The Ultimate U to leave retailing for e-tailing


POSTED: Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Ultimate You, a consignment store that also sells new clothing, accessories and jewelry, will close the first week of April - marking the business' 27th anniversary.




On the Net:

        » www.theultimateyou.com

» stores.shop.ebay.com/ The-Ultimate-You


"The economy has forced this," said President and Chief Executive Kelsey Sears (no relation to Sears and/or Roebuck).

One might believe the consignment business would be robust these days.

"Everybody thinks that, but my monthly expenses are $4,000 and that's a lot of sales. You need big sales and people aren't spending their money."

Sears noted that TV money advisers are telling people not to invest and to hold on to their cash and "most people are reining back and holding on to see what happens."

"It's an amazing time," she said, choosing "amazing" over some other word because "I'm trying to be positive," she chuckled.

Sears will continue her business online via her eBay store.

"I'm going to really concentrate on handbags and jewelry, fine, fashion, new and vintage - and only high-end clothing that will sell on eBay - Chanel, Hermes," she said.

She was inspired to start the store by Carmen Hedlund of the old Carol & Mary, a high-end clothing store, as well as the wife of an airline pilot.

She used to be a United Airlines stewardess.

"You mean flight attendant? Nope. Stew," Sears volunteered, because people always try to correct her. "We were stews."

She remains active with the Clipped Wings club.

"In our era, you couldn't be married," or the airline would clip their wings.

She also was a Realtor, working for Bruce Stark, then Alexander & Baldwin in Wailea.

The Ultimate You "came out of the ashes" of the real estate recession in the early 1980s.

The Monsarrat Avenue store was one of the first consignment stores on Oahu, she said, "started with a little loan from First Hawaiian Bank."

The shop has moved six times, mostly within Kakaako - on the spot where Pier 1 was built; a two-story building near a fishing supply store; the spot where the Ward Theaters are now; the site of Nordstrom Shoes; and inside Ward Centre.

Then she landed at Hee Hing Plaza on Kapahulu Avenue "with total freedom" and no stringent mall hours.

It is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday "with extended hours coming soon," along with some evening promotions, she said.

For the remaining weeks, "everything is going as low as we can mark it" ... it's all about "the excitement of the treasure hunt," Sears said.

Most of the clothing and handbags are new. "That's very shocking to people. Half the store comes from Nieman Marcus," she said, adding, "our prices are better."

Well, frugal is the new cool.


Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).