Consignments helping LuLu ride out recession

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Kelly Martinez, manager of LuLu, a high-end women’s apparel boutique downtown, began offering consignment service during January.

Kelly Martinez, manager of LuLu, a high-end women’s apparel boutique downtown, began offering consignment service during January.

As cash-strapped and budget-conscious consumers restrict spending to essentials, one high-end Tejon Street retailer has figured out a way to help ease the pain of a year-long recession.

When LuLu owner Tess Loo began noticing slipping sales last fall, she borrowed an idea from her sister, Ann Siner. Siner owns several consignment stores in Arizona that have performed well despite the recession.

LuLu sells high-end women’s apparel and accessories at 214½ N. Tejon St., but two months ago, Loo began offering consignments. And the response has been positive.

Customers have brought in gently worn designer-label items, including shoes and accessories. Once an item sells, the consigner can either take the cash or receive a credit for other store items.

“The program has definitely increased our transactions,” said store manager Kelly Martinez. “We’ve seen more Colorado College students in the store and our regular customers have also shopped from the consignment area. We’ve seen many customers with tightened budgets who like the idea of leaving the store with more items than they normally would.”

Martinez said customers’ reactions to the slowing economy began affecting sales last October, but that LuLu is not in danger of closing.

“I think you learn how to deal with what is presented and you try to reinvent yourself in a way that keeps you moving,” Martinez said. “We are pleased with the performance of the new (consignment) program and people seem excited about it. People love it when they can find a pair of Prada shoes for $75, and I love seeing the items people bring in.”

As far as new fashions go, LuLu will continue to offer items customers might not otherwise find in Colorado Springs, such as the Vivienne Tam and Virgins, Saints & Angels brands. But, the store has lowered its price point and is not carrying as many high-end products as it has in the past.

“Vivienne Tam is a very high-end, Asian-inspired clothing line,” Martinez said. “Virgins, Saints & Angels is a jewelry line from Mexico that includes a religious theme. The pieces are all blessed by priests.”

As consumers continue to shift their buying behavior in favor of good deals and high-value items, Martinez has noticed fashion suppliers following suit, even in the types of colors they’re offering to retailers.

“We’re shopping for fall right now, and we’re calling the vendor offerings, ‘recession drab,’” she said. “There are a lot of gray and black and drab, depressing colors. Last year (by comparison) we saw lots of berries and purples for the fall season. Vendors are also selling in smaller quantities and are much more willing to work with store owners regarding payment terms.”

Video games power up

U.S. Consumers might be able to live without new automobiles, high definition televisions and the occasional night out on the town, but don’t try to take away their video games.

GameStop, a video game retailer with l0 locations in El Paso County, experienced its eighth straight year of sales and earnings growth during 2008 — even as the current recession forced many retailers into bankruptcy.

The company said sales rose 22 percent during the fourth quarter of last year compared to 2007, and total sales climbed 24 percent year-over-year.

GameStop operates 6,207 retail stores in 17 countries. The company also operates an e-commerce site,, and publishes Game Informer magazine. Shoppers can find new and used video game software, hardware and accessories for video game systems as well as for personal computers at local stores.

Scott Prater covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.