Friday, May 24, 2013

HOMEWORKS: How to pick from the crop at children's resale shops

Patricia Thompson, owner of Children's Orchards in Sterling Heights checks out the merchandise in her store.

My daughter frowns at the runway shots I have of her as an infant - decked out in frilly dresses, ruffled bloomers and a bonnet of some kind - but she always looked cute. I can't tell you how many times another mum would ask me where she could find such an outfit. I'll admit, some of the pieces were purchased at shops such as Gymboree and Little Lords Little Ladies, but a great many others were discovered in resale shops.

Whenever I ventured across the border to visit my family in Canada, I would make a point of visiting this quaint little shop near my favorite coffee house. One of the mums who supplied items for the store had twin girls - a bit older than my daughter - and it is her clothes that I would seek. Like me, she loved Beatrix Potter and Winnie-the-Pooh. Thanks to her, I would find all sorts of cute Peter Rabbit rompers or Winnie-the-Pooh sleepers and tees. Since she had twins, I loved that there was two of everything.

What made this shop such a success, however, was not that it carried a huge stock of designer labels, but that its owner scrutinized what she would buy and sell. You never had to worry about zippers not working or discovering a stain that you didn't see under the shop’s dim lights.

In Michigan, a lot of mums have the same experience at Children's Orchard. The upscale resale shop was first started in 1980, and because of its success became a franchise.

"I've been with Children's Orchard since 1999," said Patricia Thompson, who owns a franchise in Sterling Heights. "My sister told me about the franchise in Ann Arbor and I thought it was a great idea. My husband and I owned a Little Caesars franchise in Virginia 15 years ago. We were looking to move back to Michigan. I thought this would be a good adventure." Thompson is still in business and 13 years later is enjoying every minute of it.

"They have a very good system in place," Thompson said of the process by which Children's Orchard obtains its clothing, furniture and toys. "There's a reason it has been around for 40 years."

Thompson chooses products for her store the same way parents should when buying items that are gently used.

Not all shops follow the same system, which is why Thompson advises parents to consider the following tips when shopping at any children's resale shop:

Do a thorough inspection

Make sure you inspect clothing for holes and stains. Thompson has special lights that she uses to inspect clothes and often finds stains that might not appear under normal lighting at home. Ask about the store's inspection process.

Stay in touch

One of the reasons I was successful was I stopped by my favorite shop regularly. Some days there was nothing, others a bonanza. Also, despite already deeply discounted prices, Thompson said resale and consignment stores often hold generous promotions during the summer season. “We have a promotion coming up June 1 where we give them a bag and they can fill it for $5, and another sale in July where all of our 12-months and under clothes are $1.”

Stay abreast of recalls

When it comes to such items as cribs, strollers and high chairs, parents need to be sure that the product is safe. Ask the seller about how they stay up-to-date on recalls, said Thompson. “Since most items at resale stores do not come with their original packaging, it is up to consumers to make sure they are not purchasing faulty equipment. You can also look up recalled items on the Consumer Product and Safety Commission (CPSC) website: www.csps.gov/en/Recalls.

Get into the game

Got clothes that no longer fit your little one? “Some stores will actually give you cash for your kid’s gently-used clothing, toys, furniture and accessories,” Thompson said. “Call ahead for information on what your local resale store is buying (or in need of). Some stores will set up a 1-on-1 appointment with the buyer and others allow you to walk in at your convenience to sell your outgrown kid’s stuff.”

Designer labels

Most upscale stores such as Children’s Orchards receive new inventory daily so shoppers should be able to find current styles by designers like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.

Even if you don’t find the clothes you’re looking for, it is a great place to visit and you never know what other treasures might find.

“I’ve been here 13 years and I’ve seen mothers who came in with their newborns, who are now 13 years old,” Thompson said.

Children’s Orchards is located at 44915 Hayes Road, Sterling Heights. For more information or to make an appointment, call 586-532-8280 or visit www.childrensorchard.com.

Gina Joseph is a reporter and columnist for The Macomb Daily. Send comments to gina.joseph@macombdaily.com, follow her on twitter @ginaljoseph

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