Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mandarin Shoppers Get Thrifty by Buying on Consignment; Business at the Shops Is Doing Well, despite the Still-Slow Economy

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mandarin Shoppers Get Thrifty by Buying on Consignment; Business at the Shops Is Doing Well, despite the Still-Slow Economy

Article excerpt

Byline: JOSEPH BANETH ALLEN

Audrey Agnew was a bit worried in January when she noticed even penny-pinchers were keeping tighter reins on their pocketbooks.

It was the first real lull in steady business Agnew has experienced since opening Down Home Consignments & More almost two years ago. But the lull didn't last long enough to cause Agnew to have major concerns about her San Jose Boulevard business.

"Since January, business has been very steady and good," she said.

Other Mandarin thrift stores also report they're holding their own or even enjoying robust sales despite the current economic downturn.

Just down the road on San Jose Boulevard, Missi and Kelley Langford's upscale consignment shop Encore Decor is also enjoying good business because of the economy, they say.

"Business did slow for a while at the first of this year, but it has now picked up," Kelley Langford said. "One reason why thrift stores and consignment shops are doing so well in the current economy is that people want to change the look of their home without having to pay full retail prices."

It's sort of like keeping up with the Joneses without resorting to paying what the Joneses shelled out for that new look, he said.

At Down Home, its eclectic mix of once-loved paintings, dressers, knick-knacks and other pieces of furniture helps draw in shoppers with a yen for "projects."

"Most of our furniture we sell here requires a little bit of tender loving care," Agnew said.

Meanwhile, thrift stores like Encore Decor have also been a godsend to area home builders.

"We have business ties with the Northeast Florida Builders Association," Langford said. "When builders clear out the new furniture they brought in to stage model homes, it usually ends up somewhere here, either on the first or second floor."

The Langfords also make good use of the Internet to add to sales. Before opening Encore, Langford worked with computers, so designing and maintaining an online storefront presented no difficulty to him.

"I update our Web page about two to three times a week," he said. "Most of the time, furniture I post on the Web will sell out before I can update the Web page. …

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