Sue McCarthy makes a living selling used purses for $1500 and her customers walk away thinking, ‘wow, what a bargain!’ Sue is the owner of Women’s Closet Exchange in St. Louis and she’s also the star of Style’s newest reality series Resale Royalty.Sue opened the store 25 years ago after visiting a local thrift shop. Says McCarthy, “I looked around and I thought this is great, but you know what? I can do it better.”
Now she has three resale shops in the same plaza; one for trendy teen clothes, one for kids and moms-to-be and the luxury shop that is the jewel in her Manolo Blahniks.
Sue’s two daughters, Laura and Diana, both help run the stores and sometimes it’s hard separating business issues from family issues. Still, it works because they each have personality traits that fill in where the other two fail. Diane is the organizer. She handles marketing, events and is the voice of reason. Laura is the bubbly sales person who makes customers feel welcome and the employees feel like part of the family. Mama Sue holds it all together with her years of experience and intuitive business sense. She’s also the one who understands the value of a happy customer. Several times in the premiere episode she’s heard to say “I’ll go (insert $ figure here) if that puts a smile on your face.” In one case, it’s an extra $50 for a rare Louis Vuitton bag, in another it’s an extra $3,000 to buy a car full of high-end designer duds from a local celebrity.
Sue has scored $20,000 dollars’ worth of merchandise because she’s willing to visit clients in their homes. For a real catch, she and her girls will drop everything to get in on a closet buy. They help the client thin out her wardrobe; they pay cash (about a fourth of retail) and then mark the items back up to half the retail price for sale in the shop.
The secret to running a successful resale shop is paying the right price so there’s room for a profit. But even women who buy $700 Jimmy Choo’s want a decent return on their investment and most are underwhelmed by the prices Sue offers. She does sweeten the deal with a higher price if they take store credit but most prefer the lower amount in cash.
Since reputation is everything, Women’s Closet Exchange has their own authenticator on staff to prevent mistaking designer knock-offs for the real thing.
The culmination of the first episode is an event called Handbag It Over – anyone who sells a bag to the store gets a 20% off coupon and a chance to win a designer bag. It’s a huge event that begins with a line of customers around the block and no employees in the store. Everyone shows up late to work, which leaves Sue angry and wondering why people insist on taking advantage when she treats them so well.
In the end, the staff comes together for a pep talk and a reminder that blood or not, they’re all family. Nice, but it can’t last because what’s a reality show without drama.
If you’ve ever thought of going into the resale business, Resale Royalty is a lesson in the good, the bad, and the ugly. It takes a strong will to offer a reasonable price and stick to it when the client wants more. You have to know your product, know what your customers will and won’t buy, and you have to have the stomach for daily risk.
On the upside, every day is like a treasure hunt. You just never know what you’ll unearth when a new client invites you to clean out her closet. Vintage Chanel jacket for $900? It’s a steal at half that price.
Watch Resale Royalty, Sunday’s at 9:00 on Style.
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(Photo Credit: RESALE ROYALTY — Season: 1 — Pictured: (l-r) Sue McCarthy, Laura Maurice, Diana Ford — (Photo by: Chris Haston/Style)