How to buy designer handbags for less -, GA News Weather & Sports

How to buy designer handbags for less

Consignment stores are one way to buy genuine designer handbags. Source: WBRC video Consignment stores are one way to buy genuine designer handbags. Source: WBRC video

What's in a name? For designer handbags, the name is everything.

Luxury handbag brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Prada can command thousands of dollars for a single item. Sure, buyers are forking over that kind of cash for a quality product, but it's really the allure of the high-end name that garners the five star price. But what if you didn't have to pay top dollar for first class, designer products?

As it turns out, when it comes to designer handbags, many times the second time is the charm. The consignment market for designer goods has exploded in recent years and deeply discounted, gently-used items abound in Birmingham.

And we're not talking about thrift store merchandise with holes, tears and stains. Many of the consignment stores are highly selective with their merchandise and display their goods just like a glitzy retail space on 5th Avenue in New York.

One example is Collage Designer Consignment, with locations in Homewood and Vestavia Hills. Owner Tracy True Dismukes shows us a variety of designer handbags they currently feature, all of them appear in great condition. Brands including Prada, Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Burberry and Fendi.

"You'll see 20 percent off markdowns and you'll see 50 percent off markdowns," explains Dismukes.

The most expensive bags at Collage are priced at $499, but were bought new in the last few years for hundreds more. Dismukes says the savviest second-hand purse shoppers are regulars who pop in weekly to check out the new merchandise.

We spotted an apple green, leather bag by Coach for $146. It looked to be in almost perfect condition. A check of Coach's website showed similar looking bags priced at $398.

Dismukes also showed us several Valentino handbags priced at $399. She said if you bought those new, you'd pay well over $1,000.

Collage also carries many designer wallets and checkbook covers. We found a colorful Kate Spade wallet for $49. It looked like it had never been used. Kate Spade wallets sell new between $100-$150.

Collage is not the only player in Birmingham's resale game. We checked out the handbag inventory in several other popular consignment stores in the metro area. We found a black Jimmy Choo handbag for sale at Renaissance Consignment and Marketplace for $800. A new Jimmy Choo handbag in a similar style would sell for approximately $1500. Zoe's in Forest Park had a gold, metallic leather bag by Cole Haan for $89. A new Cole Haan would sell for around $298.

You can also find many second-hand purses for sale online. We checked out the inventory at the Mountain Brook trading page on Facebook.

Laura Silsbee is the page administrator and approves 200-300 new posts a day. Of those, she says around 10 a day are designer handbags. She's seen everything from Coach to Louis Vuitton to Marc Jacobs, all at deep discounts. When we visited with her a black, quilted handbag by Chanel had just been posted for $600.

Silsbee said it's up to buyers to do their homework and check the products out carefully before buying.

"All Mountain Brook trading does is facilitates the sale," explained Silsbee. "It puts the buyers with the sellers, and so it's really up to those two to work out everything and the buyer just needs to beware and go in there with open eyes when they look at a product."

When asked about counterfeit handbags, Silsbee said any post that is a known counterfeit will be immediately taken down. She also said if any users suspect a bag isn't authentic, they should notify her. She said in Mountain Brook trading's first year, several posts featuring fake handbags had been removed.

Collage owner Dismukes told us she sees many counterfeit bags and never approves them for sale in her store. She and her staff stay trained on how to spot the fakes and many times, she said, the owners don't even realize their handbag isn't the real deal.

"You can tell the bad fakes, it's a little harder to tell the good fakes," explained Dismukes. "But if we're a little unsure, if we're iffy, we're not going to take them, we're not going to take that chance."

So how can you be the savviest, second-hand purse shopper? Dismukes said be a regular, who pops in weekly to check out the new merchandise.

"It's really a new store everyday," explained Dismukes. "The variety is not what you're going to see at the mall. It's not a set inventory that stays for a little while and then more comes in. Every single 15 minutes we're putting more stuff out so it's constant."

"Then we have semi-annual sales that get all the way down to 90 percent off," Dismukes said.

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