Selling furniture on consignment has been hit and miss for local retailers. Although the number of resale shops nationwide continues to grow 7 percent annually, according to the National Association of Retail and Thrift Shops, several have closed in the Twin Cities. Kathryn Mak Consignment in Excelsior closed last week, Home At Last in Robbinsdale, Mary O’Neal in Excelsior, Mainstreet in St. Louis Park and Corner Door in Wayzata closed within the last one to two years. Wabi Sabi Shop, on the other hand, is the outlier that’s expanding. Owner Kay Frandsen, 59, recently moved her store from Plymouth to Deephaven. She doubled her space to 7,800 square feet and purchased the building. Previously, she had rented. All of the warmth remains, including Lily the resident wheaten terrier, complimentary tea and Tootsie Rolls, and Sinatra-style music, but she’s added a custom elk antler chandelier in the entryway and sliding barn doors from the farm where she was raised. Her commitment to Wabi (letting go of excess) and Sabi (beauty that comes with age) hold fast.
Q: Why was it important to buy a building instead of renting?
A: I was laid off when I turned 50 and I said at the time that I wouldn’t let anyone else determine when I do or don’t come to work. I wanted to be in charge of the rest of my working years and in control of my future. Owning, rather than renting a building, was part of that.
Q: But you’re nearing what most people would call retirement age.
A: I plan on not retiring. I don’t have family or kids. Once I am unable to lift furniture, I’ll be the little old lady visiting with customers. It will be my social life. I’ve known all along that I wanted a bigger shop or a second shop.
Q: A second shop?
A: We’re not ready to franchise yet but I’m doing the homework.
Q: You opened your original location in 2009. What has changed?
A: I shortened the consignment period to nine weeks. People always want a slightly better deal than the marked price, so now they get an additional 10 percent off after three weeks and 20 percent off after six weeks.
Q: You said that most of your customers are middle aged. Millennials haven’t discovered you?
A: I don’t think millennials have discovered consignment furniture shopping. Maybe they’re using apps like Letgo. I don’t know why they don’t shop here. Maybe the furniture looks too old. Most of it is 3 to 10 years old.
Q: Consignment furniture is still a niche. How do you fit into it?
A: Mine is high-quality furniture. There is so much used furniture available that I had to create a spreadsheet for people waiting until space becomes available.
Q: No one wants to haul a sofa to your shop only to be told that you don’t want it yet or not at all. How does that work?
A: People can bring in pictures or e-mail pictures. I also can come out to someone’s home for $50 an hour and tell them what we can and cannot accept and what it would sell for. We refund the trip charge if they consign with us. We will deliver and pick up items in a 10 mile radius for $50.
Q: What do things sell for and what is the customer’s take?
A: Consigned furniture will sell for about 25 to 35 percent of the original retail value. Accessories sell for a little more. The consignor gets 50 percent of the furniture price and 40 percent for accessories.
Q: You also allow your items to be rented for staging.
A: If the consignor allows it, we rent furniture to stagers for two months. The consignor gets paid for the rental and the sale, if it sells after it’s returned.
Q: What’s hot and what’s not?
A: I can’t get enough queen-sized beds [not mattresses], small sized or reclining lounge chairs, and compact-sized furniture. But I have trouble selling china or china hutches, silver plate and large-scale furniture.