It worked for Amazon, Bonobos, Warby Parker and Athleta.
Now Robert Sheie of Minneapolis, who started an online men’s upscale consignment business in 2011, is following other online retailers that have opened a brick-and-mortar store.
Menswear Market opens Wednesday at 3730 Chicago Av. in Minneapolis. “Even if we do a modest level of sales in the store, it’s worth the move,” Sheie said. “Just having a mailman pick up packages [from online sales] will make me far more efficient. My life used to revolve around trips to the post office.”
Sheie still actively sells from his website and eBay and most of the things he sells online will hang in the two-level, 1,400-square-foot location. In addition to a being a new sales outlet, the space will function as a photography studio and shipping center for his website.
Having his space serving two businesses mitigates the risk. Men’s consignment has never flourished as much as women’s consignment. Scores of resale stores thrive in the Twin Cities, but only a handful of them sell men’s clothing. They include TurnStyle, Plato’s Closet and Buffalo Exchange, all with multiple locations, Nu Look, Resale and Repair Lair in Minneapolis, and Fashion Avenue in Edina.
Menswear Market may be one of the few, if not the only, men’s-only consignment stores in the Twin Cities, but the used-goods industry as a whole is thriving. It produces about $17 billion in revenue each year with about 20,000 stores, including resale shops, consignment, thrift and antique stores. Pawnshops are not included in the total.
Twelve to 15 percent of Americans shop at consignment stores in any given year, a slightly higher number than go to outlet malls, according to America’s Research Group in South Carolina.
Lee Weisman, co-owner of Fashion Avenue in Edina, sells men’s and women’s consigned apparel and accessories, but the majority of sales are in women’s items. “The men who shop here love it, but many guys don’t even know that consignment exists for them,” he said.
Another reason for the scarcity in men’s consignment is that men tend to wear out their clothes rather than consign or donate them. “The majority of men keep their clothes too long and don’t shop as often as women,” said Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale and Thrift shops.
Men’s clothes are also more likely to be tailored for sleeve length and pant length, making them more difficult to fit. That doesn’t happen to the same degree in women’s clothing. Women also shop consignment more often in search of handbags and jewelry. “Men don’t buy as many accessories,” Meyer said.
Kevin Cashman, a Minneapolis author and executive leadership consultant, has consigned items that were sold on Sheie’s website for the last five years. He originally heard about Robert from Todd Fliginger, a salesman at Martin Patrick 3 menswear in Minneapolis.
“Todd asked me if I ever thought about consigning my clothes instead of donating them,” said Cashman. “Any guy who enjoys clothes and buys good stuff will find that this saves him a tremendous amount of time.”
Money too. Sheie’s clients, like most consignors, get 50 percent of the selling price. However, most used clothing sells for only one-third of the original price, if not less.
Cashman saves an area in his closet for consignment, usually consigning up to 30 items annually — shirts, sport coats, pants and shoes. He laughed when asked if he’s consider selling his castoffs himself on eBay or Craigslist. “That’s way too much hassle,” he said.
Sheie hopes that, with the store opening, more local men will come forward to consign their upscale wear. Most of his online consignors are from the coasts. He’s looking for local guys who can bring in top-quality brands such as John Varvatos, Gucci, Ralph Lauren and Ferragamo in excellent condition.
He’s also hoping to find more clients such as Wale Agboola, a former St. Paul resident who now lives in New York City. “I suggested Robert open a store here,” Agboola said last week at a friends-and-family event for Menswear Market. “He’s got a great selection of styles at amazing prices for Prada, Gucci or whatever I might be looking for.”
Sheie’s online business, which is dependent on about 40 active consignors, peaked at about $30,000 a month in 2015, but he’s seen it decline somewhat since.
“Online competition keeps growing and our 15 percent return rate, although low for the industry, will likely increase too,” he said. “We won’t have to worry about returns at the store. All sales are final.”