College Towns Love Consignment

As second semesters begin across the country, let’s study why college towns almost always have good consignment and thrift shops. The answer: It saves money and lets students dress in on-trend fashions.

“College girls use their old clothes to buy new clothes,” said Kelly Long, manager of Fifi’s Fine Resale on Main Street in downtown Durham, N.C. “They can go shopping without spending a penny.”

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Students like Fifi’s no-appointment policy for consignments and the fact it’s open seven days a week. They also use the store to thin wardrobes from home once they come face to face with tiny college closets. “They’re very quick with the one item in, one item out routine,” Long said. “It’s beneficial to us and it gives these clothes a second life.”

The Fifi’s shop is attractive, with blond wood floors, original subway tiles from the 1920s, and pleasing boutique groupings within the two-level shop. Many walk-in customers initially are unaware it is a resale shop.

The store, which has been a Durham mainstay for a decade, was the first one founded by Fifi Queen, a former country musician who is somewhat of a legend in the East Coast consignment world. There are now 19 consignment stores that carry the Fifi’s name, 14 of them clustered in Florida, including three in Jacksonville, home to nine colleges. Fifi’s slogan is “Pretty Clothes, Bargain Prices,” and it definitely fits the inventory.

The two in North Carolina’s college-dense Research Triangle – the Durham shop and one in Cameron Village in Raleigh—carry an array of labels that appeal to women in their 20s. Brands such as Madewell and Ann Taylor Loft are big sellers. Designer jeans and handbags made by Michael Kors, Coach, and Hobo International also are popular.


Like many consignment stores, Fifi’s will not accept fast fashion clothing, like those sold at H&M, Delia’s and the Walmart lines George, No Boundaries, Op and White Stag. Also on its “Do Not Take” list are out-of-favor brands like Aeropostale, American Eagle, Dress Barn, Hollister and Rue 21.

Many items are new with tags, chiefly because students cash in new clothing they have decided against and the Durham store buys out small boutiques that are closing. There are a few very high-end items, such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton bags, but most items are in the $20 to $70 range. A 75 percent off sale rack yielded a pristine pink cashmere cardigan from J. Crew for $15.

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Consigners receive 40 percent of the sales price for basic brand name items. High-end designer items bring 50 percent. Customers can check their account on a My Resale Web, which is updated daily. Checks are given out in the store monthly, or mailed to the many out-of-state and foreign students who patronize Fifi’s.

We like the fact that so many young women are getting schooled in thrift while at college.

Fifi’s Fine Resale, 1000 W. Main St., Durham, NC 27701. 919-806-3434.

Open Mon-Sat 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sun. 1 – 5 p.m.

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