You never know how your life is going to change, so you have to be open to each and every opportunity. This is sage advice from Sonya Nix, the owner of Better Than Before Consignments. a premiere resale shop in Alabama with a strong online presence and many loyal customers from around the nation
Some 25 years ago, Sonya walked into a consignment store while she vacationed in Tennessee with her husband, Glenn. She had already loved the community-based business model in which friends and neighbors are both your suppliers and your customers.
Soon after, she found a small space for rent in her hometown of Cullman, Alabama, and left behind her nursing career to open Better Than Before.
However, she didn’t leave behind her inherent love of caring as she dishes out the same nurse-giving tender loving care to her customers. Now, instead of bandages and medication, through her stores, she is eagerly providing mega-doses of affordable high-quality fashion — clothing, shoes, and accessories — for the entire family.
When you walk into the two spacious Better Than Before consignment stores (located in Cullman and Decatur, Alabama), you can immediately see that customer service is a priority; which with so many stores nationwide currently running with reduced staff, has become a rare commodity.
The devoted wife of 38 years, supportive mother of two, and Glamma, (a glamorous grandma), of seven grandchildren ages two to 12, Nix pursues every aspect of her life with energy, vitality, and a passion for helping others feel good about themselves. During the fall and winter holidays, you will also see cheerful decorations, hear holiday music, and feel the positive spirit from Sonya and her devoted team of employees, who are clearly one extended family
Sonya is committed to everyone who comes in contact with her and her staff to feel loved and cared for and draws on her deeply seated faith, which she openly shares with customers, consignors, fans, and followers to further create strong connections and relationships with her shopping audience.
In addition to mastering the art of consigning and selling goods with a high level of customer service in her large brick-and-mortar stores, she has embraced social media with live Facebook selling and online sales through her website.
While others in her market might be intimidated by online adaptation, Sonya is clearly never afraid to try something new, which is why her business sustained a six-week shutdown and continued to thrive and grow in the weeks and months thereafter.
With Sonya’s natural compassion, she easily brought that to her online game. Creating a meaningful connection with every online customer has been one of her secrets to success and has catapulted her business into being one of the top consignment stores in the country.
Nineteen-year-old Gracie Smith, who runs the Instagram account for one of the Better Than Before stores, loves that Sonya’s positive energy and openly embraces her faith. “I love that she does her best to make the work environment positive and that she makes everyone feel like we are one big family. Sonya empowers us to use our strengths, and for me it is my artistic abilities.”
Gracie says Better Than Before truly has a personal connection with all of its customers. “Our relationship is very personal with each of them and this is something that Sonya encourages.”
When it comes to the holidays Better Than Before is front and center with Christmas music and a joyful ambiance. “I love that we decorate the stores for each holiday because changing our work environment makes you feel better and the customers love it, too. And every year it’s different. Two years ago, we had painting and wine and last year we had Gingerbread houses. Sonya is super creative and puts on all of these festive events and parties at her home where she makes us feel special.”
Here is a look at Sonya Nix and how her nurturing attitude, genuine care, and concern for others have turned Better Than Before into an extended family, and how her expertise can help you find the perfect holiday gift for yourself, friends, and family members.
Sonya, How do you pick just the right holiday gift this year?
Sonya Nix: Don’t be afraid to choose something fun and different because that’s what makes gift-giving more of a surprise element. You can feel confident buying at a resale store when you box up the items in beautiful packaging. For those discerning people on your list who are new to resale or unfamiliar with it, we also have thousands of items that are New With Tags that you can buy and wrap up with the original price tags on them. This of course is fun, too, because your friends and family will think you spent a ton of money on them, but you didn’t really.
What holiday shopping trends do you see coming up this year?
Sonya Nix: The message that the press is putting out is to shop early, so I think we’re going to see people not waiting until the last minute. We are already selling a ton of gifts on our FB LIVE Selling shows. We also created a New With Tags department in our store and on our website. People are loving it. Some people just really love giving gifts that have the original tags on them so we’re so thrilled we can offer that as well. We get a lot of boutique buy-outs, these are brand new items from boutiques that had an excess of inventory so we’ll buy it and sell it at a fraction of the original retail cost. All of these items are brand new.
Please tell me more.
Sonya Nix: More and more people are jumping on the sustainability bandwagon. They love shopping thrift stores & consignment stores because it’s ultimately saving the planet. Once upon a time, it might have been faux pas to buy a gift that was pre-owned or pre-loved but now it’s very trendy. A lot of celebrities have consigned their clothing and their home decor and furniture, bringing it into the forefront of everyone’s mind and making it stylish. As far as what are people buying: handbags and jewelry are still topping the list. All things embellished with stars or bling are really on-trend right now. This is also the year of “The Shacket.” For those of us who are a little bit older, we would simply call this an oversized Flannel shirt but today it’s called the Shacket, and it’s big. Flannel is high fashion right now.
