I’ve been buying and selling thrifted items for a few years now and it started out as just a hobby. I love going to thrift shops because I find a lot of unusual items that always pique my interest. I also buy all of my clothes and shoes in thrift shops (except undergarments) and I get to save a lot of money by doing so. Over the years of thrifting, I realized that I have accumulated a huge inventory without realizing it. My sales income becomes consistent and it continues to increase month by month. I felt that it could be a side-hustle that I could eventually turn into a full-time gig.
A year ago, I’ve decided to focus my 100% attention on buying and selling thrifted items. Although it’s not earning me the same amount of money that I get from my employment, the income was consistently growing. I was able to eliminate the stress that I used to get from my previous job. I used to work for very long hours in my previous job (sometimes 12-14 hours). And sometimes including weekends and holidays. After office hours, I found myself still answering emails even when I was at home. I felt that I was compromising my sanity and my health in exchange for the salary. Until I got to the point wherein I felt that it’s not worth it anymore.It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy. - George Lorimer Click To Tweet
So, while thinking of my next move, I’ve decided that instead of looking for another job (that might just put me in a similar situation as my past employment), why not make my hobby of selling thrifted items my full-time gig. And so I did.
If you are an avid thrifter like me and if you are wondering how to earn money from selling thrifted items, then read on.
Identify your Target Market: Who Do You Want to Sell To
This is one of the most important things that you have to think about before you start selling thrifted items. This will help you in determining your purchases, operational cost, and so forth. Some of the questions that you need to ask yourself include:
- Who do you think is your target market?
- Do you want to sell to women or to men?
- Which age bracket does your target market belongs to?
- Are they the right market to have business with?
- Do they buy online?
My first target market is women working in corporate offices. I believe that they have the purchasing power to buy the items that I’m selling. Since my target market is working women, I then researched the type of clothes that they wear.
Identify What Sells in Your Target Market
I started with selling second-hand designer and branded bags and non-branded leather bags. Back then, it was still easy to find one in thrift shops. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy nowadays. After just a few years of buying and selling bags, I learned how to self-authenticate. I learned how to spot authentic items from fakes. With items that I’m not fully sure of, I have always availed of the service of professional authenticators online.
Designer and branded labels will always sell easily compared to non-branded bags of the same quality. Why? Their marketing campaign reaches almost all corners of the world. Resell value is also higher than non-branded bags which makes them a better purchase for consumers compared to their non-branded counterparts especially if you get to buy them at a very low cost. This principle also applies to preloved clothes.
I’m not saying that only designer and branded items sell. You can also sell non-branded items as I do. It’s actually the biggest chunk of my inventory. In order to do this, you have to identify what sells in your market. If you live in a country with cold-weather, perhaps jackets and coats would fare very well. For those who live in a highly-urbanized area then perhaps office wear will sell easily. One of the best ways to do market research on what sells in your country is by checking your local classified ads and online selling platforms such as eBay, Instagram, and Facebook Marketplace.
Identify Where to Get Your Inventory
Once you have identified what kind of items you want to sell and who you want to sell them to, then it’s time to identify your sources of inventory. For starters who have limited capital, the best source is, of course, the thrift shops.
Make a quick Google search on where these thrift shops are located in your city and then schedule a visit and check their items. Do they have the items that you want to sell?
Also, check the other thrift shops surrounding your town or city. This will give you plenty of sources for your inventory.
Identify Where to Sell
This is now the easiest part since most people selling thrifted items are selling their items online. Determine which online platform will suit you best. Usually, it’s eBay, Instagram, and Facebook Marketplace. But in some countries, there are other online platforms that can outperform that three above-mentioned websites. In the Philippines, there are other buy and sell websites that are very popular with locals (Carousell and Shopee).
Because I’m following a lot of these online sellers, I also noticed that they are also selling thrifted items offline as well. Some online shops have grown so big that they can now afford to have a physical store. Some sellers have opened shops in partnership with other online sellers so they can split the cost of the rent.
If you are just starting, I don’t suggest opening a physical store right away as it might just eat up your profit. If you don’t have a big follower yet, then chances are, no one knows that your business exists yet.
Buy Your Initial Inventory and Post Your Items Online
There’s no magical number when it comes to your initial inventory, it will all depend on your available starting capital. I highly suggest that you grow your inventory slowly so you will not be overwhelmed and to avoid getting burned out at the onset of your side-hustle journey.
Start with 10 – 20 -pieces of high-quality clothes on your first week. Before you check out at the counter, make sure to carefully check all clothes. Make sure that they don’t have any damages or stains. Once you have bought your inventory, wash them carefully. Check the care label to avoid damaging the clothes. Iron the clothes, and take pictures of them.
When taking pictures of clothes, it would be best to hang the clothes in a well-lit area with a white or beige wall. It would be better if you put the clothes on a mannequin if you have one. For women’s wear, it’s always best to use a mannequin. Women are very meticulous buyers and they want to see what the clothes look like when worn.
