How to Sell Used Clothes Online

How to Sell Used Clothes Online

One of the niche pursuits that I have tried out in the past in selling used clothes online.  Don’t ask me why, it just happened.  I saw an opportunity and took it!

I suppose it all started as I was looking through eBay one day and was surprised to see that used clothes were selling quite well.  I had never really considered this before.  In particular, any name brand or higher end clothes were selling very well.

I don’t personally own any name brand clothes, its just not me.  I buy the brand of jeans that no one has heard of for $5 on the discount rack.  I think I paid $25 for a shirt once and I felt guilty about it (kinda expensive for me).  I’m pretty cheap when it comes to clothes for myself.  The reason for this is because this is the way I was raised (large family with hand-me-downs).  Plus being in business, I also know that the EXACT same material is used to make the cheap clothes as is used to make the designer stuff.  So, when someone pays more, they are not get a better quality product, they are getting a tag with a brand name on it.

Anyway, I could go into a bunch of details as to why people buy high end clothes, but lets just say that people do, and there is money to be made because of it.  Essentially, perception is reality for people. (Even though clothes are made out of same material as cheap clothes, they perceive they are getting better value due to the brand name…even though they are not).

Where to Get Used Designer Clothes?

So, if I don’t have my own used clothes to sell, where can I get designer clothes?  There really are lots of places like flea markets, garage sales, Craigslist, or other people or community sales.  However, my main source was Thrift Stores.

Second hand stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army are constantly getting a new supply of clothes donated to them.  You can often find name brand or designer labels on these racks.  The great part is that these Thrift stores are not in business of trying to appraise what everything is worth, they are just trying to move the merchandise as quickly as possible.  As a result, they usually price everything right around the same.  So, all mens shirt might be around $2 for example.  Or all women’s jeans might be around $4 to $5.  It will vary from store to store, but everything is usually pretty cheap.

Lots of brands of jeans for example can sell for over $50 a piece on eBay even though they are used.  However, its pretty rare to find something of this value.  However, being able to buy a piece of clothing for $5 and selling it for $15 to $20 is certainly not that unusual.

For example, if you look at some of the completed listings on eBay for used True Religion jeans, or Prada, or Diesel, you will see many of them going $50 to $100 or maybe even more.

Know the Resell Price Before You Buy

However, as I quickly learned, the key to being successful in selling used clothes is knowing what will sell before you buy it.  This can be a very difficult task because there are literally hundreds of brands.  Also, some brands tend to do well with women and others do well with men.  So, you really have to do your homework.

Because I knew absolutely nothing about name brands (because I’ve never owned them), I spent hours of research on the eBay completed listings trying to figure out what sold well.  I was able to write down 20 or 30 brands or so that I should keep an eye out for.

So, when I went to the thrift shop, I smuggled in my list of name brands and starting hunting through the racks.  As I recall, I could have purchased a lot more than I did, but I think I ended up with 7 or 8 articles of clothing on my first trip.  This would give me a good idea of this stuff would sell.

So, I went home and started taking pictures of the clothes.  After that, I simply listed them up on eBay and waited for the bids to come.  Oh yeah, one important thing that I did was to make the minimum price the profit margin that I needed.  In other words, if I bought the jeans for $5, then I might have made the minimum bid $12 or something.  Used clothes is not something that is going to start a bidding war (unless they are vintage or collectible for some reason).  So make sure your minimum bid is high enough to get the profit you want to achieve.

Profit Potential?

In addition, the buyer will pay the shipping costs, so make sure you don’t underestimate how much it will cost to package and ship or you will start eating into your profits.

Out of the 8 articles of clothing that I first listed, I think 4 sold right away.  The others I had to re-list to get any bidders.  Its unrealistic to think that all of your merchandise will be sold; especially, when you are first getting started out.

I made a profit on my little niche business of selling used clothes; although it wasn’t much.  I didn’t spend more than a couple of months trying it out.  I really think that I could have done better the more I learned and worked out a business system.  However, I learned enough to know that there really is potential in selling used clothes online.

However, if you really want to make decent profits selling used clothes, you will probably need to open a retail location.  If you can get a store front and sell used designer or vintage clothing to customers in person, you can easily double the price that you would charge on eBay.  Part of the reason is that people won’t have to pay a shipping charge which obviously means they are willing to pay a higher price for the product.  In addition, when you can touch and try on a pair of jeans, you are more likely to buy it as well.

So, if you are looking for some side income perhaps you should try buying and selling used clothes online.  Then if you get good at it, you can open up a retail location and really increase your profits.

What do you think?  Is selling used clothes online in otherwise a viable small business option?  Is it something you want to see me try out and document on this blog?  I’m interested in hearing your thoughts!


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52 Comments for this entry

  1. Ernie says:

    Clothes definitely sell well on Ebay, but my experience has shown that 1. The overall effort to obtain and list and then ship all items just outweighs the net profit and 2. Shipping can be a killer if you do not get a good quote before hand.

    Pants can weigh alot and cost a good amount to ship. ( as can any other clothes ) If you arbitrarily put a shipping cost without getting an actual quote for the package/weight prior to listing, then you will likely lose money. And this just adds to the work involved.

