When Penny Pirtle and Susan Philpott had trouble finding children's clothing for good prices near their homes, they decided to do something about it.
"We both had young babies and we were shopping other consignment sales and they had nothing in the Hixson area," Mrs. Pirtle said.
The two women started the All About Kids consignment sale four years ago in Hixson. Since that time, the sale has grown from 65 people selling their gently used clothing and gear in 700 square feet to 250 consignors in a 16,000-square-foot space in Highland Plaza this year.
"This year was the best sale we've ever had," she said about the event that ended Saturday.
The bad economy is driving the popularity of these sales, where moms can get deals on everything from maternity clothes to pack-'n-plays, strollers and clothing for babies and children.
Plus, most of the items sold at these sales have barely been used, and some still have the original tags from the store. Cribs sell for $40 to $60 and strollers that initially sold for $150 and up in stores can be found for $40 and $50 for the gently used ones.
"We've been growing ever since the economy hit rock bottom," Mrs. Pirtle said.
Now that the economy is improving, people have decided they want their money to go further, so the consignment sales offer them an easy opportunity to save money or even make a little by selling their childrens' items.
The sales themselves are moneymakers for people like Mrs. Pirtle and Mrs. Philpott who organize them. This year, after the space was rented and all the consignors paid for what they sold, the two friends will clear thousands of dollars.
Since they started All About Kids in 2005, a number of new sales have sprung up, Mrs. Pirtle sale.
"There were just two when we started ours," she said.
The weeklong All About Kids sale required a great deal of preparation. For two to three weeks, organizers are working with consignors through their Web site to help them get registered and make sure their clothing is priced. Each consignor prices his or her own clothing without any guidance from the sale.
Once the clothes and gear are brought in, sale organizers make sure items are clean, stain-free, not too worn and that toys or other items like strollers work.
Most sales have their own Web sites and an increasingly sophisticated system for registering consignors, pricing items and coordinating volunteers. The volunteers are offered substantial discounts or sought-after early shopping passes for the hours they work.
In the area, there are at least 10 sales registered with www.kidsconsignmentsales.com, a Web site that posts information about these types of consignment sales all over the country. The sales take place throughout the year and include Sweet Weepeets in East Ridge and Jack and Jill's Kids Sale on Highway 153 in the former Steve and Barry's.
One of the largest sales is called Just Between Friends and kicks off the weekend of Oct. 18 at Camp Jordan in East Ridge. The sale takes place in about 29,000-square feet of space inside Camp Jordan Arena. Organizer Stacy Ervin said that so far, more than 850 people have signed up as consigners.
"This sale is going to be bigger than anyone we've ever had," she said.
Ms. Ervin is going to cut it off at 1,000 consignors because, she said, she just won't have room for any more than that number.
Sweet Weepeets was held in August in East Ridge. That sale takes place twice a year and is held by Misty Craig and Brittany Hicks.
Mrs. Craig said sales at this year's event doubled from the previous year. She said parents often get so many items when they have a baby, and then their child only wears the items once or twice, and sometimes not at all.
"Sales are out of the roof, and it has a lot to do with the economy," Mrs. Craig said.
Mrs. Ervin agreed. She also said many moms just love to score deals on clothing and gear for their children. They can sell their items to other parents, buy discounted items for their little ones and even get a check when they go home, she said.
On the Web
* Just Between Friends - www.chattanooga.jbfsale.com
* All About Kids - www.allaboutkids consignment.com
* Jack and Jill's Kids Sale - www.jackandjillsale.com
Sweet Weepeets - www.sweetweepeets.com