Last night, I left the Puyallup Fair & Events Center carrying a bag overflowing with clothes. Among my finds were two sweater dresses, several cardigans, tiny pinstriped pants, brand-new pink snow boots and, most hilariously, a black velvet blazer and coordinating polka-dot skirt.
The 15 items of clothing I purchased at the Just Between Friends Sale set me back just $54. When you consider that the Ralph Lauren sweater I bought for my son retails at about $50 new, it’s easy to see why consignment sales have become so popular.
JBF’s semi-annual sale at the fairgrounds is the largest consignment sale in Pierce County and draws shoppers from all over the region. It opens to first-time parents, foster parents and military families at 9 a.m., and the public at noon today, and continues through Sunday. There is a $2 admission the first two days; Saturday, it costs $1 to get in and many items are 25 percent off; and Sunday, admission is free and many items are 50 percent off.
The concept is simple: Consigners can earn money for gently used clothes, toys and gear that their children have outgrown, and shoppers can snag fashionable and functional items – some with the tags still on – for a fraction of the price.
I’m the kind of mom who will hit the mall one day and a consignment sale the next. I’m all about a bargain, and I rarely pay full price for anything, especially children’s clothes.
And I’m clearly not alone.
During Wednesday’s presale, both floors of the event center were full of moms, grandmas – and a few brave dads – pulling wagons and pushing laundry baskets full of clothes and toys, and looking over strollers, swings, bouncy chairs, breast pumps and baby bathtubs.
“It’s a lot cheaper than retail, and the quality is really good,” said Crystal Aves of Tacoma, who was shopping for her 1- and 2 ½-year-old daughters. “You can get clothes, toys and shoes – it’s one-stop shopping, and you can find great deals.”
Aves said she also consigns her daughters’ clothes.
“It’s nice to pass (the clothes) along to another family that needs them,” she said. “Especially in this economy.”
Just a few feet away, Nikki Scanapico of Puyallup triumphantly held up a like-new Crazy 8 sweater she had just discovered amid the 18-24 month racks.
“Four dollars?” she chortled with delight. “That’s ridiculous. Ridiculous.”
Indeed. I paid $8 for the same sweater a few months ago – on sale.
Scanapico, the single mom of an 18-month-old girl, said that such sales as JBF enable her to dress her daughter in a wide variety of styles.
Among her finds: Cowboy boots in both red and pink – “maybe she’s a little bit country” – and a pile of jeans ranging from “dressy” to “not playing outside”, as well as a sparkly white puffy vest and three turtleneck onesies for $1 each.
“I’m finding some slamming deals,” she said. “A lot of it has tags still on or looks brand new.”
Kerri McConnell of DuPont was shopping for her 1-year-old daughter and a baby due in April. Her top priority was finding gender neutral items for the new addition – but she hadn’t gotten far due to the lure of the girls’ racks.
“She grows out of them so quickly,” she said of her daughter. “And I’m very picky about the clothes I buy.”
Laura Nysoe of Maple Valley was also being choosy – but for another reason.
The mother of an almost-3-year-old boy is adopting a baby girl from Ethiopia in the next 18 months. She’s not sure of when the baby will arrive, and how old she will be.
“I like to shop ahead,” she said as she added a pink floral shirt dress to her stack, which included Carters blanket sleepers in near-perfect condition for $4. “I’m buying 9-months and up.”
Nysoe said she shops everywhere from Nordstrom to consignment sales, and that she will only come for the presale, when the clothing selection is the most bountiful.
“I won’t buy anything with stains, and it has to look new,” she said. “But I love a good deal.”
Caleb Taylor of Puyallup said that his family was there for a similar reason. As his wife shopped, he entertained their 6-month-old son strapped against his chest in an Ergo carrier, and also guarded their wagon full of bargains.
“I guess we’re here to buy baby stuff,” he said, giving the stack an amused glance. “Lots of stuff.”
Taylor said that in addition to shopping, they consign clothes that their son and 2-year-old daughter have outgrown.
“I’ll tell you this,” he said, “you save a lot of money shopping here.”
And over at the cash register, Shannon Ferguson of Tacoma couldn’t have agreed more.
Her haul included hardback books, pajamas and a stunning holiday dress in a deep shade of red.
As her total -- $119.79 – flashed on the cash register’s screen, she smiled.
“I love it.”