14125 N.E. 20th St., Suite D (Just down from Ross)
These days, you can recycle almost anything – from aluminum cans to electronics and glass bottles. So why not add clothes to that list?
Plato’s Closet is a retail clothing store that both sells and buys gently used clothing for teens and young adults. The store offers a huge selection of trendy, designer styles and every day basics at up to 70 percent off the original retail price.
The Bellevue store boasts an especially large selection of high-end brand-named clothing including designer jeans, tops and dresses. Plato’s Closet is a franchise and each store is independently owned and operated.
Bellevue Plato’s Closet owner John Cosser first opened the clothing store in the summer of 2002 and since then has observed a positive shift in how people view the retail store. When Plato’s Closet first opened its doors to the public, the store had to appeal to its core customers despite a predisposition they may have held regarding traditional second-hand stores.
“As we grew and still continue to grow, new people come through the door and are pleasantly surprised at how organized, clean and fresh the store’s environment is,” Cosser explained. “We represent great brands at great values.”
In 2007, Bellevue’s Plato’s Closet underwent a major remodel, doubling the store’s square footage. The expansion added the space needed to accommodate the continuous flow of merchandise that arrives on a daily basis.
The store is organized according to brand, style and season. A section for guys clothing is located towards the back of the store.
“Lets face it, girls just shop more than guys,” Cosser joked.
The store not only sells the newest trends and top-name brands but also offers customers a cash for clothes option. To resell, customers are asked to bring in gently used, freshly washed clothing in a paper bag or laundry hamper. The Bellevue location buys from customers seven days a week on a first come, first serve basis.
When purchasing clothing from the customer, Plato’s Closet employees first look for current styles and the condition of the item and then at the brand.
“If a customer brings in clothing that’s of great style and great condition, then we’re going to buy it,” Cosser explained.
Each store is equipped with a sophisticated computer system that determines the price of each item based on style, condition and brand. The key is consistency, according to Cosser, who refers to his store as somewhat of a treasure hunt.
“We get new items on a daily basis and I think it’s really important to our customers that we stay consistent with our pricing.”
The system has a database that includes all the popular teen and young adult brands such as Abercrombie, Hollister, Seven for Mankind, BCBG, American Eagle, Juicy and more. Plato’s Closet accepts clothing from all seasons according to the individual store’s current merchandise need.
The Bellevue store averages around 45 buys a day and puts out 250 to 300 items each day, Cosser said. The store has become a useful tool for parents who can’t afford to keep up with the designer brands and trends for teenagers that are in one day and out the next.
“Struggling single moms love us because they know that when it comes to teens, the reality is that the label they wear dictates their level of popularity in school,” Cosser said. “Plato’s Closet gives those moms a chance to buy designer brands at a reasonable price that they can afford.”
Regular customer, Cindy Hoy visits Plato’s Closet frequently, sometimes two or three times a week. “I’m able to sell my old clothes and buy new ones all in one stop,” Hoy pointed out, who is famous for walking into Plato’s with one purse, selling it and leaving with a new one.
“We have customers that strictly sell to us and we have customers who strictly buy from us. Then we have those like Cindy, who both buy and sell,” Cosser explained.
Once the employees have looked through the customers clothing, they make an offer of about 30 to 40 percent of what Plato’s will resell it for. If the clothing items brought in fail to meet the store’s criteria, the customer has the option of donating them to a local charity in Bellevue called Teen Closet. Run by Bellevue Youth Link, the donated clothes are picked up once a week and taken to a facility in Bellevue where homeless teens are able to shop for free.
“The younger generation is all about giving back, whether it’s helping the community or saving the planet,” Cosser explained. “Plato’s Closet gives recycling and reuse a whole new meaning.”
There are a total of 200 Plato’s Closet stores nationwide with three located in Washington. The parent company, Winmark Corporation, also owns Play it Again Sports.
Lindsay Larin can be reached at email@example.com or 425-453-4602.