Consignment sales have become increasingly popular in recent years as a way for individuals and businesses to sell their products without needing a traditional storefront or inventory. How does consignment sales work?

Consignment sales involve a consignor (the seller) entrusting their merchandise to a consignee (the seller’s agent), who then sells the merchandise on behalf of the consignor for a commission fee. 

The consignment sales process can vary depending on the specific arrangement between the consignor and consignee. However, some common elements include setting a price for the merchandise, determining the commission rate, and outlining the terms of the consignment agreement. Understanding how consignment sales work is important for sellers and buyers interested in participating in this type of sales model.

The Basics of Consignment Sales

Consignment sales are a type of sales model that allows individuals and businesses to sell their products through a third-party agent, called the consignee, without investing in a traditional storefront or inventory. 

How consignment sales work is quite simple. In this model, the consignor entrusts their merchandise to the consignee, who then sells it on behalf of the consignor for a commission fee. The consignee takes care of the merchandise’s storage, display, and promotion and only receives payment once the merchandise is sold.

Consignment sales offer several advantages for both the consignor and consignee. This model allows consignors to sell their merchandise without having to invest in a storefront or inventory, which can be costly and time-consuming. 

It also allows reaching a wider audience as consignees typically have an established customer base. On the other hand, consignees benefit from receiving a commission fee for selling the merchandise, which can provide a steady stream of income. 

Consignees can also diversify their product offerings by selling various merchandise without investing in inventory. Overall, consignment sales can be a win-win situation for both parties involved.

The Role of the Consignor and Consignee

The consignor and consignee play important roles in the consignment sales model. The consignor is the individual or business that owns the merchandise and wishes to sell it through the consignment sales model. They entrust their merchandise to the consignee, who acts as their agent in selling the merchandise. The consignor retains ownership of the merchandise until it is sold, and they receive payment from the consignee once it is sold.

The consignee, on the other hand, is the individual or business that sells the merchandise on behalf of the consignor. The consignee takes care of the merchandise’s storage, display, and promotion and only receives payment once the merchandise is sold. They typically charge a commission fee, a percentage of the merchandise’s sale price, as their compensation for selling the merchandise. The consignee is responsible for ensuring that the merchandise is marketed effectively and sold at a fair price to maximize profits for both the consignor and consignee.

Setting Prices and Commission Rates

Splitting the incomes is an important part of how consignment sales work. Setting prices and commission rates is then an important aspect of consignment sales as it can impact the profitability of both the consignor and consignee. When setting prices, the consignee and consignor must consider factors such as the market value of the merchandise, the condition of the merchandise, and the demand for the merchandise. The price should be fair and reflect the merchandise’s true value while providing both parties a profit margin.

Commission rates are another key factor when setting up a consignment agreement. The commission rate is the percentage of the sale price the consignee receives as compensation for selling the merchandise. The rate is usually negotiated between the consignor and consignee. It can vary depending on the type of merchandise, the consignment shop’s location, and the consignment agreement’s duration. 

Typically, commission rates range from 30% to 50%, with some consignment shops charging higher rates for specialty items. Both parties need to agree on a fair commission rate reflecting the value of the sold merchandise. Consignors and consignees can ensure a successful consignment sales partnership by setting appropriate prices and commission rates.

Understanding the Consignment Agreement

The consignment agreement is a contract between the consignor and consignee that outlines the terms and conditions of their consignment sales partnership. It is an essential document that sets the expectations for both parties and helps prevent misunderstandings or disputes. The agreement typically includes information about the merchandise being sold, the duration of the consignment agreement, the commission rate, and any special terms or conditions.

The consignment agreement should clearly define the responsibilities of the consignor and consignee, including who is responsible for the merchandise’s storage, display, and marketing. It should also outline the payment terms, including how and when the consignor will receive payment for their merchandise and how any unsold merchandise will be handled at the end of the consignment period. Additionally, the agreement should include provisions for resolving disputes, terminating the agreement, and addressing any legal issues that may arise.

