Dueling kids' consignment sales target different niches

"Oh no, honey, you can't shake carbonated drinks," Susan Hardy warns her 8-year-old daughter. "I'm sorry - what was the question?"

As a full-time mother of two girls and founder of Boutique Armoire consignment sale, Hardy has a lot on her plate. She also has a great understanding of the consignment business in Gwinnett.

"Consignment sales are huge here. It's a big business," she said.

Just look at this week's busy schedule, in which two of the county's biggest annual sales overlap with each other. The first is the Kidsignments sale, running Tuesday through Aug. 25 at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds. The second is Hardy's sale, Boutique Armoire, held Friday and Aug. 25 at the Norcross Community and Cultural Arts Center.

While both sales offer gently used kids' clothing and draw massive crowds, the similarities more or less stop there. Where one sale features all things family, the other offers a more limited selection of high-end children's merchandise.

Kidsignments calls itself the Super Bowl of consignment sales, filling two buildings with 1,000 sellers who offer anything parents could need, from maternity attire to clothes for teens.

"If your child can use it, play with it, read it or wear it, it'll be here," said Jeri Lynn Cunningham, founder of the semi-annual sale.

Cunningham started Kidsignments 14 years ago, as a garage sale with contributions from friends and neighbors. Shortly after the first sale, Cunningham's popularity grew and the consignment extravaganza moved to a local church. When that location proved too small, Cunningham relocated again to the fairgrounds, sure she would never fill up the open space. She was wrong.

"I had no idea it would get this big," she said. "We've never done a head count, but there are thousands and thousands of people who come to shop. I've even met one lady who flew in from California to shop our sale."

Boutique Armoire, on the other hand, puts forth a specialty selection of high-end, brand-name new and used clothing and toys. These are brands such as Austin and Ashley, Pottery Barn Kids and Kitestrings, and toys like Build-A-Bear stuffed animals and American Girl dolls. The bulk of the items at the sale are for babies and younger children, but there is a smaller selection for older kids.

"Our sale offers the upscale retailer clothes, because those are the items that you can't usually afford full-price," Hardy said. "These are items that would usually cost you $100 at the store, but at the sale, they're only $15. It's for people who have a limited budget but high-end taste, which I think is most of us."

Though the sale targets a more niche market, it is no less popular. Hardy's sale originated three years ago, at a Suwanee church, and quickly needed more space. Though she, too, has never done a head count, Hardy estimates more than a thousand shoppers attend her semi-annual sale.

"I wish we had time to count all those heads," she said. "The market out there for these brand-name items is huge. It's fun searching through the racks of clothing, looking for that special piece you just know your child will love, that's still a great price. It can become a habit."

SideBar: If you go

What: Kidsignments consignment sale

When: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, 2405 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville

Cost: Free

Info: A 25-percent-off day will be held Friday, and a half-price day will be held Saturday. No strollers or children will be allowed into the sale before 2 p.m. on Tuesday. Visit www.kidsignments.com.

What: Boutique Armoire consignment sale

When: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 9:30 to noon Aug. 25

Where: Norcross Community and Cultural Arts Center, 10 Britt Ave., Norcross

Cost: Free

Info: A book drive for Rooms to Read will be held on Friday. Anyone donating a book from the approved list will be let into the sale half an hour early. There will be no half-price day on Friday, and strollers are allowed. Visit www.boutiquearmoire.com.

What: Gwinnett Mothers of Multiples fall consignment sale

When: 8:30 a.m. to noon Aug. 25

Where: Salvation Army, 3455 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville

Cost: Free

Info: A half-price sale will run from 1 to 2 p.m. Call 770-449-3848 or visit www.gmomc.org.