After over 40 years on Bainbridge Island offering brand-name clothing at discounted prices, consignment store Closet Transfer will be closing due to financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The traffic has just been absolutely minimal, and sales were probably less than half,” owner Carol Ingles said. “It’s just been a real rough go. It was a very difficult decision. At the end of December, I pretty much decided that I just couldn’t go through another year like 2020 financially.”
Ingles said although the Bainbridge shop is closing Feb. 26, the Closet Transfer on Front Street in Poulsbo will stay open as she has decided to consolidate the two stores. She said the Poulsbo shop, which has been open for around 15 years, has been fairing better in terms of sales.
“It seems as though the traffic in Poulsbo is better than the traffic in downtown Winslow,” Ingles said. “I don’t know why that is exactly. I know the (Historic) Downtown Poulsbo Association really tries (its) hardest to create events and draw people to Poulsbo. With the people, with the boats and marina, people were able to get out.
“I don’t see that on Bainbridge,” she continued. “…If the Bainbridge store would have been doing well or if I could have seen something going in a good direction, I would have kept it open…It’s really depressing to close that store.”
The store doesn’t offer much of an online presence, an alternative many businesses pursued when storefronts were closed and capacity limitations were mandated by the state. Ingles said an online component wasn’t feasible because they sell individual items rather than multiple offerings of the same product, making it more time-consuming to promote.
The Bainbridge store was closed from March 17 through June 17 of 2020 before opening again in a limited capacity. Just as they opened back up, many nearby restaurants got shut down for indoor dining, which affected her business.
“In order for a business community to survive, it takes all of us together,” Ingles said. “Whenever people come to visit, they don’t want to just go shopping, they want to stop and get something to eat. It’s a whole social time for them.”
Ingles said she saw more traffic for the shop’s 50 percent off closing sale, as well as community members who wanted to simply give her the proper salute for her years of service to Bainbridge Island. Over the years, she’s created bonds and friendships with customers and has seen little kids grow up to be adults who are now bringing in their children.
“One of the biggest pieces for me is customer service,” Ingles said. “It’s not something you get as much anymore. In a small community, I think that’s really important to have that intimate relationship with people.”
How it began
The conception of Closet Transfer began when Ingles and her daughter lived in Hansville over 40 years ago. They lived in a small, two-bedroom house with minimal closet space for all their clothes.
“I needed to clean her closet so I could put some new things in there,” Ingles said. “That’s how it all started. I’d hate to take them to Goodwill or something; there have to be people like me in the same boat.”
As she began developing ideas for a consignment store, originally it was only supposed to be children’s clothes, but as she got closer to opening they decided to offer women’s clothing as well. As time went on, she introduced men’s clothing, stating “you get quite a few guys come through now.”
According to their website, consignment retail maximizes your income by selling clothes you no longer want while minimizing the cost for the clothes you want to buy. They offer popular and quality brand names that you’ll find in department stores at roughly a third of the price. The Closet Transfer offers designer labels such as Prada, Armani, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, St. John, etc. They also offer wholesale and distressed clothing. If items fail to sell, they donate them to local charities.
“You get some great quality products at a reduced price,” Ingles said. “When people bring items in, they actually get a percentage of what the item is sold for. It’s kind of a win-win on both sides. They actually get the money back for it, and that’s rewarding.”
Ingles said she wasn’t sure what the plan is for the newly vacant space that occupied her store. As Ingles turns her attention to the Poulsbo store, she appreciates the decades of business from Islanders.