Treasure hunters, on consignment

Brandi Griffith (left), organizer of the Lowcountry Tot Swap, rings up items for Lisa Locklair of Knightsville during the Thursday event at Exchange Park.

Soon after becoming a mom, Brandi Griffith realized how quickly children outgrow equipment and clothing.

"I wanted to get rid of my kids' stuff, and it was still in great condition," said the mom of two.

She lived in Atlanta then, and participated in a huge consignment sale that's held there twice a year.

"When I moved back home, I said, 'We need something like this here,' " she said. "I am an event planner by trade, so it was a natural thing for me to do."

She started the Lowcountry Tot Swap, which had its first event in April. The second sale is running through Saturday at the Exchange Park in Ladson, and Griffith said with 56 consigners and more than 10,000 products, it's twice the size of her first sale.

In Mount Pleasant, moms Elizabeth Barnhill, Heather Gilbert and Amy Walters had a similar idea.

"I had never done consignment before this," said Gilbert, a mother of two. "Now

I think about all of the things that I gave away, some of it hardly used. I could have made a little money by consigning."

The three women started the Charleston Repeats consignment sale, which also held its first event in April. Their next sale is Sept. 11 and 12, and they expect about 300 sellers.

"It's coincidental that we did this at the same time," Gilbert said. "We both saw a need and decided to do something about it."

She believes the local market is big enough to support both sales, plus the sales run by local churches and parenting groups.

"These types of consignment events are popping up all over the country," Griffith said, adding that some are even franchised.

The organizers attribute the popularity of the sales to the economy.

"Families all over are looking for ways to bring home a little extra cash," Griffith said. "In particular, the moms that are interested in these sales are the ones with children who are newborns to age 5. They go through things so quickly at that age and most of their items are still in like-new condition."

Arline Grove, a Goose Creek mother of two, is among those parents looking to sell items her children no longer use. She has participated in both local sales, making $50 to $90 each time. "What I make, I usually wind up spending at the sale," she said. Last year, she found a nearly new London Fog jacket for $6 that her 4-year-old son Noah will wear this winter.

Gilbert said consigners averaged about $200 each in profits from their April sale, but a few pocketed as much as $1,000.

Typically, consignment sales charge participants a flat fee of about $10 and then split the profits, with the sellers making about 65 percent to 70 percent.

Participants and first-time new moms are often offered special shopping hours before the sale opens to the public.

Griffith said she was surprised by how much was sold at the Tot Swap preview sale on Wednesday, including every high chair.

"Getting to shop early is one of the big benefits of being a consigner, volunteer or new mom," she said.

While the sales accept hundreds of different types of items, from clothing to toys and books to furniture, they will not take anything recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and a list of other items that includes car seats, stuffed animals, breast pumps or cloth diapers.

"We follow the Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines closely and have pretty strict standards," Griffith said.

Items at both sales are marked down as the sale goes on, and leftover items are donated to local charities.