Men get chance to Flip at consignment store

Wednesday, July 20, 2005 at 1:00am

One of the newest clothing stores in Middle Tennessee is a bit of an oddity.

It's just for men, it has expensive items selling at relatively inexpensive prices, and it's in a part of town not known for its retail establishments.

All opposites of usual trends that make the name of the store appropriately descriptive - Flip.

"Flip" is an expression that means to resell something. Real estate agents sometimes speak of "flipping" a home when they buy it and look to resell it quickly.

"We believe the term fits," said Klane Maples, owner of the 2,500-square-foot store located at 909 8th Ave. S. "We made our tagline 'It's hip to flip.'"

The idea for a men's-only consignment store came to Maples after a friend offered him five expensive suits that were going to be discarded.

"I realized they were good, quality items and wondered if I could resell them," Maples said. "So I formulated a plan."

His search for truly men's-only consignment stores in the United States netted only five such establishments.

That was a green light for Maples.

He searched for a store location that provided a winning combination of factors, including good visibility and parking "in a great area at a cost I can afford."

One of his reasons for going with the 8th Avenue location, Maples said, is his confidence in the potential growth in the area, which is near downtown and the burgeoning residential and commercial development that is taking place nearby.

With money that he raised and with a line of credit from First Tennessee Bank, Maples opened the store in the middle of June. Flip sells everything from suits to shoes, including a big selection of ties.

"Our clothes aren't faddish and we're not one of those so-called 'vintage' clothing stores," he said. "What I am offering is current style and good quality."

For instance, Maples said an Armani suit that originally sold for "several thousand dollars" could be bought at Flip for $250-$300.

However, running Flip requires a lot of upfront work before items get onto the floor.

"In a pure retail environment, the clothes come in, you put the price tag on and put them on the floor," Maples said.

But for Flip, he said, the process is a bit more complicated.

First, Maples has to decide if an item of clothing brought in by people wanting to sell it is something he wants to offer at Flip. Then he has to check the condition of the item. It has to be properly tagged and identified so the original owner can get paid when it sells. The clothing might need dry cleaning. It then has to be readied for display and put on the sales floor. Even after the sale, the former owner has to be contacted, and checks written for payments.

Items like that are offered as straight consignment - meaning someone brings in items and leaves them and gets paid a portion of the sale price when those items are sold.

But Flip also offers some new items purchased on discount directly from traditional retailers. At least one line of such clothing is so exclusive Maples is not allowed to advertise its name. When any of the items in this "house" category are sold, all the money goes directly into the store's coffers.

Maples believes there will be other business opportunities related to his new enterprise and he looks forward to the future.

"For now, though, we'll settle for being a men's consignment store," he said. "We'd love for customers to come in and 'flip it.'"

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