Kate Holmes: The Resale Prophet

Update on 4/6/18: Kate Holmes writes about ThriftStyle on HER blog, which is at Auntie Kate, the blog:  https://tgtbt.blog/2018/03/26/smart-fashion/

Here’s what she wrote:

I had the delightful experience of being taken to breakfast by one of the authors of Thriftstyle: The Ultimate Bargain Shopper’s Guide to Smart Fashion, Margaret Engel. She thought she was interviewing me… but it felt like we were simply new friends getting to know each other.

Author of Thriftstyle, Peggy Engel, at breakfast with Kate Holmes, author of Too Good to be Threw, in Sarasota FL March 2018

What a fun book this is! Although consignment and resale shopkeepers might cringe at the cherry-picked bargains on every page, knowing that shoppers will expect these prices on every item in every store, it’s still fun to share in the three authors’ fantastic finds. Liberal fashion shots abound and the coordinated outfits are inspiring. The writing is friendly and cozy, and the advice first-rate, including a slightly-longer explanation of my guiding tenet about wearring vintage fashion is you’re over 30: If you wore it first time around, you’re too old to wear it now.

But the real treasures in this book for professional resalers are the two chapters Clues to Quality, which illustrates and explains how quality can be judged first-hand, and Clothing Rx, which delves into reasonable tailoring and sewing tips. These two chapters, plus the resources sprinkled throughout the book, are worth the purchase.

Consumers will love the thrifting stories and the guidance on how to shop, style, and wear secondhand clothes.

And when you’re buying your copy? Buy a half-dozen more to use as door prizes, raffle wins, reading matter in your staff break room, and to give as gifts to your favorite customers. Yes, it’s that good a book!


And here’s Peggy’s post from that breakfast interview: 

Resale is like the late Don Rickles when it comes to respect from business organizations. When the U.S. Commerce Department and Small Business Administration hand out awards, we’d like to see resale and thrift experts nab a few.

Kate Holmes, one of America’s leading experts on how to set up and prosper in resale, should be the first one handed a star, as she’s helped hundreds of women, and some men, succeed in thrift, vintage and consignment stores across the country, contributing mightily to this $12 billion industry.

Holmes, who lives in Sarasota, FL, has written 19 books on the subject, from complete operations manuals to Secrets of Successful Resellers, Windows That Sell and 109 Promotion Ideas Especially for Resale Shops. Her Too Good to Be Threw books are aimed at the owners or hoping-to-be owners of the 15,000 clothing resale shops in the country, an industry that’s growing by 7 percent annually.

Now a resale industry consultant and creator of Auntie Kate the Blog, which covers news for resale shopkeepers, Holmes tries to prevent fledgling owners from making avoidable mistakes. Her own long experience in selling clothing informs her advice to those who think that free inventory (consigned or donated clothing) is an automatic path to profits.

Her mother opened a resale store in Roslyn, NY, just six months after Encore, a pioneer in the industry, opened in Manhattan in 1952. Kate worked in her mother’s shop throughout high school, collecting silk shirtwaists and developing an eye for labels and merchandising. “My mom sent four kids through college on her thrift store,” she noted.

After she graduated in art history from Antioch College, she worked in retail in Columbus, OH, rising to assistant vice president of operations for a 159-store sportswear chain.

She opened her own consignment shop, One More Time, in Columbus in 1975, advertising heavily in society magazines to help erase the stigma of used clothes. She added children’s clothes so that shoppers could say they were just looking to buy for children, not themselves.

“Ultimately, we got customers who weren’t shy about saying publicly that they were wearing a vintage dress to the symphony,” Holmes said.

Her experience allowed her to start the shop with an outlay of less than a $1,000. Within six weeks, the store was profitable, growing to 3,200 square feet from its original 750 and adding a thousand consigners each year. The store remains in business 43 years later with an owner that Holmes trained.

Holmes was there at the beginning of the industry’s trade group, The National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops (NARTS), when its first conference was held in 1988 in Chicago. “We started bus tours at NARTS conferences.”  A year earlier, she was at an early organizing group of thrift professionals  in Cedar Rapids, IA. “We did a pop-up shop and I was a keynote speaker.” (The association has kept its initials but now stands for The Association of Resale Professionals.)

She has won the association’s top awards, its Educational Service Award, and the Renee River Service Award, and writes a monthly column, “Growing Your Business with Kate,” in the NARTS newsletter. She invented the buyer’s fee, usually $1 added to an item’s cost that helps the storeowner and doesn’t affect the consigner’s proceeds.

Her creative juices pushed her to write a consignment shop mystery, The Picker Who Perished. It’s a fast-paced description of the money and culture of current-day Sarasota and the strange death of a consignment store’s best picker.

Kate Holmes book

In her more conventional capacity, Holmes dispenses advice. She warns people away from bargain rents in failing malls. “Large rent is scary, but a bad location is deadly,” she notes. She also advises looking for a minimum of 1,200 square feet for a shop. She tells owners, “If you’re not earning $100,000 by year two, you’re doing things wrong.”

She sees several trends: larger shops (one in Dayton, Ohio, just took over a closed Bed, Bath and Beyond space), trade-in promotions (where customers get discounts by donating items), stores offering seamstress days on-site, shop owners adding to their inventory with new accessories, such as sunglasses and leggings, and shops posting Facebook Live videos where shoppers buy items instantly through email and PayPal.

“Many stores have opened private Facebook groups where members get first dibs on their best designer items,” Holmes observed.

The resale industry is changing constantly, she said, noting that 15 to 20 percent of recent NARTS conference attendees are men. The reason? “It’s a big industry growing larger.”

To find Kate Holmes’ advice:

TGtbT.com – The website for professional resalers

Tgtbt.blog – Auntie Kate, the Blog





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