In the context of sale, it is usually understood that the consignee (the seller) pays the consignor (the person who owns the item) a portion of the proceeds from the sale. Payment is not made until and unless the item actually sells. The consignor retains title to the item at all times, and can end the arrangement at any time by requesting return of the item. A specified period of time is commonly arranged, after which time if the item does not sell the owner can reclaim the item (or, if not reclaimed within a period of time, the seller can dispose of the item at his discretion).
Merchandise often sold through consignment shops include antiques, athletic equipment, automobiles, books, clothing (especially children's, maternity, and wedding clothing which are often not worn out), furniture, firearms, music, musical instruments, tools, and toys. eBay drop off stores often use the consignment model of selling. Art galleries, as well, often operate as consignees of the artist.
Consignment shops differ from charity or thrift shops, in which the original owner surrenders both physical possession and legal title to the item as a charitable donation, and the seller retains all proceeds from the sale. They also differ from pawnbrokers, in which the original owner can surrender both physical possession and legal title for an immediate payment, or surrender physical possession of the item in exchange for a loan, and can only reclaim the item upon repayment of the loan with interest or else surrender legal title to the item as well. Example; Pef inc. in the USA, which is a prime example of this.
In the UK, the term "consignment" is not used, and consignment shops selling women's clothing are called "dress agencies". Although the other types of consignment shop exist, there is no general term for them.
The consignment process can be further facilitated by the use of VMI (Vendor Managed Inventory) and CMI (Customer Managed Inventory) applications. VMI is a business model that allows the vendor in a vendor/customer relationship to plan and control inventory for the customer, while CMI allows the customer in the relationship to have control of inventory.