Consignment store finds winning recipe with used clothing

Bob McGregor, owner of Labels for Less, has relocated his longtime business.
Cathy DobsonBob McGregor, owner of Labels for Less, has relocated his longtime business. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

Success in the consignment business doesn’t come easily in Sarnia, says Bob McGregor, owner of Labels for Less.

But he can point to a few things that have made it possible to survive where at least six others have failed.

For 25 years, McGregor has operated Labels for Less, a high-end used clothing store that started out on Mitton Street, then moved to the downtown core. It expanded to a second location in London for six years and now operates in Northgate plaza on Exmouth Street.

Two weeks ago, McGregor and his staff of three moved Labels for Less from the north side of Northgate to a corner location on the east side, where there’s more traffic.

Through each move, McGregor says he paid close attention to detail and stuck by his rules: that every item of women’s clothing, footwear, jewelry and purse must be in style, in excellent condition and made by a high-end label.

There’s no difficulty finding gently used clothing by Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Chicos or Jones New York to stock the store, he said. The trick is to keep the selection changing, to attract a loyal clientele and to be realistic about pricing.

“I have a lot of competition, so I better have clothes with style, labels and in perfect condition. If you don’t have all three of those you have nothing,” said McGregor, who is the kind of store owner who greets every customer when they arrive.

McGregor calls Labels for Less a consignment store but he pays outright for clothing that he accepts.

There’s a fine art to telling people their used clothing isn’t in good enough condition or misses the style mark, McGregor said.

“My success comes down to me being so picky and knowing what the price of something would be new.

“I think after all this time that people in Sarnia get it,” he said. “Instead of paying $100 for a new Ralph Lauren vest, they can buy it here in mint condition for $15.97.

“Or instead of paying $65 for a new Ann Taylor blouse, I can sell you one in perfect condition for $12.97.”

The new location is open Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Sunday openings will be announced on Facebook.

BRITISH SHOPPE CHANGES HANDS, NAMES

The restaurant business has been good to Irene Gifford, who has owned The British Shoppe at Northgate Plaza for the past decade.

“But it’s time to look for new adventures,” she said about her decision to sell the busy spot to one of her employees.

Michele Smeets has worked at The British Shoppe the past two years and at Olives restaurant for many years before that.  While Gifford closed her doors last weekend, Smeets intends to reopen in early March and call her new venture Overflow Café.

“We’re continuing with most of the British Shoppe menu, including the baked goods,” said Smeets.  “It’s like the old and the new coming together.”

Overflow Café will open Monday to Saturday. Breakfast will be served until 3 p.m.

Got an interesting business story? Contact Cathy at cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca or 226-932-0985.