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Upscale Garage Sale : Rental furniture stores offer a variety of styles in addition to a good deal for those in search of a new look for their home.

July 09, 1993|GERI COOK

When bargain shopping for home furnishings, there is one category of stores that always turns up fantastic deals, and that is the rental furniture outlet.

Recently, I visited the Clearance Club, where new overstocks and discontinued lines from the inventory of Evans Rents Furniture end up at 40% to 50% off retail, and where pieces that have been rented and returned are sold at 50% to 90% off new retail prices.

Often it's difficult to tell whether an item is new or used. If you don't see an orange sticker that says "New," the item has been rented and returned. These are usually the best buys, but many of them are one-of-a-kind.

On my first visit, a top-quality glass and brass coffee table that was "on sale" recently at an area furniture discounter for $600 was tagged at $99. Two very small scratches on the glass flagged the used status. Some sharp shopper knew the value and, when I returned a week later, it was gone. So the rule here is that if you see something you want, don't procrastinate. Chances are you'll lose it if you do.

Other used brass and glass tables (there were several) of a much lesser quality were $5, with the matching coffee table tagged at $9.99.

The design styles cover a wide range, from traditional to contemporary, and the scope is equally broad as to quality and price. There's something for every budget and taste, and Manager Gary Stadnyk says new merchandise comes in every week. If you don't find what you want on one visit, try again.

There is usually a special of the day. Recently it was a new cherry cocktail table priced originally at $179, then marked down to $129 and finally $69. A steal at that price, although adding the delivery charge of $25 to $35 would diminish the bargain.

There are some widely recognizable names here: Bassett, Bernhardt, Thomasville, Sheffield, Wyman and Jonathan Lewis. A lovely pale peach Jonathan Lewis love seat was $299 instead of the $600 it usually sells for. Why? It was a rental return, but it looked new.

You will find some leather sofas and chairs from Natuzzi and other major manufacturers of leather furnishings on the floor at 40% to 60% off the original retail price. A rental return beige leather love seat was $479 (new retail price $1,199), and not a scuff could be seen.

At times, there are deeply discounted rental return lamps by Stiffel. I spotted two on my second visit, one priced at $149 (new $299) and the other at $189 (new $399), both in perfect condition.

The new merchandise is made up of manufacturers close-outs and liquidations bought specifically for the Clearance Club by Evans, plus items discontinued from Evans' rental inventory. John Lackey, Evans Rents vice president for sales, said, "A line is discontinued for style reasons, since we try to maintain a continuity of merchandise for our rental stores."

There's furniture for every room in the house, and you can even furnish the patio. Some Grosifillex deck chairs were an amazing buy-- $9.99 each, for new chairs, instead of the original $90 retail price. You can also furnish your office and save big bucks with a prestigious eight-foot rental return conference table that retails for $3,000--but sells at Clearance Club for $829.

The Clearance Club is like a huge, upscale garage sale.

WHERE TO SHOP What: The Clearance Club. Location: 6921 San Fernando Road, Glendale. Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa. Call: (818) 842-7118.

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