Upscale clothes by top designers find their way to new consignment shop Owner knows value of buying used apparel HOWARD COUNTY BUSINESS

August 19, 1993|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Staff Writer

If it's too tight on you, or if it's too tiny for your tots, those ill-fitting clothes might be worth a buck or two.

No need to worry about garage or yard sales, either. Brenda Zeigler-Riley wants to peddle your wares next month when she opens A Second Look consignment boutique in Columbia's Wilde Lake Village shopping center.

Mrs. Zeigler-Riley plans to charge a $2 annual fee for use of the shop, and any money made when an item is sold will be split 50/50.

Mrs. Zeigler-Riley also will accept small household items such as lamps and pictures, costume jewelry, and women's and children's apparel. But the clothes can't be just any old thing hanging in the closet.

"I'm looking for upscale things. I'm really more concerned about the designer pieces because they hold up better," she said.

A Second Look's stock so far: a Giorgio Armani skirt ($40), Liz Claiborne shoes ($16), a black velvet dress by Carole Little ($50), a two-piece suit by Valentino ($75) and more than 300 other items.

For now, she stores her inventory -- items from her own closet as well as from friends and relatives -- in the basement of her Columbia home, awaiting the shop's opening in mid-September.

Low start-up costs have made consignment shops popular recently, said Trudy Miller, executive director of the 975-member National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, a Chicago Heights, Ill., organization that helps people start and manage consignment businesses.

And consumers looking for bargains have turned to these thrift shops since the economy has slowed down, Ms. Miller said.

"The number of consignment shops has been increasing," she said. "It's a place to shop in bad times. They're doing much better than the average retail outlet."

Over the past year, her organization had a 15 percent increase in the number of registered resale and thrift shop owners.

Mrs. Zeigler-Riley will be joining at least seven other consignment shop owners in Columbia. Her love for consignment -- along with the prodding of her husband -- prompted her to quit her job as a fund-raiser for the past five years for Combined Health Appeal of the National Capital Area in Bethesda.

"I wasn't having fun anymore," she said. "I was tired of fund raising. I always wanted to open a boutique. I saw the opportunity in consignment."

Mrs. Zeigler-Riley, a self-proclaimed consignment expert, has spent the past 15 years shopping at resale boutiques. She said she buys 70 percent of her clothes through consignment.

About a year ago, she started researching for ways to open a consignment business. After her research, she used her training in public relations and marketing to create and sell a directory of consignment shops in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, and a newsletter on consignment, which she named after her shop, A Second Look.

Now she spends her days and nights collecting and pricing the inventory she'll carry into the 800-square-foot store she has leased in Wilde Lake Village.

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