You may have heard of the 80/20 rule applied to wardrobes: the theory that people tend to wear the same twenty percent of their clothing eighty percent of the time. Selecting what to wear in the morning has recently become quite a different experience for many who have been working from home over the past year. Once-loved items may have fallen out of circulation, pushed to the back of the closet, or maybe they have mysteriously shrunk and don’t seem to fit the way they once did.
If this sounds familiar, The Alternative, a consignment shop housed in a modest ranch on Route 202/206 in Bridgewater provides a solution. The upscale shop carries women’s and infants’ clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry and handbags as well as some furniture and household items. Owner Leslie Calo has been running the shop for 33 years and is savvy in knowing what sells and how to price the items that come through her door.
Calo says that the most common misconception people have about consignment shops is confusing them with thrift stores — two very different things. Thrift stores typically take anything and everything, while consignment shops are more selective.
“So many people don’t really know what consigning is,” she says. “It’s not just clothing that’s in good shape that people can still wear. Women want what they’re selling right now in the stores and they don’t want to pay full price.”
The Alternative carries current fashions and specializes in high-end brands such as Chico’s, Ralph Lauren, Talbots and Lucky Brand. Over the years, Calo has seen fashion trends become increasingly casual, with designer jeans and cashmere sweaters replacing business attire and suits that were more popular when she first started out.
Calo asks that interested consignors contact her in advance before bringing in their items. With the experience under her (fashionable) belt, she knows what her customers are looking for and can tell right away which items are a good fit for her shop.
Once items are accepted into her inventory, Calo has a highly organized color-coded tagging system with a different color for each month. New items arrive in the shop every day, many of them brand-new with tags. The clothing she accepts has to be from the last couple of years, in style and in excellent condition.
Consigned items remain in the collection for two months and are marked down at four and six weeks before being moved to the clearance rack. Consignors receive 50 percent of the sale price for their items. For larger-ticket items like expensive jewelry or handbags, Calo often negotiates a higher rate in favor of the consignor.
Calo manages the flow of inventory and business transactions singlehandedly, with some assistance from her adult daughters, Jenna and Rachel. She was first introduced to the business by her mother, Jeanne Mancini, who owned and operated The Attic Trunk in Pluckemin. When her mother retired, she continued the business that has since flourished into a successful career.
“I’ve been doing this twice as long as when my mother had her store, which is so shocking,” Calo says. “Knowing and doing it forever, I just feel like I was meant to do this.”
Calo says that she has had several regulars over the decades, some consigning and shopping with her for up to 30 years. Many people check in weekly for new arrivals and opt to reinvest their consignment earnings into shopping.
“Instead of receiving a check they will buy new clothing. Of course, I don’t mind,” Calo says. “Sell your items and buy new ones all in the same place!”
105 Highland Ave., Rte. 202/206
Open: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tues. to Fri., 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sat.