It is the week before Recycled Lines LLC launches its spring pop-up store in Westport and Cindy Sammarco’s home in Southport looks like the warehouse for a department store. Rolling clothes racks stuffed with blazers and pants have taken over the living room while towers of neatly folded shirts and sweaters occupy the living room chairs.
This unlikely invasion of Sammarco’s residence had its beginning two years ago when she made an off-hand observation to her longtime friend Liz Neugebauer.
“I have a son who goes to prep school and she has two boys,” Sammarco recalled. “And we were seeing how quickly our sons grow out of their clothes. And I asked, ‘What do you do with them?’ I have a daughter, so we can’t pass the clothes down to her. And all of the kids are into the Vineyard Vines and the better clothes now. You spend a lot of money on these clothes and you have nothing to do with them once they outgrow them.”
While Sammarco acknowledged there were options for the older clothing — a donation to Goodwill or passing on the garments to another family member with a youthful son — she noticed that one option was missing: a consignment outlet specifically for premium — brand boys and young men’s clothing.
“We realized this was a market and an untapped market because no one (in the consignment business) really does teen boys clothes,” Sammarco said.
Why has there been an absence of a consignment store for this demographic? “Men and boys don’t shop often,” Neugebauer observed. “They do it maybe once a year, or maybe every six months. So, to hold a spot for men or boys, it is very hard.”
Since a brick-and-mortar retail outlet seemed unfeasible, an alternative approach was considered. “We came up with this pop-up concept for three times a year,” Neugebauer said. “That not only creates excitement, but it could also be when they’ve grown out of their stuff and need to shop.”
Neither woman ever ran a retail operation — Neugebauer worked as a buyer for the Caldor discount retail chain in the early 1990s but is now a part-time bookkeeper with the Fairfield United Soccer Association, while Sammarco works part-time as an attorney and as coordinator of Norwalk Hospital’s institutional review board. But their respective experiences in motherhood tipped them off to the best times to push for sales to their target market.
“Shopping for the summer, the back-to-school period and Christmas are the three biggest markets for boys’ shopping,” said Sammarco Those buying patterns led the duo to schedule their Recycled Lines retailing for March, August and November. The partners take in consignments two weeks ahead of their sales and conduct their retailing over a five-day period in a space set aside at Furniture on Consignment at 1435 Post Road in Westport.
“Jim Klinko, the owner of Furniture on Consignment, gives us a room in back, and we use furniture that he is selling,” Sammarco said.
Sammarco and Neugebauer made their initial foray into consignment retailing last year, using social media and word-of-mouth marketing to secure their initial inventory. “It started with talking to some friends who were interested and it kind of took off on itself,” Sammarco said. “One mom told another mom, and then people would see us on Facebook and like us, and ask to be updated for sales and consignment days through our e-mail list.”
Recycled Lines aims for a specific type of clothing — the company’s website states that it accept “premium brands including: Brooks Brothers, Vineyard Vines, JCrew, JohnnyO.” Neugebauer insisted the higher-end brand focus is “what people really want.”
Although they declined to disclose the start-up costs of their endeavor, they said they self-financed the business launch and hande all aspects of the business, including in-store customer transactions. The pair ended 2016with roughly $12,000 in sales. Merchandise that did not sell is either returned to the consigner or donated to the nonprofit Community Closet in Bridgeport.
The latest brief Recycled Lines incarnation ran from March 28 through April 1; sale dates have not been set yet for the August and November pop-ups.
Looking ahead, Sammarco and Neugebauer plan offerings to include men’s clothing, with a particular focus on college-age men getting ready for their first forays into the professional world.
“I was pleasantly surprised that it works and worked so quickly,” Neugebauer saidd. “We’ve received a lot of really positive response in such a short time.”