Before you proceed in taking the succeeding pictures, check if the first photo shows the right color. If the colors on the first picture seem way different than the actual color of your clothes (sometimes it comes out too vibrant or too dark), adjust the light setting. Natural daylight is the best source of light for a photo. Take a pic of the front, back, sides, and for branded items. Take pictures of the tag and care label. I also take pictures of the clothes’ hardware such as buttons, zippers hooks, etc.
Post the items on the online selling websites of your choice with the complete details. Putting all the details in your posting will save you a lot of time in the long run. Some of the details include the size on the tag, the actual measurement (length, pit to pit, chest, waist, etc). You can also check out how the top sellers post their items and use them as your benchmark when it comes to the quality and the details of your posts.
Related Post: How to Sell on Instagram without Spending Money
Determine the Right Price
This is one of the most difficult things to do. But over the years, I have learned how to price my items better. My consideration for pricing my merchandise include:
- Actual Cost of the Product
- Cost of Acquiring the Product: Transport cost to and from the thrift stores
- Operational Cost: Cost of washing and ironing the clothes/Cost of storage/ Cost of my time doing this
- Fulfillment Cost: Packaging materials/ Transport cost going to the courier
- Target Profit per Item
- Market Price of Similar Product Online: How much does a similar product in almost the same condition sell online?
I price my items based on the above-mentioned factors. But before I post my item, I try to research similar items (or similar conditions) posted online and I go below their price. This is my strategy in selling faster than my competitors.
Be careful in pricing as this will determine if you will be able to sustain this gig or not. If you price your items too low, you will not profit and you will lose your motivation to continue. If you price your items too high, then no one will buy your items. That’s why it’s very important to acquire your items at the lowest possible cost.
Be aware that you can adjust your selling price even if it has been posted already. I always put my items on sale after a period of time.
Sell More by Cross-posting to Multiple Websites
When I first started, I was only selling thrifted items on one website which is eBay. And then, later on, I started posting my items on Carousell and Instagram too. This helped me sell my items faster because they get seen by more people.
Be aware that not all eBay users have Instagram or Carousell and vice versa. So in essence, by doing cross-posting, you are exposing your merchandise to a lot more people. Just be sure to remove an item once it gets sold to avoid having an unavailable item posted on your account. This might trigger confusion and possible negative feedback from your customers. For example, if you have a Yohji Yamamoto jacket posted on eBay, Carousell, and Instagram and it was sold on eBay, remove it right away from Instagram and Carousell. This is to ensure that all your active postings are all available.
Be on the lookout for up and coming online selling websites. As I have said earlier, I started selling thrifted items on eBay, and one of the main reasons was, Carousell was not yet available during that time and Instagram was not a popular selling platform yet. Once a new online selling platform is built, be one of the first sellers on their platform and it will ensure you a huge number of followers.
Also, consider selling thrifted items internationally. If you have items that you think can be sold internationally, then sell them to the international market. This will help you sell your items faster. I have items that are a bit avant-garde and not the preferred fashion taste of my existing market. So, I listed them to international selling websites and they got sold in less than a month.
The more online selling websites you use, the faster the items get sold because basically, you’re exposing your items to a bigger and more diverse audience.
Grow Your Business and Focus on Continuous Improvement
I do not spend everything I earn and I re-invest most of my earnings on this business. I increased my budget for buying new inventories. I bought new storage bins and I’ve upgraded my photography equipment such as lights, mannequin, etc.
And I keep myself updated with the latest trends by following the Instagram accounts of brands, designers, and other sellers. It will also help you a lot if you improve your brand awareness. Clothes in thrift stores tend to be random. You might be staring at a highly expensive jacket without even knowing it because you’re not familiar with the brand.
Do not depend on what you know now. When I started, I’m only familiar with European brands such as Gucci, Bottega Veneta, etc. But now, I’ve been constantly reading more about other contemporary brands such as Maison Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten, and Ann Demeulemeester. Be on the lookout for other available markets as well such as Japanese brands. Japanese brands are becoming so popular nowadays and it will help your business a lot if you are familiar with Japanese labels. Some of the labels that you should be aware of include Comme Des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto, Evisu, Issey Miyake, and more.
Explore Other Possible Sources of Inventory
As the years go by, you might notice that the existing supply in your area is not sufficient enough for your business needs. Do not hesitate to explore other towns or cities near you and even consider checking out the thrift stores in nearby countries.
Also, consider buying from other online sellers. Sometimes, for some sheer luck, I get to buy a lot of my high-end merchandise from other online sellers. I don’t know why they post these products for a very cheap price (probably they just want to sell them as quickly as possible). Even though acquiring “grail items” or highly valuable thrifted items online is a once in a blue moon thing, I still check the local listing on a daily basis.
Rinse and Repeat!How to Earn Money from Selling Thrifted Items Click To Tweet
Do you have other tips and recommendations? Feel free to share your thoughts on the comment section below.