It’s important for both parties to carefully review and understand the consignment agreement before signing it. You should address any questions or concerns before the agreement is finalized to ensure that both parties are satisfied with the terms and conditions of the consignment sales partnership.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Consignment Sales

The basis of how consignment sales work offers several advantages, including selling merchandise without investing in a traditional storefront or inventory, reaching a wider audience, and providing a steady income stream for consignees. However, consignment sales also have disadvantages, including the potential for lower profits and the risk of loss or damage to the merchandise.


  • No upfront investment is required for consignors.
  • Provides an opportunity to reach a wider audience through the consignee’s established customer base.
  • Consignees receive a commission fee for selling merchandise, providing a steady stream of income.
  • Allows consignees to diversify their product offerings without having to invest in inventory.
  • Consignors can maintain ownership of merchandise until it is sold.


  • Lower profits for consignors due to commission fees and potential markdowns.
  • Potential for loss or damage to merchandise during the consignment period.
  • Limited control over how merchandise is marketed and sold.
  • Consignors may have to wait for payment until the merchandise is sold.
  • Consignees may not accept all types of merchandise, limiting consignors’ selling options.

While consignment sales can benefit both parties, it’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages carefully before entering into a consignment agreement.

Tips for Successful Consignment Selling

Here are some tips for successful consignment selling:

Research Potential Consignees

Do your homework and choose a consignee that has a good reputation, an established customer base, and experience selling your type of merchandise.

Understand the Consignment Agreement

Read and understand the terms of the consignment agreement before signing it, and make sure you are clear on payment terms, commission rates, and other important details.

Price Your Merchandise Appropriately

Set fair prices that reflect the value of your merchandise and consider factors such as condition, demand, and market value.

Maintain Communication With the Consignee

Stay in touch with your consignee to ensure that your merchandise is being marketed effectively, and ask for updates on sales and inventory.

Keep Your Merchandise in Good Condition

Properly store and care for it to ensure it remains in good condition during the consignment period.

Be Flexible

Be open to negotiating commission rates or other terms if it means better sales for your merchandise.

Promote Your Merchandise

Utilize social media and other marketing channels to promote your merchandise and drive sales.

Follow Up on Payments

Stay on top of payment deadlines and follow up with your consignee if payment is not received on time.

Build Relationships

Consignment selling can lead to long-term business relationships, so maintain a positive and professional relationship with your consignee. Consignment sales cannot work properly without great relationships!

Potential Risks and How to Mitigate Them

While consignment sales can benefit both parties, there are also potential risks that you should consider. Here are some potential risks of consignment sales and how to mitigate them:

Loss or Damage to Merchandise

To mitigate this risk, consignors should properly package and label their merchandise before handing it over to the consignee. Consignees should also take measures to ensure the security and safety of the merchandise, such as locking display cases or using security cameras.

Lower Profits

Consignors should consider commission rates and potential markdowns before agreeing to a consignment sale. Consignors can negotiate the commission rate with the consignee to mitigate this risk or consider other sales models offering higher profits.

Unsold Merchandise

Consignors should discuss with the consignee what will happen to any unsold merchandise at the end of the consignment period. To mitigate this risk, consignors may consider setting a deadline for the consignment period or specifying how unsold merchandise will be returned or disposed of.


To mitigate the risk of non-payment, consignors should set clear payment terms in the consignment agreement and follow up with the consignee if payment is not received on time.

Poor Marketing or Sales

Consignors should research potential consignees and choose one with a good reputation and experience selling their type of merchandise. Consignees should also provide regular updates on sales and inventory to the consignor, and both parties should maintain open communication to ensure that the merchandise is being marketed effectively.

Consignors and consignees can confidently enter a consignment sales partnership by understanding and mitigating these potential risks.

