Your guide to Consignment, Resale and Thrift Stores for Kids' Clothes

Your daughter, Molly, wishes she had Sally's jeans. Sally thinks her jeans have too much glitter. She'd rather have Carly's faded jeans. While this may sound like the beginning of a math problem, it could actually be the beginning of a trip to a resale clothing store. There, parents can sell the clothes their children can't (or won't) wear, and they can buy more outfits from other parents.

In this month's Go-To Guide, Columbus Parent deciphers the ins and outs of buying and selling gently-used clothes.

TYPES OF STORES:

Consignment: After the store staff has chosen which clothes they think their customers will buy, they price them and put them on sale. If the clothes sell, the store pays you a percentage of the price (sometimes more than 50 percent). If the clothes don't sell, the store returns them to you. Stores tend to pay higher percentages for consignment than for resale. Brand, style, season and condition of clothes are prime considerations.

Donation/Thrift stores: These stores will take all clean clothes in decent condition. The proceeds from their sales go to help non-profit organizations.
Resale: The store staff chooses items to buy from you outright. You receive cash or store credit the same day you hand over your clothes. Stores tend to pay lower rates for clothes bought outright because the store assumes all the risk for whether or not customers will buy them. Clothing must be in excellent condition.

TIPS FOR BUYING:

*Check all clothing for stains and items for missing pieces before you leave the store. Most resale stores have an "all sales final" policy.
*If you're more interested in saving time, visit a resale store like Trader Tots that is choosey with inventory. If you're more interested in saving money, visit a donation-based store like the Salvation Army where, within the racks and racks of clothing, you might find that pristine American Eagle shirt for $2.99.

TIPS FOR SELLING:

*Check the store's website or make a phone call to review the selling guidelines. Each store has different requirements and types of compensation.
*Rag-O-Rama manager Marah Stein said, "When in doubt, bring it in." Clean items in current style are worth a try.
*Launder clothing.
*Inform the store if you want matching pieces of outfits kept together.
*Ask the store about charity recommendations for unsold items.

DIRECTORY OF STORES

We've grouped Central Ohio stores using this price range:
$ - One whole outfit (shirt, pants, accessories) can be assembled for less than $10
$$ - $10-$25
$$$ - $26+
Unless otherwise noted, a store carries inventory for infants, toddlers, youth and teens, as well as maternity clothes.

$

Family Thrift
Type: donations
Locations: 4250 W. Broad St. and 4815 E. Main St. (the one we visited)
Inventory: strongest selection for toddlers and youth; has mall and discount brands for all seasons
Favorite Find: Urban Pipeline boy's long-sleeved polo shirt XL ($2.99)
Notes: Smaller selection than other donation-based stores, but it's worth a visit, especially for elementary-school and middle-school children.

Goodwill Columbus
Type: donations
Location: multiple, we visited a new store at 2933 Morse Road.
Website: goodwillcolumbus.org
Inventory: strongest selection for youth sizes up to size 14-16 girls, 18-20 boys; has mall and discount brands for all seasons
Favorite Find: a toddler's Toronto Maple Leafs windbreaker ($1.99)
Notes: The new store has a great selection of kids' clothes. It is clean, well-stocked and air conditioned.

Ohio Thrift Stores
Type: for-profit thrift stores - they buy from liquidators, non-profits and wholesalers
Location: multiple, we visited 5738 Cleveland Ave. at the Columbus Square Shopping Center
Website: ohiothriftinc.com
Inventory: strongest selection for toddlers and youth; has mall and discount brands for all seasons
Favorite Find: Boy's American Eagle jeans, size 28/30 ($8.99). Girl's It's Our Time ruby sweater, size L ($2.99)
Notes: The stores have a wider array of clothing than most other donation-based or thrift stores, including active wear, sleepwear and swimwear.

The Salvation Army Family Store
Type: donations
Location: multiple, we visited 2632 Morse Road. The largest store in Columbus is located at 1675 S. High St.
Website: salvationarmycolumbus.org
Inventory: strongest selection is for infants and toddlers; many mall and discount brands for all seasons
Favorite Find: Gently used onesies for 29 cents
Notes: Great selection; one store sorts through an average of 2,000 clothing donations each day. A surprisingly large number of teen clothes, including a Forever XXI shirt for $2.99.

