the price they want for the item. Sellers are advised to price things 25 percent to 33 percent of what they paid for it new.

Tags should be safety-pinned to the clothing and taped or pinned to non-clothing items.

Consigners then bring their tagged items to the Civic Center on Wednesday, Sept. 3, from noon to 7 p.m. or on Thursday, Sept. 4, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"A volunteer or I will inspect the items to make sure they meet the quality guidelines of the sale; no tears, stains, or excessively worn clothing," VanWinkle explained.

Volunteers are a very important component of the event, according to VanWinkle. They help set up and clean up before and after the sale, and they do a lot during the sale to keep it running smoothly.

Across the nation, the standard "pay" for volunteers is giving them the privilege of attending a private pre-sale for the earliest selections.

Sellers do not have to stay at the sale, but volunteers will get even more value for their sale of their consigned items by working a 4-hour shift either before, during or after the sale.

Standard compensation for consigners is 70 percent; however, that percentage goes up if the consigner also does volunteer work. Colunteers working a shift at this event will earn 75 percent of their selling prices, and those working two shifts will earn 80 percent.

"I already have one husband/wife team each working four hours to get early shopping privileges and 80 percent," she said. "To my knowledge, no other sale allows volunteers to earn more money [percentage-wise]. I am doing this because I see this as a partnership with all involved, and quite frankly, I am dependent upon volunteers for this sale to be well-run."

According to VanWinkle, the 20 to 30 percent she receives will help offset marketing, the cost of renting the Civic Center, buying racks, and other administrative costs.?

Consigners will also have an opportunity to shop a private pre-sale, although, it comes after the volunteers get first pick.

According to VanWinkle, items will be neatly hung on racks and organized by gender and size.

"No driving all over town," VanWinkle emphasized. "It's all under one air conditioned roof."

Shoppers will find tons of bargains, according to VanWinkle, although shoppers should expect prices to be slightly higher than they would be at garage sales as items must meet certain quality requirements.

"As a garage sale veteran myself, I can testify to this," VanWinkle said. "I paid $12 for a dress at a consignment sale that I knew to be a current $40 dollar dress from Gymboree, and I paid $25 for an Anivani smock dress that was new, with the tags still on it, that I knew to be an $80 dress. I would NEVER have paid $12 or $25 for anything at a garage sale and I would have thought the people were crazy to ask. It's just the garage sale mindset."?

Consignment events give consigners the opportunity to sell their name brand clothing and get more money than they would if they were to have a garage sale, while at the same time offering shoppers discounted prices on high quality clothing.

"For a lot of people, like me, who live in the country, a garage sale is not practical and most working moms don't have time to have a garage sale," she said. "There is also a large segment of the population that just refuses to sell their high-quality clothing for a buck at a garage sale. The truth is, families will get more money at a sale like this than a garage sale."

The majority of the clothing is priced under $10 for outfits in excellent condition, according to VanWinkle, who said she strongly encourages people to price their stuff reasonably.

Another benefit for consigners is that they can get more money for their items than they would even at a consignment store.

"Consignment stores typically offer 40-50 percent of the selling price and you may wait months for your stuff to sell," she explained.?

The sale is open to the public and admission is free.

Saturday is half-price day, meaning a lot of the items will be reduced for even bigger bargains.

At checkout, tags will be pulled off the clothing and later sorted to determine the amount due to each consigner. Consigners will receive a check and the tags off their sold items within two weeks of the sale.?

On Saturday at the conclusion of the sale, consigners can come pick up their unsold items, or, if they wish, Chrysalis House, a ministry to unwed mothers that serves a 12-county area around Sulphur Springs, will accept them as a donation to its cause. Chrysalis House will either use the items in the direct service it provides to mothers and children or may sell them in one of their fund-raising garage sales, depending upon their needs at the time.?

Shoppers are encouraged to bring a laundry basket they can put all their stuff in as they shop. Credit cards are not accepted, but there is an ATM at the Civic Center. Sales tax will also be collected as required by law.

All the details on how to sign-up and sell items can be found on the website at www.sellebratekids.com.

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