Tips for Inventory Screening in Consignment

tips for inventory screening in consignment

She was not only 85 years old, but was also a dear neighbor of mine.

She called the store and left a message for me to stop by her house and see if I could help her liquidate some things as she was about to transition to a care home.

My heart sunk because I knew that there was a chance I would have to turn her down and tell her that her items were not a good fit for our consignment shop.

I arrived early one morning just as I had scheduled on the phone.  I had never been inside her house before, so I was anxious hoping that the contents inside would be better than I suspected.  I exhaled when I realized that my earlier suspicion was true. There was virtually nothing that I should have accepted on consignment from my sweet elderly neighbor that morning.

She sat me down and began to tell me how much she hated to leave this house which had been her home for forty years. She told me how much she paid thirty years ago for specific items. She told me the story of the passing of her late husband after fifty years of marriage.

I melted!

When I walked out I was already trying to decide what spin I would put on the morning for my store manager who would undoubtedly wonder what brainwashing technique she used on me that forced me to take this consignment.

The Importance of Inventory Screening in Consignment

Quality breeds quality.

That’s my take on inventory screening.

It seems so innocent to take those department store brands from the elderly lady cleaning out her closet for the last time. It seems so harmless (and maybe even compassionate) to say yes to the particle board media cabinet from the long time pastor of your favorite church. What we fail to realize is that it wreaks havoc on our shops, not to mention our employees.

Now, understand, as you read in the story above, I struggle with turning down items from my favorite consignors and customers. Sometimes it makes me feel like a jerk. Oftentimes the cost of taking the items seems less than the cost of potential conflict with this person.

It can be hard!

But let me tell you the facts.

When we have high quality premium merchandise, we get more high quality premium merchandise.

When we have cheap low end or damaged inventory, we get more of the same.

I often stand quietly in my shop pretending to be busy so that I can listen to the conversations of our shoppers. I often hear someone say, “Hey look at that! We can bring ours in and sell it here.” Have you ever heard that before? What that shopper is really saying is one of two things…

  1. Hey, I was going to take that Wal-Mart media cabinet that is falling apart to the thrift store, but we can sell it here.
  2. Hey, I wasn’t considering selling my Louis Vuitton Speedy Sequin Satchel here, but there’s one just like it. I can sell it here!

Quality breeds quality.

There is nothing more difficult for your employees than to “No Thank You” (that’s what Kate Holmes calls it and I like it) an item just to have that consignor come back to the counter five minutes later to say, “Why didn’t you take this when you’ve got the exact same item right over there on that rack.”

Maximize your return on your floor space AND make life easier for your employees by having clear standards of what you will take and what you will gently decline.

Tips for Inventory Screening in Consignment

Here are a few tips for developing the best screening system:

  • Document your Screening Standards
    Let your employees know what you want in your shop. Include brands, conditions, fabric patterns, etc…
  • Carefully Train Anyone Responsible for Screening
    Don’t expect them to just get it. Develop them into all-star inventory screeners.
  • Give them a Clear List of Items that you Do Not Accept
    They can’t read your mind.
  • Coach Your Screeners when they Violate Your Standards
    Certain personality types are terrible at turning things down. If you have a screener misplaced based on their personality, do that person and yourself a favor by tweaking their role in your shop.


I often have to remind myself that if we fail to screen well, we may find ourselves in a position to no longer be able to offer a place for consignors to sell their goods.  In other words, it could be the thing that drives us out of business!  I would much rather learn to say “no” to inventory that doesn’t meet our standards than to have to close the doors forever!

How can you improve your consignment screening procedures? Let me know below…