To lessen the risks of consignment sales, make sure to get a point of sale solution with consignment features!

Examples of Successful Consignment Sales Models

Here are some examples of successful consignment sales models:

The RealReal

The RealReal is an online luxury consignment shop that sells high-end designer clothing, accessories, and home decor. The RealReal takes a commission fee ranging from 15% to 50% of the sale price, depending on the item’s value, and offers free authentication services to ensure the authenticity of the merchandise.


ThredUp is an online consignment store specializing in secondhand women’s and children’s clothing. ThredUp pays consignors upfront for their merchandise and takes a commission fee once the item is sold. ThredUp also offers free shipping for items over a certain value.

Furniture Consignment Gallery

The Furniture Consignment Gallery is a brick-and-mortar consignment store specializing in high-end furniture and home decor. The consignor receives 50% of the sale price, and the consignment store takes 50%. The Furniture Consignment Gallery offers free pickup for large items and has multiple locations throughout the United States.


Poshmark is a mobile app that allows individuals to sell and buy gently used clothing, shoes, and accessories. Poshmark offers shipping labels and handles all transactions through the app. Poshmark takes a commission fee of 20% for sales over $15 and 2.95% for sales under $15.


Rebag is a luxury consignment store that specializes in designer handbags. Rebag offers free shipping for consignors and takes a commission fee ranging from 25% to 40% of the sale price, depending on the item’s value. Consignors can receive payment upfront or opt for a higher payout percentage if they sell their item through Rebag’s buyback program.

These successful consignment sales models demonstrate the versatility and profitability of the consignment sales model across various industries and product categories. No matter the industry, consignment sales work the same way!

Consignment Sales in the Digital Age

Consignment sales have transformed in the digital age with the rise of online marketplaces and mobile apps. Online consignment sales platforms have significantly expanded the reach and accessibility of consignment sales, making it easier for consignors to sell their merchandise to a wider audience without needing a physical storefront. These platforms also offer greater convenience for buyers, who can easily browse and purchase merchandise from the comfort of their own homes.

Online consignment sales platforms like The RealReal, ThredUp, and Poshmark have grown rapidly in recent years, offering everything from luxury designer clothing to secondhand furniture and home decor. Mobile apps like Depop and Mercari have also become popular among younger generations, providing a platform for buying and selling vintage and unique items. 

These platforms typically take a commission fee ranging from 10% to 50% of the sale price, depending on the item’s value, and offer free shipping labels and other services to make the consignment process more seamless for both parties.

The rise of digital consignment sales has transformed the consignment industry, offering greater convenience, accessibility, and profitability for both consignors and consignees. As technology advances, consignment sales will likely evolve and adapt to meet buyers’ and sellers’ changing needs and preferences in the digital age.

Exploring Alternatives to Consignment Sales

While consignment sales can benefit some, they may not be the best option for every individual or business. Here are some alternatives to consignment sales:

Direct Sales

Direct sales involve selling merchandise directly to customers through a physical storefront or an online marketplace. This sales model provides greater control over pricing and sales but requires investment in inventory and may require more marketing efforts.


Wholesale sales involve selling merchandise in bulk to retailers or other businesses. This sales model provides a steady stream of income and reduces the need for marketing efforts but may require significant investment in inventory and may result in lower profits.


Auctions involve selling merchandise to the highest bidder in person or online. This sales model can generate higher profits for unique or rare items but may not be suitable for all types of merchandise and may require expertise in auctioning.

Online Marketplaces

Online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy allow individuals and businesses to sell their merchandise directly to customers. These platforms offer a wide reach and established customer base but may require fees and competition from other sellers.

Pop-up Shops

Pop-up shops involve setting up temporary storefronts in high-traffic areas to sell merchandise. This sales model provides greater visibility and control over pricing but may require investment in rental space and marketing efforts.

By exploring alternative sales models, individuals and businesses can determine the best approach for their merchandise and goals.

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