Online consignor filling luxury niche
From a private studio space in Lemoyne, K.C. Wenger gives designer handbags and high-end apparel the chance to find new homes anywhere in the world.
Welcome to the business of online luxury consignment, where fashion-forward owners look to move on from the posh styles of yesterday, while others downsize or part with prized family possessions.
It's the job of LuxureLister — the niche consignment e-tailer that Wenger started last summer — to authenticate, assign a value and present the well-cared-for pieces to a mobile universe of 120 million potential buyers through eBay and its own online store.
The goal: To save owners time, dispose of their items discreetly and maximize resale returns.
"You never know who is on the other end," said Wenger, who began selling on eBay as a hobby for friends and family about 10 years ago.
As the requests grew and she saw the void in the midstate's consignment arena for expensive designer brands, the veteran public relations consultant opted to take the hobby to the next level.
"You have to know what's out there and what people want," she said.
The latter is not really the problem. LuxureLister sells pre-owned clothing, shoes, handbags, jewelry and other high-end accessories to buyers all over the country and abroad.
Last week, for example, a bracelet was shipped to Greece and a necklace to Germany.
Finding the choice goods has always been the main concern, but it's one Wenger overcomes more each week she is in business. She has developed a strong referral network, which also includes local retailers.
"The world is the stage you present to," said Wenger, who, along with a small contingent of highly trained interns and her college-age daughter, meticulously inspects, measures and researches each item before listing it with photographs.
Other than staging for photos, LuxureLister does not display or sell anything in the studio. Everything is done by appointment.
Wenger offers in-home pick-up and closet consultation, among other services. She will also accept items for listing through the United Parcel Service, catering to those who live in multiple locations throughout the year.
The bulk of her inventory has come from all over the area, including Carlisle, Hanover, Hershey, Lancaster, Reading and York. She said she chose Lemoyne for a studio to be centrally located in the region.
"She has a nice little niche market," said Ron Cohle, owner of Muscalus Furs in Lower Paxton Township. "People don't want to mess around on eBay and want someone to do that for them."
Cohle takes trade-ins but doesn't consign his furs. He often refers clients who want to sell coats they are no longer using.
"She is doing it in the higher-end products. She is not taking junk," he said.
Wenger offers 60 percent of the fixed-sale price to customers when the item sells. If the sale is more than $1,000, the client gets 70 percent.
Taking into account the online fees she pays and time that goes into listing each piece, market trends drive what brands have a high enough margin to handle, Wenger said.
"It's gut and looking at each piece individually," she said.
Relationships with clients also help in bulk consigning.
Wenger maintains a listing of what she is looking for on her website.
The most coveted item she has sold was a vintage Chanel jumbo XL classic single flap handbag. It was used once in about two decades and was in nearly new condition. The bag sold for almost $3,200 to a customer in Ohio.
Wenger said she hopes her personal service and attention to detail will help grow the business. This niche market of consignment is strong in many urban markets, where brick-and-mortar locations also exist.
A store is possible, but not likely any time soon, she said.
"I would like to expand. I focus each day on the here and now," she said. "I may consider a store if the volume is there."
So much of this business is about relationship building and taking a chance, she said. When you do find quality pieces, sales come down to not only the current market but also the condition of the piece, who is selling it and the detail they provide that others might lack.
"It changes with fashion," she said.
The resale market continues to be one of the fastest-growing segments in retail. It's growing about 7 percent annually, according to NARTS: The Association of Resale Professionals.
Annual resale revenue in the U.S. is about $13 billion.