My South African friend wondered what a consignment store is. I love questions like that because they reveal what I take for granted. Although, Felicity, you may have them and just call them something else.
A consignment store sells used clothing and other items (like a thrift store) but the store splits the sale price with the person who brought in the item. The one I'm referring to is a children's store that sells gently used clothing, toys, books, and bigger items (cribs, strollers, high chairs, etc.) at reasonable prices. The best deals are usually on baby and dress-up clothes because they hardly get any wear and are often practically new, but I've bought a TON of stuff for my boys over the years.
And as the boys outgrow things, I can sell them on account also. I'm sure consignment stores have varying policies, but in general they'll accept a limited number of items each month per consigner, and the items must be clean, in good condition, and seasonal (no winter coats in summer). They size them, organize them, price them, and display them, and when they sell we split the money. Items are marked by the month they came in and each month the price is marked down, until after a certain amount of time what doesn't sell is donated to charity. My consignment store will call if it's a big item, like a crib, to see if you want it back. I tend to sell bigger items on Craigslist and only consign clothes and toys I don't care about getting back. It's a great deal for budget-conscious families who aren't fixated on everything having to be new.
What about the rest of you? I guess I assumed that this was common all over America. Yes? No? Do you consign? Do you buy used? Do you thrift shop?
There are things I won't buy used - underwear (ewww), socks, and shoes especially. But most other things are fair game. We've found a lot of really nice things at Value Village and Goodwill.