Ann Siner: The Recycled-Clothing Category Killer

Learn how Ann Siner and her sisters came up with their successful consignment-store concept and grew My Sister's Closet into a 15-store, $25 million business.

Nusha Balyan at The Story Exchange By Nusha Balyan at The Story Exchange

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Ann Siner – My Sister’s Closet – Phoenix, AZ – Lock Cut 3/28/17….

Ann The idea just came to me when I was on a business trip. I had time to kill. I had never been secondhand shopping. I was in San Antonio, and there was a nice store. I went in and it was all second hand. I came out with a pile of clothes.

SOT That’s really pretty. Did you try it on? Let me see how it looks.

Ann And when I got back to Phoenix, my younger sister Jenny had just graduated from college. I said, “Jenny, we need to see what’s here and think about opening our own consignment store.”

TEXT Ann Siner – CEO + Co-Founder, My Sister’s Closet – Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Ann My Sister’s Closet is a consignment store where people will clean out their closets in their homes. We will resell it. They make money. We make money. At the same time, we’re recycling and we find the items a new home.

TEXT Ann grew up in Texas and Colorado, the oldest of three girls.

Ann My sister Tess is just a year younger and our sister Jenny, is a Co-Founder of My Sister’s Closet with me, is about eight years younger.

TEXT Ann majored in political science at Colorado College.
TEXT In 1985 she completed her MBA at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Phoenix.

Ann I ended up getting a marketing job with a big billion-dollar company called PetSmart. I love dogs. I love cats. I actually love all animals. PetSmart was a groundbreaker in saying they’re not gonna sell puppies and kittens like other pet stores, that they are gonna work with local rescue groups in all of their stores. I was very fortunate I got in on the ground floor and learned a lot about business from PetSmart.

TEXT In 1991 Ann took her life-changing trip to San Antonio.
TEXT She and Jenny decided to start My Sister’s Closet.

Ann One thing I learned from PetSmart is the category “the killer concept.” They’re based on convenience, everything under one roof, open seven days a week, we took that same idea. We’re open seven days a week. You don’t need an appointment to bring us your clothing. We have people there that will quickly go through your items, let you know what we can sell, what we don’t think we can sell. We open an account for you. Everything is itemized on your account. As soon as it sells, it posts to your account and you can literally come in ten minutes after it sells and collect your money in terms of store credit or cash.

TEXT Ann and Jenny used savings and credit cards to fund their startup.
TEXT In less than 6 months, they were turning a profit.
TEXT They began to see endless possibilities...

Ann We opened our store in 1991 and a couple of years later we had this epiphany that, “What do you wear one time and you’re never gonna wear it again?” A bridal gown. And so we said, “We need to open a store that is just bridal and formalwear.” We called it You’re Invited. We thought we were the smartest people in the world. We weren’t. We were a failure. First of all, people hang on to their wedding gowns. There’s a little bit of a stigma about buying a used wedding gown or a used formal, and so we learned the hard way, “This store isn’t gonna work,” and we closed it.

TEXT The original My Sister’s Closet store was making enough to cover the losses.
TEXT Then business grew steadily.
TEXT Ann and Jenny added more branches.
TEXT They opened menswear and home-furnishing stores.

SOT The price points on favorites is almost greater than the price point on designers.

TEXT In 2010 Ann’s middle sister Tess joined the company.

Ann We opened in San Diego when we hit our 20th anniversary for My Sister’s Closet. And I always joked that it, it was more traumatic for me than turning 50. But I wanted a challenge. I wanted to know, “Does this concept work outside of Phoenix, Arizona?” So five years ago we opened in San Diego. Three years ago we opened two additional stores there and we’ve learned that Californians love discounts and good prices on designer items as much as anyone else.

SOT Have we been making very many people VIPs?
-I made one guy a VIP.

Ann The company sales last year were $25,000,000 and it was kind of nice because it was our 25th year and we were making $25,000,000. It’s all something used, you know, from a $10 T-shirt to a $100 couch. That’s a lot of units.

TEXT My Sister’s Closet donates over $1 million a year to charity, primarily animal protection groups.

Ann One funny saying I’ve learned along the way is that overnight success really takes about ten to 15 years. And it’s true but it, the success feels so good. The other really fun part is the treasure hunt. You never know on any given day what you’re gonna walk in and find.

SOT What are you sending now?
-I’m sending pictures of a Louis Vuitton wallet. I’m giving her a picture
of the inside as well as the price.
-Did you put it out already?
-Yeah, it’s over here, in this case here.

Ann I am my own best shopper. I would say 80% of my closet is from My Sister’s Closet. It’s hard to pass up a good deal.

Posted: July 11, 2017

Nusha Balyan at The Story ExchangeAnn Siner: The Recycled-Clothing Category Killer