    My personal feeling is that there are way more things that one can do to make money that provide a better time/profit ration.

    • Spencer says:

      Ernie – I agree that it is a lot of effort and perhaps there are better business ideas (okay definitely there are). However, I wanted to share an idea that I have tried because it might inspire someone that doesn’t have any other options to try this out.

      However, I totally agree that shipping can be a killer here as items can be quite expensive. The best option for selling used clothes is having a retail location. I know that some of these places like Platos Closet and Buffalo Exchange (both Franchises in the US) do quite well. But getting started online could be a great way for someone to get started before they make the step of renting a retail space.

      Great feedback…Thanks!

      • charlene says:

        Hello I think that.s a great idea how I’m stuck withall these old clothes that im trying to sell from me and my three children i needto make some extra cash cause i’m them only one paying my bills right now i have loas of clothes to get rid of can’t affoard a store can’t sell out my apartment to dangerous just need to clean out my apt

        • Steph says:

          Try Dresm.com, they have really low fees and sell women’s, men’s and children’s clothing. Just make sure you charge the right amount for shipping.

  2. Claudio says:

    Spencer, I think you went over board with this comment:

    “I also know that the EXACT same material is used to make the cheap clothes as is used to make the designer stuff. So, when someone pays more, they are not get a better quality product, they are getting a tag with a brand name on it.”

    After working 14 years in high end fashion in NY and Europe, I can tell you, your statement is not correct. Many of the designers “stuff” has particular characteristics beginning from the fabric, like on cotton quality, origin, season collected, etc through the model development and ending with the manufacture, for example hand made or made to measure.

    These factories most of the time are small artisan places, were they have been doing this for generations, they received the pieces already cut from the bigger factories. the logistics is complicated and the process as well. This entire process provides food for hundreds of families worlwide.

    Also, this process provides many green projects and develop communities to save endangered species, for example vicuna in Peru, where all the incentives, money, tech support, ect has been providing from high end fashion houses at a blind check pretty much, considering you can only sheer a vicuna every 5 years. There are many examples like this one.

    When you purchase a well known designer attire, you are purchasing the value of the design and manufacture not “clothes”. I know this first hand, when somebody that I do not know ask me where is my jacket from.

    I do know work for fasjhion anymore and I can tell you that for example my $15 shirts that are 3 years old look awful compared to my $200 shirts even though these ones have been used to death and are 7/9 years old.

    I never purchased a $200 as I had them as part of my perks. In the begining I was not able to understand why anybody will invest such amount, then later I realized that they are looking for something to impact their lives in a positive way and honestly why not? if that makes them happy and they can afford it, why not?

    I knew that with every purchase, thousands of people will bring food to the tables!

    Again, I can tell you hands down that most of the times the material used is not the same material as used in cheap clothes.

    Best,

    Claudio

    • Spencer says:

      This was stuck in the spam queue for a few days…sorry! Thanks for the comment. Either way, I still think selling used designer clothes is a viable business opportunity. I appreciate the feedback.

      • MR JOHNLINK says:

        DEAR SIR
        IAM WRITNG FROM COTONOU THE REPUBLIC OF BENIN ,

        THE IT EMS I NEED ARE FAIRLLY USED SHOES AND FAIRLLY CLOTHS I WILL BE HAPPY TO DO BUSINESS WITH YOU I MAKE BUSINESS WITH SINCERE PEOPLE, INEED THE DETAIL OF HOW YOU TRADE YOUR ITEMS APROVING INVOICE

        BEST REGARD

        MR JOHNLINK
        johnlink12@yahoo.com

      • MR JOHNLINK says:

        DEAR SIR

        IAM WRITNG FROM COTONOU THE REPUBLIC OF BENIN,

        THE IT EMS I NEED ARE FAIRLLY USED SHOES AND FAIRLLY CLOTHS I WILL BE HAPPY TO DO BUSINESS WITH YOU I MAKE BUSINESS WITH SINCERE PEOPLE, INEED THE DETAIL OF HOW YOU TRADE YOUR ITEMS APROVING INVOICE

        BEST REGARD

        MR JOHNLINK

        e-mail: johnlinkwestafricalimited@yahoo.com

    • Claudio says:

      Off course is a great business. If you have a way to get to the sample sales of “big” names like Prada is an excellent business. Have done it myself and made few bucks :)

      To be precise, I remember clearly, I invested $1,7K in another designer sale and got back around $4.5/5.0K

      The way they usually do is 50% discount first day of the sale, 60% next day until 80% the last day.

      To get to these sale, prety much you have to live close to NY City and get into the list, ususally to be subscribed in their websites as cient.

    • HARRIET says:

      How do you know that the exact same material is used to make cheap clothing as to make more expensive clothing?

      I have found and I know clothing that not to be true at all.

      I sell used clothing and i know fabric, i can see and feel cheap fabric and I know it is cheap. I do not see it with expensive labels.

  3. Leon Aldrich says:

    Spencer,

    This could lead into a series post on, “Attempts – Fails – Wins – Losses in Marketing.”

    Hearing results from what you have done in the trenches would be a benefit (imho).

