Nearly New: Affordable Fashion
John Santore always knew “exactly and precisely” what he wanted to be when he grew up. Born and raised in New York, Santore always has a passion for fashion—leading him to gain professional training at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan before going on to work with the brands of famous designers such as Ralph Lauren, Geoffrey Beene and Chanel. “My inspiration was that I had an uncle in the fashion industry and he got to have long hair, wear jeans and had a house on the beach,” he laughs. “My first year in the business was a true education. I got to work with every major house and every major brand. It was lovely.”
Santore’s career expanded into advertising and he was recruited to come to Oklahoma to serve as a Senior Vice President and Creative Director of Jordan and Associates. It was during his time in advertising that he began shopping at Nearly New, a nearby consignment store. “I was shopping here and finding great deals,” he explains. “The former owners needed help with marketing, so I helped them come up with a plan.”
Eventually, Santore had the opportunity to purchase the store and has now owned it with his wife Hattie for 10 years.
Not Your Grandmother’s Consignment Shop
Nearly New has been in business for almost 50 years at its location on North Western Avenue near West Britton Road, and has continued to grow and thrive under Santore’s ownership. The 12,000-square-foot store offers designer clothing for both women and men, formals, handbags, shoes, jewelry and even bridal gowns. “This is not your grandmother’s consignment shop,” Santore explains. “The things we have are of the moment. They are cute.” Nearly New has almost 19,000 consignors who sell their unwanted clothing through the store.
For Santore, the key was realizing that price was not the key to Nearly New’s success. “It took me 8 of the 10 years to figure that out,” he jokes. “It’s not just the price, it also has to be fashionable. It is a given that when you walk in the door of a consignment shop, you are going to get it for less. But we make sure we have the best, the brightest and the cutest.”
Finding and offering the cutest clothes is serious business. “We reject 80% of what comes in the door and we see about 5,000 items each week,” he explains. “Cute stuff sells. Even if it is name brand, I don’t want it if it’s 15 years old. We are the only consignment store that really focuses on the fashion thing.”
And fashion is a big part of Nearly New’s focus. “I worry about keeping the store relevant,” Santore admits. “Right now, it’s all about the Sustainable Fashion movement. There are so many great designers who are making sure that clothing is manufactured in countries where workers make a decent wage, using organic cotton and more. It is very important that we are plugged into that.”
To spread his love of fashion, Santore frequently shares clothing and style tips on Nearly New’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/nearlynewokc) “We put stuff out there every morning, interesting clothes from Milan, Paris and New York,” Santore adds. “I believe in style, not just fashion. You discover what looks good on you and go with it.”
Finding Your Style
Nearly New specifically caters to working women who need to look their best and need to get a full wardrobe at the best price. In addition to providing fashion advice, Santore and his staff can also help customers find the best clothing for their particular frame. “We can do an analysis on body type, skin color, hair color, etc.,” he explains. “It’s invaluable to look your best. It’s amazing what people don’t know about dressing themselves. It’s a passion for us and we love it. We can help you figure out what’s working and what’s not and why. We can help you look your best based on your body, complexion and hair color.”
For the teen set, Nearly New has become a destination for finding a wide selection of prom dresses and other formals. “Proms are in April, but we have girls shopping earlier and earlier every year. We’ll start seeing prom shoppers in January.”
And the prom dresses are also fashionable at Nearly New, recently including an exclusive collection from designer Johnathan Kayne of Project Runway fame. “He just showed up at the store with them one day,” Santore recollects. “There were racks and racks of gowns, many were runway pieces and custom dresses. Some of the dresses were worth thousands and sold here for closer to $200.”
The store has also recently expanded to include bridal gowns when Santore had an opportunity to purchase a bridal shop in southwest Oklahoma City. “We are now the only bridal consignment store in Oklahoma,” he notes. “We have everything from David’s Bridal to Vera Wang. We sell dresses that were originally $10,000 for less than $2,000.”
More than Saving Money
Santore reflects that it was his experience as a shopper at Nearly New that taught him how to run his business. “I came here because I wanted to get better stuff,” he explains. “And it’s not just about saving money, it’s about getting better stuff for your money. We are the place people have the ability to buy better stuff in an affordable way. As my grandmother used to say, ‘It’s never dumb to buy good.’”
9218 N. Western Avenue, Oklahoma City
How Do I Become a Consignor?
To become a consignor, call for an appointment. Clothing must be clean and on hangers. Nearly New will keep your items in the inventory for 60 days and then you can choose to donate unsold items to Habitat for Humanity or pick them up.
What Do Your Customers Say Most Often?
“That this place is fun! If you go in a mall, they have the same stuff week after week. We change inventory all the time, so there is always the thrill of the hunt.”
Brooke Barnett is the Editor of MetroFamily Magazine.