The practical woman and her pre-owned Prada

In the bag: Maryann Samadi's pre-owned luxury bags business. TFLA photo

In the bag: Maryann Samadi’s pre-owned luxury bags business. TFLA photos

By Cecile Caguingin-Ochoa

Right up in the alley of Little Tokyo Market is RSG Fine Jewelry, a jewelry and luxury specialist store. Maryann Samadi and her husband Behzad recently opened shop here for pre-owned handbags as the demand for these items grows.

Maryann has been in the luxury bag re-sale business since 1990 and knows the nook and corner of the trade.

“There’s a good demand for these items within higher-income shoppers among Koreans, Japanese, Chinese and some Filipinos,” she said, sharing how she used to sell authentic designer bags in trade fairs and conventions before opening her Little Tokyo store.

A native of San Miguel, Bulacan, Maryann and her husband, Iran-born Behzad, have also been operating a jewelry shop for more than 20 years five miles away in the heart of L.A.’s Jewelry District on 7th and Hill streets.
She attributes the popularity of her store among luxury second-hand shoppers to word of mouth.

“We have a reputation for integrity in this business because we have not sold anything that is a fake Gucci and the like,” she told TheFilAmLA.

RSG, according to her, is a state-licensed second-hand general store, which means it has to comply with strict police enforcement of subjecting their goods for police review and scrutiny quarterly. There’s always that possibility that some goods brought to her could be from a robbery.

“Every client we buy from must give us their driver’s license to ensure that what they bring us are not stolen goods,” she explained. “I have a steady stream of re-sellers and their friends whom I’m familiar with and I trust. I prefer to buy from them.”

This business like any other, entails hard work and, a good eye and experience to discern the authenticity of the designer items. Those that are ‘vintage’ attract a higher price. Vintage purses sell for 70 percent of their original price and the almost-new from 50 percent to almost 100 percent.

Maryann and husband Behzad Samadi

Maryann and husband Behzad Samadi

“We take consignments,” said Maryann. “A homemaker brought in a $3,500 Prada that she only used for a wedding party. We’re selling it for the same price.”

Pre-owned luxury handbags are a hot item among affluent Asian women. In countries like Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, a Gucci, Hermes or Louis Vuitton may be used as collateral for loans, according to the Wall Street Journal. A WSJ article reported how a relatively new venture, Yes Lady Finance Co., accepts handbags on the spot and generates loans typically within half an hour. The handbag-backed loan business is said to be a lucrative one with lenders offering 80 percent of the purses’ value and “loaners get the bag back by repaying the loan with a 4 percent monthly interest, within four months,” according to the WSJ report.

The buy-and-sell of second-hand handbags has caught on in the U.S. Pawn shops in places like Las Vegas or Hollywood have expanded to profitable re-sale of used designer goods.

While Maryann is understandably tightlipped about sales numbers, the Wall Street Journal cites how a former mortgage broker grosses about $50,000 a week for a profit of about $10,000 from the business.

Maryann said her business is fueled by Internet sales and advertising in local publications geared toward Asian communities.

A happy customer with her Louis Vuitton

A happy customer with her Louis Vuitton

Who buys pre-owned purses?

Many of the clients are the hard-working office workers with steady income or, as they say in the man-cave lingo, with “champagne taste but beer money.” They are practical buyers. Looking for a car, they don’t believe in paying full price for a brand-new Benz when they can get almost the same quality of a used, at a fraction of the cost.

On inspection, Maryann’s pre-owned YSLs and Vuittons look as good as the original, some even smelling like they just came from the factory. She said previous owners have been used to taking care of their purchases and know their potential as investments.

At the RSG store, we chanced on a shopper offering to come back for an almost new Prada with a $1,000 tag discounted at 50 percent, for the next pay day. Maryann convinced her to take the product and offered an easy installment plan with no interest. At least five Filipino shoppers came within the hour that we were there either picking up their reserved purchase or simply shelling out the negotiated price.

A $3,000 gently used Chanel bag may seem too costly, but who’s to put a price tag on a woman feeling good about herself?

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