Why do you do what you do?
Sonya Nix: Women tell me every single day how much we mean to them and how much we help them and how they don’t know what they would do without us. What a great way to spend your days, helping others.
What have you learned about yourself from being a business owner?
Sonya Nix: I have learned to delegate more and empower my capable staff; they are bright and intelligent women and just because I think a certain way, it doesn’t mean that a lot of things can’t be done differently. I’ve learned you have to step back and devote time to things other than work. I love to work, and it is hard for me to pull back, but I know each of us needs balance in our lives. We have to make time for ourselves and our loved ones. By empowering others, I can be a better mom, grandmom, and business owner.
How did your business change when the pandemic required restrictions?
Sonya Nix: When COVID-19 hit we had to close our doors for two months. I remember thinking that I couldn’t sit by and not do anything. My consignors left their clothing and accessories with me and I had to sell them. We re-opened the stores on May 6, but we never really had to shut down because of the Facebook live videos. During the last few months, we’ve started a specific schedule three times a day on weekdays, two on Saturday and one on Sunday night.
Tell me about your popular Facebook Live shopping videos that are held several times a day.
Sonya Nix: We have a loyal following that has been shopping in the stores for years. As social media became more of a thing, we took our in-store relationship-building to Facebook and then Instagram. We had been casually doing Facebook Live Selling shows which are real-time, in-person shopping. When the Pandemic was in full force and our stores weren’t open, we were able to offer multiple shows per day, and once our stores did open our online audience kept the demand for the shows going. Now, we feel like we know them, even if we’ve never met them face-to-face. The videos are a kind of addiction and a social outlet.
Many of our Facebook live customers have become friends and have conversations through the comments during our shopping shows. The shows are also such a treasure hunt because there is different merchandise every time. You never know what you are going to see. We’ve been doing these Facebook live video shopping shows for about five years, but now we are offering them several times a day, every day, and people look forward to the shows and seeing their favorite video hosts and talking to one another.
What makes a good video host for your daily shopping shows?
Sonya Nix: It’s somebody who is willing to be raw and human. It’s not about having your make-up on perfectly or being a certain size or shape. It’s about the human connection and sharing part of yourself and your life with your audience. A third of my audience are grandparents and they can relate to the fact that I just came from one of my grandkids’ ball games. We have raw emotional conversations. We have gotten teary-eyed. We know a little bit about each other’s lives. People need to be touched, reached, and encouraged. Our Facebook Live Shopping shows have turned into a nurturing place to do that.
Why do you urge customers to come to your two stores or shop online with Better Than Before consignment?
Sonya Nix: We offer southern hospitality and charm. We want the experience to be friendly, fun, personal, and approachable. I want my customers to relax. We set the 8 p.m. time for the videos on purpose because our customers are done with dinner, homework, and the kids’ baths and are in sit-down mode. Either most of the important stuff is done or you are too tired to do them. People can stop to take a breather and enjoy themselves. I want to become a habit in the lives of my customers. Someone will say, ‘I couldn’t make it to the 2 p.m. video; what did I miss?’
In the craziness of our world, it makes sense to make shopping easy and convenient for people. During the past 18 months, people still enjoyed shopping even if they couldn’t get out of the house. This is our tribe and our family.
What do you look for when buying new and used items for the store?
Sonya Nix: Quality, demand, and salability. I can have something come into the store that is a nice brand but is very old and outdated and I know it won’t sell well, so I will turn it away. On the other hand, I can get an average everyday top from The Gap or Lane Bryant and if it’s the current style, I will take that all day long. It doesn’t have to be new with tags. For example, I had many pairs of Judy Blue jeans with a slight flaw, and I took them because I knew that they would sell. So, it’s about knowing your market.
Tell me about the community aspect of the customers who join your live videos.
Sonya Nix: They are like members of my family. It has always been my intent to establish a positive and encouraging environment. Even if you are broke and can’t afford to buy anything, it’s okay. There’s always next time. Everyone doesn’t always buy; I just love getting on there and enjoying the conversation and interaction. It’s entertaining and funny. They enjoy the comedy. It’s not always about making money; it’s about connection.
During the videos, we hold up the garment, you get to see how it moves and how it will move on your body. Sometimes we try it on. The treasure hunt aspect gives it a sense of urgency. You see how many viewers are watching the video and there are bound to be more than one who wants the item along with you. Many of our live video customers have become friends. They welcome each other when they see someone join that they know. They will give up items sometimes if someone else really wants them. They console and encourage one another if someone is having a hard day or is sick.
How do you feel about all of the positive comments you receive about the two stores and the online videos?
Sonya Nix: It’s very fulfilling. I always want to provide an environment where people feel encouraged and empowered!
You can shop with Sonya at Better Than Before Consignments and check out her Facebook live videos here:
Website: Better Than Before Consignments