Three Bags Full
Type: consignment event
Location: takes place at rented facilities (usually county fairgrounds); upcoming events in 2011 are Hartford, Sept. 22-24; Hilliard, Oct. 6-8; Delaware, Oct. 14-16; Pickerington, Oct. 20-22
Website: threebagsfull.info
Inventory: inventory also includes clothes for "back-to-work moms"; features mall and discount brands for all seasons, plus large selection of toys, supplies and equipment
Notes: "Back-to-Work Moms" is a section devoted to professional attire for moms post-pregnancy. The Hartford Fairgrounds hosts the biggest Three Bags Full sale each year with about 50,000 items from more than 200 families. Plan ahead if you want to sell your items on consignment. Sellers must register in advance and pay a small entry fee. Owners can claim unsold items or donate them to charity at the end of the sale.

Volunteers of America Greater Ohio
Type: donations
Location: multiple, we visited 3620 Indianola Ave. and 1824 W. Henderson Road (their newest store)
Website: voago.org
Inventory: strongest selections are for toddlers; youth runs up to size 14-16 girls, 18-20 boys; has many mall and discount brands for all seasons
Favorite Find: Classic Pooh sundress in size 5T ($2.99)
Notes: Finding clothes for teens at donation-based stores like this one takes patience. You may not find any - it simply depends on what the store has in stock at the moment.

$$

Little Darlings
Type: resale; store credit usually provided as payment, but cash is paid for select brands and items
Location: 3666 Main St., Hilliard; 614-529-8889
Website: littledarlingshilliard.com
Inventory: strongest selection for infants and toddlers; has mostly mall brands for all seasons
Favorite Find: Soft-pink, full-length jacket and matching dress, size 24 months ($16.99)
Notes: Owner-operated. Aside from Once Upon a Child, had the biggest selection of children's and infants' toys, furniture and equipment.

Lullaby's Baby and Toddler Resale Shop
Type: Does not buy from the public. Merchandise selected from personal buyers.
Location: 225-D S. 21st St., Newark; 740-344-2966
Website: lullabysbabyshop.com
Inventory: strongest selection for infants and toddlers; has mall and discount brands for all seasons
Favorite Find: Little girl dresses and boy dress suits for less than $10
Notes: Clean, well-stocked store. Smaller selection than at many other stores, but worth a look if you're in the Newark area.

Once Upon a Child
Type: resale - pays cash or provides store credit
Location: multiple, we visited 1385 Stoneridge Lane, Gahanna
Website: onceuponachild.com
Inventory: newborn/infant, toddlers to 6/6x, boys to 20, girls to 16; all seasons; mostly mall brands.
Favorite Find: Baby UR It Corduroy jacket with dark mock-wood decorative toggles and woolly lining in the hood, size 24-48 months ($13.50)
Notes: Has all departments of clothing for children, toddlers and infants, including costumes, dancewear, swimwear, sleepwear, outerwear and dress wear. Provides the biggest selection of children's furniture, toys and equipment.

Plato's Closet
Type: resale - pays cash or provides store credit
Location: multiple, we visited 7525 Sawmill Road in northwest Columbus
Website: platoscloset.com
Inventory: tweens and teens, all seasons, mostly mall brands like H&M, American Eagle, True Religion and Lucky; store buys sizes starting at 14/18 youth and juniors 0-16 plus
Favorite Find: Jeans. Rows and rows of name-brand jeans for all sizes, some under $10
Notes: If you had trouble finding your teens' or tweens' school clothes at discount stores, or if Rag-o-Rama styles seemed just a little too mature for your young teen, stop in here. Younger teens are especially well-served by this store.

Trader Tots Children's, Teen and Maternity Resale
Type: resale and consignment
Location: 1828 W. Fifth Ave., Grandview Heights; 614-488-8687
Website: tradertots.com
Inventory: strongest selection for toddlers; features mostly mall brands like Carters, Gymboree, Gap, Cakewalk, Abercrombie, Old Navy and Oilily; inventory is kept seasonal
Favorite Find: Handcrafted hair bows for girls, created locally by Bows by Daphne ($2.50-$4.00), theme bows available for holidays
Notes: Owner-operated. Helpful, friendly service. Great place to go for dresses, school clothes, play clothes, toys and supplies. Caters to children under 12.

$$$

Rag-O-Rama
Type: resale - pays cash or provides store credit
Location: 3301 N. High St., Clintonville; 614-261-7202
Website: ragorama.com
Inventory: teens and college-age; the stock is not strictly seasonal, but they consider season when buying items; carries mostly mall brands, including Ralph Lauren, American Apparel and Abercrombie
Favorite Find: Forever XXI cuffed shorts ($6)
Notes: New items compose 5 percent to 10 percent of store's inventory. Staff is very selective and buys clothes based on style, season and condition. Equally large selection for young men's and women's clothing. Also carries vintage styles, accessories and costumes.