30 August 2011

Second Hand Mom2Mom Sales Explode

Story first appeared in the Detroit Free Press.
On a cool Saturday morning earlier this month, 80 cars sat in lines covering the front lawn of the Warren Woods Christian School. It was 8:35 a.m. The school doors had been open for five minutes.
Mothers, some with babies strapped to their chests in carriers, hustled through the dewy lot and headed inside. At the entry table, the workers scrambled. So many had already come through and paid the $2 early-bird entry fee that they'd run out of change.
These moms were there for one reason -- the deals at the Mom2Mom sale.
Table after table of deals, spilling through the cafeteria, into the hallways and down into the gymnasium. More than 100 tables in all. All piled with used baby clothes, toys, shoes, maternity wear, bibs, bottles, books, games and more. All priced to sell.
For Michigan parents, fall means the return of the busy Mom2Mom sale season. Each weekend at churches, community centers and schools from Grosse Pointe to Shelby Township to Trenton and Bloomfield Hills, thousands of moms flock to sales hoping to score cheap goods or to turn their used kids stuff into cash.
The sales work like this: Organizations sell tables and racks for a fee, usually about $20 a table and $5 for a rack. They also sometimes charge for adding items to the "big item" room, which houses strollers, high chairs, play kitchens and more. The sellers rent a table spot and haul in used kids stuff. Shoppers then pay a small entry fee -- usually one or two dollars -- before bargain shopping the morning away. Negotiating is common.
The sales, which started in Macomb County in the early 1990s, are extremely popular. Who can pass up a cute onesie for a buck? Strollers for $15? High chairs for $10?
One mom said they have the exact same toys you see in the store now
During the busiest fall weekends, more than 40 Mom2Mom sales will dot metro Detroit, said Patty Zilinsky, the owner of Mom2Momlist.com, which lists private sales for a small fee. Last spring was the busiest ever, with 247 sales listed. This month, she's been adding about 30 sales to the fall list each week.
Zilinsky said it's just been a domino effect. She started the site in 1999 with Valerie Zilinsky, her then-daughter-in-law. Each year, it used to be there were 35-40 sales in the spring and 15-20 in the fall. And the spring used to go March to May and the fall September to November. Now the spring is from January to June and the fall goes July to December.
Why does this trend continue to grow? Because in a bad economy, thrifting is more acceptable than ever, experts say. This month, Entrepreneur magazine called thrift stores "franchising's hottest industry."
The Association for Resale Professionals reports that the number of thrift stores has grown 7% each of the past two years.
There's no question in Michigan and all over, people are watching their dollars, and in lieu of shopping in a discount store, more are now going secondhand. And Mom2Moms provide the same opportunity to find a brand or product you want that's slightly used but gives you a deep discount. And especially if they're done in community centers, people identify with those places, whether it is in Canton or Grosse Pointe or Bloomfield Hills.
Some metro Detroit sales are so popular, lines form 30 minutes before doors open. At the annual spring sale at Cross of Christ Church in Bloomfield Hills, demand is so high that shoppers are routed to Birmingham Seaholm High School to park and take a shuttle to the sale.
Michigan's Mom2Mom trend has also given rise to a group of moms who are holding onto their children's stuff, rather than donating it or handing it down.
Munro, who organized the Warren Christian sale said it's a brilliant concept, and the organization makes money. People get to come and make money selling their stuff. Shoppers get good discounts. It's a win-win-win.
Munro has been hooked since her daughter, now 9, was 3 months old. She's purchased everything for her at Mom2Mom sales, from big-ticket items to most of her clothing.
She said she bought her entire winter wardrobe one year for $80, which included twenty pairs of pants, 30 shirts, sweaters, dresses, boots, tights, everything. All in one day.
Anna Magri, a 33-year-old from Troy, shopped the Warren sale looking for items for a baby girl due on Nov. 25. It's her first child, and this was her first sale. She struck Mom2Mom gold quickly and found a mint condition Boppy pillow (used to support a baby during feedings) with a retail value of $35 for $5, and an infant carrier for $2. She also stocked up on books. She was excited to find a toy for one dollar that was shaped like a caterpillar that teaches babies the ABCs that in not in stores anymore.
Magri had come to the sale just looking for whatever piqued her interest. Bazinet, the 25-year-old from Warren, had come on a mission for something specific for her 1-year-old daughter -- a small cube play structure with a slide.
By 9 a.m., she was loading the exact toy she had in mind into the back of her SUV. She paid $10. The same toy, used, on eBay was listed at about $30.
It's moments like that that turn her away from retail shopping, even when items are on deep discount, and back to the Mom2Mom sales. Again. And again.

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