For vintage fashion, it’s best to get it directly from the source — or the person to whom it was bequeathed.
Estate sales have long been a go-to source for antiques, memorabilia and furniture collectors. But the industry is growing a large audience nationwide for footwear and apparel, too, according to Simone Kelly, CEO of Grasons Co., one of the largest estate sales planning franchises in the country.
“Our fashion comes from everyday people who you’d never guess: Grandma had the first collection of Chanel,” Kelly explained. “It’s always something unexpected.”
American Society of Estate Liquidators president Julie Hall previously told The New York Times that there could be as many as 14,000 companies nationwide — and the market is booming.
The industry is not exclusively operated on based inheritances from deaths, Kelly added. Divorce and debt are motivators for liquidation and downsizing of property for title holders with valuables.
Often, what’s discovered can be surprising.
“A woman had over 400 shoes and 200 purses,” Kelly said, recalling a Huntington Beach, Calif., condo that was filled with boldface-name labels. “She had over 1,000 pieces of designer clothing — Ferragamo, Chanel, YSL, Jimmy Choo and every designer shoe you can think of.”
Kelly estimates that around 1,500 people attend one of her estate sales over a three-day period.
The staging process includes setting up racks for apparel and displaying the footwear on tables throughout the home.
To court the right audience, Kelly conducts digital marketing campaigns on Facebook, tapping female professionals who have selected fashion topics as their interests on the social networking platform. Kelly also utilizes mailing lists and other databases.
“Our customers are everyday people who cannot afford or don’t want to pay retail,” she added. “Resellers, end-users — we love both. There are things that resellers buy that end-users never buy.”
Prices are negotiable at estate sales, and haggling is a part of the allure.
“Sometimes they will be priced for $300, and we’ll sell for $70 or $80. People who come in, come in to negotiate — otherwise, they might not go to your sale,” Kelly explained of the culture. “It’s like gambling, but instead of money, it’s stuff.”