The clothing with the high-end labels is still dangling from the racks of the 2nd Time Around consignment shop on Newbury Street: Herve Leger bandage dresses. Oscar de la Renta sheaths. Yves Saint Laurent jackets.
Many of the company’s longtime consignors say they’ve also been left hanging — since the company announced last week that it would be closing all of its stores and would be unable to offer payouts for any items sold before May 1.
On Monday, customers expressed their outrage at the prospect of losing thousands of dollars from the sales of their clothing, shoes, and handbags. And they said they felt frustrated by the lack of information from the company; all phone queries are being sent to a call center, and employees have provided little explanation.
For many loyal consignors, the sting is personal, as consignment shopping is emotional in a way that other retail experiences aren’t. There is the built-in judgment (and quiet elation) when you’re told your pieces are accepted for sale. An innate sense of trust that’s required when you leave items behind. And the expectation that you’ll be paid fairly.
Many said that the relationships that develop between consignors and shop clerks are stronger than in other retail experiences.
“Trust is fundamental in the consignment industry,” said Lisa Castagno, the owner of seven Revolve consignment shops in the Boston area.
“The whole store wouldn’t exist without our items,” said Rachael Schlosberg, a graduate student at Boston University who has been visiting the Brookline store for several years to consign clothing for extra spending money.
2nd Time Around began selling high-end secondhand clothing in Newton Centre in 1973 and had grown significantly in the past several years, at one point operating more than 40 stores throughout the country. But the company has been contracting its footprint since last summer, closing shops in tony ZIP codes in Miami, Georgetown, and Greenwich, Conn.
2nd Time Around had three locations on Newbury Street, but closed two of the stores earlier this year.
In New York City, the store at 53 E. Houston St. is padlocked after the company was “legally evicted last week due to nonpayment” of rent, according to Eric Nelson, the building’s landlord. He has been referring all customers to New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs.
Employees in Greater Boston said they were stunned to learn last Tuesday that the company was shutting down and they’d lose their jobs. Customers were alerted on Wednesday by e-mail. Attempts to contact company headquarters on Monday were unsuccessful.
“The downsizing wasn’t scaring me at all; I just assumed it was part of the business,” said one longtime employee, who asked not to be identified because she was not authorized to speak for the company. She said sales clerks have been calling top consignors to pick up their items. And they’ve been dealing with irate customers.
“Our hands are so tied right now,” she said.
Johanna Wechsler, a psychotherapist in Cambridge, said she’s been selling clothing at 2nd Time Around for more than 15 years and consigns over 30 items a month at the Cambridge and Newton Centre locations, including Diane von Furstenberg dresses, Fendi bags, and other labels such as Chloe, Chanel, and Tory Burch. Wechsler said she was “blindsided” by the e-mail and has visited both locations in an attempt to retrieve her unsold clothing. But on Monday afternoon, she left the Newton Centre store with only three items. Employees were unable to find 28 pieces that she had consigned at the stores, and when they tallied her promised payouts, they determined that she’s owed more than $1,000.
She said that she hadn’t received a payment since December, but that hadn’t given her pause, because the store clerks promised it was merely a change of corporate leadership that was tying up the distribution of checks.
“I’d shop and see my clothing [on racks]; I never thought that someone would actually take off and not pay thousands of dollars,” she said. “It seemed inconceivable.”
Many customers were just learning about the store closings while dropping in during the Monday lunch hour.
“I’m just a little sad. I’m a recycler myself, and an artist, so I have to watch my pennies,” said Maria Jane Loizou, a singer who lives two blocks from the Brookline shop and dropped by occasionally to purchase sequin blouses for her performances.
“I will miss it,” she said. “It’s yet another clothing store going out of business in Coolidge Corner.”
Rebecca Weinstock sighed as she recalled scoring a perfect set of caramel-colored Prada pumps on deep discount several years earlier. “I’m just so disappointed,” she said, “there’s nothing, really, in this neighborhood like it.”
Other retailers said one false move by another consignment store could send ripples throughout the marketplace.
“Honestly, 2nd Time Around closing really is quite disastrous,” said Lisa Castagno, the Revolve owner, who opened her Newbury Street store last year. Castagno has been in business since 2010 and said she now works with over 5,000 consignors at that store alone.
“Thousands of consignors have entrusted their items with people at 2nd Time Around, and so many of them will not get paid,” she said. “It’s such a poor reflection on my industry.”