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Consignment Shop Opens in Luxury

Closet Trading Co., a consignment fashion store, just opened in Village at Westfield Topanga in Woodland Hills. It’s the first consignment boutique ever in a Westfield mall, according to the mall owner. Although secondhand stores aren’t typical tenants in luxury malls, Closet Trading founder Johanna Melamed said in this case it’s a good fit for her shop. “The Village is designed to be a convenient location for locals to run errands, and is a beautiful and relaxing place to come and enjoy the full-service restaurants and spa,” said Melamed. “The versatility means the center fulfills multiple needs for the community and allows us to capitalize on consistent foot traffic.” The shop offers lightly-used clothes from top fashion labels, and customers can stop by any time to sell excess inventory from their closets, according to its website. Melamed, 31, understands her customers from experience; she has shopped at thrift stores since childhood. In high school, she paid $7 for her prom dress after scouring the racks. “There was just something about it that I fell in love with,” she said. “I think it was the thrill of the hunt.” Eugene Fram, a professor with Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, believes Melamed has caught a national retail trend. “For well over 20 years, on a per capita basis, the United States has been over-stored and over-malled,” Fram said. “As the consumer has been adjusting to shopping less, more mall space is being leased at reasonable rents – something resale stores and boutiques have wanted for years.” Since the Great Recession, the resale industry as a whole has been doing well, Fram added. There are currently more than 25,000 resale, consignment and not-for-profit resale boutiques in the United States, and the number has increased 7 percent each of the last two years. “Both resale stores and boutiques are destination types of stores, meaning customers will travel to buy from them,” Fram said. “They should continue to do well in mall locations.” Closet Trading has locations in Agoura Hills, Santa Monica and Santa Barbara. Melamed believes an unrelenting focus on optimizing product, price and service has made the chain successful. “There seems to be a tendency in retail to sacrifice customer service for a lower price,” she said. “We believe we should reward our customers for shopping with us by giving them the best price that we can, on the best product, with the friendliest and most knowledgeable staff.” Attracting and retaining that staff is Melamed’s biggest challenge. But like those thrift store gems, finding the perfect team is worth it when the result is satisfied shoppers. “That’s the core of our strategy – become friends with our customers,” she said. – Helen Floersh

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