Saturday, June 03, 2000

The In Basket

Snooty Fox adds furniture store

By Lisa Biank Fasig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        If an Ann Taylor cocktail dress can attract a second look, then why not a Pottery Barn cocktail table?

        Such is the thinking of Donna Speigel, founder of Cincinnati's Snooty Fox, the upscale secondhand apparel chain.

        Today, Ms. Speigel will open her first Snooty Fox Furniture Den, two doors down from her Mariemont store on Wooster Pike. Like her seven Fox stores, the Den will specialize in trendy or classic merchandise in very good condition at competitive prices. Also like Snooty Fox, the Den will operate on consignment, with sellers earning 50 percent of the product price.

        Ms. Speigel said she has been chewing on the idea of expanding into furniture for three years, for a lot of reasons. There are the empty-nesters who are downsizing to condos, she said, and up-and-comers who want to furnish a new home.

        And there are a lot of people who just like to refresh.

        “What I'm seeing is people are just as trendy with their furnishings as with their clothing,” Ms. Speigel said from her Mariemont store Friday. “They want this year's picture frame. They want to change their pillows. They change their colors.”

        In other words, hunter green might not be your bag anymore, but spending a lot of green isn't, either.

        “There's no longer a stigma applied to a resale shop,” said Pat Stern, a regular Snooty Fox shopper from Sycamore Township. “It's the thing to do now, it's the ultimate in recycling.”

        Ms. Speigel extends her strict guidelines for apparel to the items she'll accept at the Snooty Fox Den. All furnishings must be trendy or classic, they must be in good shape without tears or stains, and upholstered furniture must be neutral in design — no big, orange flowers, please.

        Many of Ms. Speigel's roughly 80,000 consigners are selling her furniture now, too. Among the items at the new store are rattan tables and chests, decorative mirrors, blown glass artwork, upholstered chairs and benches and patterned area rugs.

        “It's just like the clothing, we just want to be selective,” Ms. Speigel said. “If you buy something to go out, you're not going Krogering in it.”

    Anyone with furniture or clothing can carry in whatever they have without an appointment, and the Snooty Fox staff will examine the merchandise for acceptability. Only stylish items in excellent condition will be taken — no stains, tears or other damage is acceptable.
    Furniture that is too big to be carried in should be submitted by photo. Snooty Fox lends Polaroid cameras, with a deposit, to shoot furniture. If it looks good in the photo, then a house call will be made for further inspection.
    Consigners split the sale price of items down the middle with Snooty Fox, and pay a one-time fee of $19.95.
    Snooty Fox locations:
    • 7757 Five Mile Road, Anderson Township.
    • 11348 Montgomery Road, Harpers Point.
    • 9500 Kenwood Road, Blue Ash.
    • 7253 Wooster Pike, Mariemont.
    • 3170 Dixie Highway, Erlanger.
    • 7745 Tylers Place Blvd., West Chester.
    • 1775 Patrick St., Burlington.
    Snooty Fox Den:
    • 7247 Wooster Pike, Mariemont.
        Twenty years experience has taught Ms. Spiegel how to price her merchandise — high enough to make a profit, but low enough to sell. Ms. Speigel said sales at her seven stores run above $4 million, yielding a 20 percent profit margin.

        Adele Meyer, manager of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, said about 10 percent of her agency's 1,000 members are now involved in second-hand furniture.

        “Within the last three or four years, it became very popular,” she said. “People are more mobile nowadays because of the way business is, and people don't necessarily want to move their furniture; it's not cost-effective.”

        One of Ms. Speigel's tricks is she spends as much time researching traditional merchants as second-hand stores. If the big thing at the Gap is khaki, then the Snooty Fox will lean toward that look too. If Pottery Barn is featuring pastel drapes and accessories this summer, the Den will try to duplicate that look.

        “Our customer is your schoolteacher, doctor, attorney, young mothers,” she said. “The teen-age market is growing. These kids who want to do Abercrombie and Banana (Republic), that's a tough budget to meet.”

        A second Snooty Fox Den operates within the Snooty Fox West Chester store.


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