Road to Recovery

Houston Consignment Shop Finds Niche in Down Economy

The Guild Shop in Houston, Texas

The Guild Shop in Houston, Texas

It’s the middle of the day and the store is packed. Shoppers are carefully edging past each other to get a look at the goods. But this isn’t Black Friday. And there’s no big sale.

It’s just a normal day at a place called The Guild Shop, one of Houston’s best known consignment shops. In this sagging economy, when lots of people are hesitant to part with pennies, more and more people are checking out consignment shops. 

In fact, NARTS, a national association of resale shops, says its members are reporting big increases in both new inventory and sales. What’s going on? NARTS says the economy is helping the resale inventory in two ways. People are looking to make quick cash by selling items they don’t need. When they want to purchase something, they want deals. Resale shops offer them in abundance.

Take Nasrin Bordbar, a Guild Shop regular. Bordbar owns a little antique store that she stocks in part with buys from The Guild Shop. Bordbar says when people sell items, they sometimes have no idea how much the items are really worth.

“I find a lot of treasures,” Bordbar said. To prove it, she found a $9 on-sale ceramic piece, which she said could sell in her store for $90.

Another regular Guild Shop customer carted off a small U-Haul full of wood furniture. Robert Murski will repair and refinish the pieces. He bought his haul for $1200.

“Bottom line is,” Murski said, “I ought to net $2500.”

Most who frequent resale shops aren’t looking to supplement their income, they’re just looking to unload an item or find a bargain. Janice Law has done both. She sold a few things when she moved, but said, “Mainly, I’m a buyer.” Law claims that lately, it’s even easier to find good deals.

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“There’s a greater selection because the economy is bad,” she said.

People selling items at The Guild Shop pocket two-thirds of the proceeds. The Guild Shop keeps, but then donates, the remaining third to charity. To get a sense of how well the shop is doing on average, Executive Director Louise Symmes said The Guild Shop will donate about $250,000 a year. Next year, Symmes expects to double that figure. 

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