How to host a consignment sale

Hosting a consignment sale is a big task. It can be a lot of work, but it can also be a great way to generate some income or raise funds for your organization.

With plenty of planning and a lot of help, you can give yourself a very good chance at hosting a very successful and profitable consignment sale.

Finding Consignors

The two most critical aspects of a successful consignment sale are having plenty of items to buy and having plenty of people who want to buy them.

The first step in planning your consignment sale is to take an inventory of your potential consignors (sellers) and be sure that your consignment sale will be full of items for sale.

This is important not only for maximizing profits, but if you do not have sufficient inventory for sale, buyers will take notice and you will have a more difficult time attracting these buyers to your next consignment sale.

Selecting a Location

Selecting the best location for your consignment sale can either be a simple or difficult task.

For many organizations, the location will never be in question. Perhaps your group owns or already has free or inexpensive access to facilities which are conducive for a consignment sale. If this is the case, there would have to be some significantly compelling reasons to choose an alternate location.

If you are not fortunate enough to have access to free or inexpensive facilities to hold your consignment sale, then you will need to find a suitable location.

As you create a list of possible candidates, you will want to consider not only how much you will have to pay for the use of the facilities (if anything), but also the location of the facilities with respect to where your target buyers will be coming from, as well as how easy it is to find the location and enter the building to find the actual consignment sale.

Other things to consider are the layout of the area(s) you will use. Sometimes it might work best to have one large room. Other times it helps to have the physical separation of different rooms to separate logical item categories.

And, unfortunately, you also need to consider how you will control the flow of people in and out of your sale to ensure there is as little theft as possible.

Item Display

This step may seem insignificant, but if you do not have proper display capabilities at your consignment sale, buyers will not be able to easily find items to buy, they may become frustrated, and they may not want to return to your next sale.

Not only is this an important planning step, but it can also be difficult for organizations who are planning their very first consignment sale.

If you are not sure of the type(s) of display structures you will need (tables, racks, etc.), you will want to consider what types of items you will be allowing at your consignment sale.

If you will have a lot of clothing, you will need many racks to display the clothing. Almost certainly you will also need quite a few tables where items can be laid out for display. You may also need the ability to hang some items for best display.

There is a fine line between having ideal display conditions to maximize purchases (and profits), but you should also consider that these display structures can cost quite a bit of money.

You might consider contacting the administrators of some consignment sales in your area in order to possibly borrow or rent their racks and tables. Many times, organizations have invested in their racks and tables, but have to pay for storing these items. You might be able to negotiate to pay for part or all of this storage expense in exchange for being able to use the displays.

Consignment Sale Planning

You will want to come up with a high level plan for your consignment sale as early on as possible.

Will you hold the sale on just one day, or multiple days? What will the hours be? Will part of the sale allow discounts on select items?

Once you have your high level plan, this will help you as you make other critical decisions for your sale.

Selecting the Date(s)

Once you have an idea of the general time frame that you want to hold your consignment sale, you can further narrow the possibilities by eliminating days that your selected location is not available, or that perhaps the racks you are sharing with another organization are not available, or even a different consignment sale may already be scheduled.

Take some time to think about all of the factors that can influence the success of your consignment sale on various dates. This includes what holidays are around that time (buyers and sellers may be traveling), what the historic weather patterns are, and if there are other, similar consignment sales just before yours.

Taking all of these into account, along with the factors that you come up with that are specific to your sale, you should be able to quickly narrow down candidates, and then select the dates from there.

Lining Up Help

It takes a lot of work to run a consignment sale, and you will want to be sure you have plenty of help to make it happen.

You will need people to help set up the sale, others to check in the consignors (sellers), and a couple of people to maintain consistency with item placement. In addition, during the consignment sale you will need cashiers, helpers out on the floor, security (theft prevention), tag cutters (if you are cutting tags), and a couple of people who are willing to help out with tasks that come up on the spur of the moment.

Finally, after the consignment sale, you will need plenty of help to divide up the unsold merchandise, to help pack up and clean up, and to help sellers get their unsold items out to their vehicles.


You can host the most well-planned, organized consignment sale on the planet, but it will fail unless you have a large and constrant stream of buyers.

Depending on the nature of your sale, you may be able to rely on word-of-mouth advertising, but in most cases, you will want to engage in some deliberate advertising campaigns in order to draw in as many buyers as possible.

Your local newspaper is always a good option, but you can consider other channels such as the Internet (Craigslist, Facebook, etc.) and even local TV and/or radio. Depending on the nature of your organization, you may even be able to negotiate free or significantly reduced fees for all of your advertising.

Also, don't discount the impact that a good amount of walk-in traffic can have on the overall success of your consignment sale. This traffic comes from those who were not planning on attending your sale, but saw your road signs or other advertising on the day of the sale and decided to check it out.

To find out more, read this article: Advertising a Consignment Sale

Running the Consignment Sale

When all of your planning is done, and you have double checked everything, the day of the consignment sale is finally here.

There will be surprises, but if you have prepared well for the rest of the sale, you will be able to easily handle anything that comes your way. Just be sure to consider everything that might happen, so that when it does, you will not only be prepared, but it will not be a big surprise.

Be sure to remind all of those who will be working the consignment sale about their committments, and be sure to remind your consignors of when they should arrive to check in and set up their merchandise. With busy, fast-paced lives, a good set of reminders is appreciated and can go a long way to making sure everything runs smoothly.