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What is Consignment? Definition and Trends


What is Consignment?

Consignment is a business model in which a retailer, also referred to as a consignee, agrees to pay a seller, or consignor, for merchandise after the item sells. Consignment businesses are typically retail stores that specialize in a particular type of consumer product.

The consignment business accepts items for sale and agrees to pay the seller a percentage of the proceeds if and when the goods do sell. Consignment is often referred to as a thrift or second-hand store.

Common products sold through consignment:

  • Clothing
  • Shoes
  • Athletic equipment and gear
  • Baby furniture and accessories
  • Antiques and collectibles
  • Furniture
  • Toys
  • Musical instruments
  • Art
  • Jewelry

Consignment Pricing Arrangement

Each retailer determines their own pricing arrangement, but the typical split between the business and the individual seller ranges from 50/50 to 40/60 or 60/40. Who gets the bulk of the proceeds often depends on how established and successful the store is.

Not to state the obvious, but the higher the demand and quality of the item  you're selling the higher the profit for both retailer and seller.

Pros of Consignment

Pros to the business owner:

  • No need to pay up front for inventory to sell, as most retail stores need to
  • Any products that don’t sell can be returned to consignors or disposed of
  • Can build a solid clientele who return regularly to scope out the changing merchandise
  • Payments can be made days or weeks after the item sells, improving cash flow

Pros to sellers:

  • No need to spend time creating listings on eBay or Etsy or Craiglist to sell items, or setting up a retail storefront
  • No need to ship or deliver sold items

Cons of Consignment

Cons to business owner:

  • Dependence on sellers to provide a steady stream of inventory
  • Disposal fees if there is a lot of merchandise left over, which can be reduced by donating leftovers to charity
  • A need for a software package that makes keeping track of merchandise easier

Cons to sellers:

  • Receiving less than could be earned by selling direct to buyers online
  • Having to wait for payment

Consignment Trends

Demand for consignment goods is on the upswing, says that Association of Retail Professionals. With the pandemic still affecting the economy people are looking to consignment as a means to generate extra income. Growth in number of new consignment stores is currently around 7% annually.

Word Origin of "Consignment"

The English word consignment is from the French word “consigner,” which means “to deposit,” as in to drop off items for sale.