Pawn that Prada at Pawn America?

There’s a new player in town on the high-end fashion resale circuit: Pawn America, where you can now swap last season’s Coach bag, too-tight True Religion jeans or barely worn Kate Spade pumps for cash.

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A leather handbag by Coach

There’s a new player in town on the high-end fashion resale circuit: Pawn America, where you can now swap last season’s Coach bag, too-tight True Religion jeans or barely worn Kate Spade pumps for cash.

Pawnshops have been polishing their image over the past several years, aided by the recession, when even upper-class snobs were trading in cherished belongings, and the reality TV shows “Pawn Stars” and “Hardcore Pawn.”

Now the Minnesota-based chain Pawn America is expanding its inventory in some stores to include designer clothing and accessories, aiming to compete with such upscale resale shops as June, Fashion Avenue and Rodeo Drive. Designer duds are currently available at the Inver Grove Heights store and will come to the new South St. Paul store in March.

“We’re carving out a niche as a junior box store with something for everyone,” said Dan Kealey, a director of Rixmann Cos., the chain’s owner. “It’s the next step in the evolution of pawn retailing.”

Pawn America’s advantage, Kealey says, is that the store pays cash upfront at standard percentages, rather than put items on consignment. An item that retailed for $100 would be bought by Pawn America for $15 to $20, then resold for $30 to $40. The chain is also working on buying closeout lots from department stores.

Daune Stinson, who also buys goods outright at June, her Minneapolis resale boutique, isn’t feeling threatened.

“I don’t think my customers would go there to shop,” she said. “But I can see people buying things like Coach bags, or even a step up, at that kind of store.” □

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