Rodeo Drive Deals is one of thousands of specialty eBay boutiques that focus on high-end labels. Although eBay has been around for 16 years, only in the last five years have fashionistas relied on it to fill their closets with major-label brands. As the economy has shifted, cyber-consignment has become a bigger niche because those who paid full price would rather get back a pretty penny for their barely used items.
Other successful niche boutiques include Pennsylvania-based vintage consignment shop Linda's Stuff, Chicago-based edrop-off, and Celebrityowned, which sells designer items that (you guessed it) were once owned by the rich and famous.
Weitz has been ahead of the curve when it comes to taking high-end seriously. She started building her business part time six years ago and found many of her original consignors through her work at Saks; she now has 200 of them. Each receives 60 percent of the sales price on consigned items.
"I can make more than $500 a season on the clothing I sell to Jan," said Lorna Rudnick, who runs a King of Prussia-based marketing firm. "I've given her designer things like St. John and Louis Vuitton and Ferragamo."
In April, Weitz quit her day job to run the business full time. She expects to take home a six-figure income - more than what she was making at Saks - after she meets her expenses.
At any given time, Weitz has hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces of inventory that she and her staff photograph, measure, and list online. Some weeks she sells hundreds of items; other weeks, just a few dozen. Right now it's the middle of fall-season shopping, so Weitz says business is pretty brisk.
Good news for me: I've got my eye on an Etro shirt. And who can afford to spend hundreds of dollars on a brand-new one at Boyds? Just waiting for that size 8 to show up.
This year, buying gently used high-end is particularly appealing because as a group, shoppers are tired of, well, not shopping. And those who are shopping again want quality items at a good price.
And if Weitz's items are consistently anything, it's super-high quality. That means no Banana Republic, or even J. Crew. She doesn't take anything that is too worn, and she's fond of the labels seen in the glossy pages of Vogue, or better, in the Real Housewives of Atlanta's closets.
To make it easy for her customers, Weitz does free FedEx shipping for out-of-town consignors. She also goes to clients' homes and helps them pare their wardrobes. While there, she picks up items as well.
Miriam Lahage, eBay's global head of Fashion Brand, says the market for this kind of niche selling is still growing. But others, such as Rachel Weingarten, marketing strategist and president of New York-based Interrobang LLC, say the market is on its way to becoming saturated as online auction shopping loses its newness.
The biggest challenge to sellers is that they are held hostage to eBay's policies.
"If eBay changes its policies quickly, like many Internet companies do, then it can affect a seller's bottom line and profit margin," Weingarten cautions.
But, she added, about specialty stores like Weitz's, "she can probably make a very decent living, especially if she has the reputation and the connections."
And it appears to be working that way. On Monday, Weitz received shipments from four consignors that included Lanvin and Chanel handbags and Gucci-logo rain boots.
"We were freaking out with all the stuff that came in today," Weitz said. "It's going to be a great holiday season."
Contact Rodeo Drive Deals at email@example.com.
Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at firstname.lastname@example.org, 215-854-2704, or @ewellingtonphl on Twitter.