    • Spencer says:

      Good Idea. I may have to create a new category for my posts related to “My Past Ideas I’ve Tried” or something like that. I’m all about sharing what I have learned in the past…

  4. Travis says:

    If you get into that more, a tool called Terapeak would be a huge help. It lets you look at ebay sales data going back several months… so you know exactly what sells, what the sell through rate is, the avg starting price, avg sale price, best day to start your listing, etc. They also have an iphone app so you can access the data on the go- in the thrift stores. Just a tip.

    • Spencer says:

      Awesome suggestion Travis! I had never heard of Terapeak, so I’m sure it would be a huge help to me or anyone else that decides to try this out. Would be great to have when checking out garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores, etc.

  5. Alex says:

    I actually did this for a while and made alot of money but i went at it a differnet way. i would by wholesale from the compnay direct. you would need to by a 12 pieces or more but was worth every penny.

    the only reason i stopped this business was the inventory and shipping. when you sell online a physical product and your are the inventory, shipping and marketing, you quickly realize that you caan do this a better way. ( AFFILIATE MARKETING).

    I you can build a system that does not take alot of your time, go for it.

    My thoughts.

    • Spencer says:

      Alex, that’s great to hear that you had some success with this! How would you source the wholesale company to buy from? Is this something pretty easy to do?

      Yep, I agree that it takes a lot of time; however, most offline businesses take a lot of time. And this could really spark some ideas for someone looking for extra cash with learning affiliate marketing. Anyway, thanks for sharing your experiences!

  6. Boris C. says:

    What do you think about ecommerce?

    • Spencer says:

      I think ecommerce is great. Do you mean specifically for selling clothes? I think its also a good option if you can build some sort of niche or brand community.

  7. prinzman says:

    Where can i buy designer clothes for resell. I heard all these internet companies are a scam like liquidation.com

    • Caswell says:

      Liquidation.com is very legit. I’ve bout from them many times.

      • Billionman says:

        Liquidation.com is ridiculous. They charge way too much to the smaller sellers.

        The bids from buyers are a joke. Almost impossible to make any margins. I have been in closeout merchandise for 35 years. I wouldn’t buy lunch from them.

    • I have designer clothes to sell. I live in a area that I am not getting alot of interest. I am selling some of my things but I would like to move alot of them. I sell very inexpensive. I am going to try ebay with a lot of jeans for women sizes 2-7. I am hoping for a good return.. but If anyone has any ideas step up Please .
      TY
      Judy

    • isabella says:

      Hello I resell designer clothes I am the Buyer per say and I resell it on my Online Boutique BellaVintage.BigCartel.com Feel free to reach out or take a look.

  8. I did this when I first started on Ebay in 2003. There used to be a thrift store called ‘Savers’. There were two in my area. Every Mon. they had a .99 sale on certain colored tags. I got a lot of name brand jeans, pants and shirts. I made a very good income for a couple of years before these stores closed down. Two of my best sales: A pea coat for .99 and sold for 119.00….A pair of Tommy Hilfiger overalls for.99 and sold for 122.oo

  9. anna m mukelabaia says:

    I am zambia woman age 55 yrs. I wanted a fellow women to start a small business of selling old clothes

  10. Kenneth says:

    First not all clothing is created equal. The quality of denim used to make Zegna, J Brand or True Religion jeans is not the same as used to make Wranger or Lee’s. The quality of the construction of the higher end items and the fit are quite different also.
    Second I make quite a bit of money selling used clothing on Ebay and I do so without charging for shipping, well not outwardly, anyway.So, selling used, high-end brands and designer label clothing online is a viable and profitable business provided you do your research and do it right. But almost any business is profitable if you “Do it right”.

    • johnlink says:

      DEAR SIR

      IAM WRITNG FROM COTONOU THE REPUBLIC OF BENIN ,

      THE IT EMS I NEED ARE FAIRLLY USED SHOES AND FAIRLLY CLOTHS I WILL BE HAPPY TO DO BUSINESS WITH YOU I MAKE BUSINESS WITH SINCERE PEOPLE, INEED THE DETAIL OF HOW YOU TRADE YOUR ITEMS APROVING INVOICE

      BEST REGARD

      MR JOHNLINK

      e-mail: johnlink12@yahoo.com

    • Hi Kenneth. I wanted to clean out my closet and noticed that many sellers don’t charge a shipping fee, so I assumed they were eating that cost. Do you mind telling me what you mean by “without charging for shipping, well not outwardly, anyway”.

      • Sherry says:

        I’m pretty sure what they mean by that is that they just tack on a few bucks to each item in order to account for shipping costs… and in addition they may discount money per item should the buyer get a multitude of items from them, etc.

        Whoever said jeans were so expensive to ship doesn’t seem to have ever tried packing them in a flat rate priority padded envelope. You can ship jeans for $5.15 – $5.70 easily. :P

        But really, it’s less than 3 bucks to ship any single article of clothing, usually. Tyvek mailers through Amazon are roughly .30 a piece and shipping is normally around 2.47-3.00. So I normally tack on 3.00 to each item and list it as “free shipping”, but if the person buys a ton and you find you’re getting a profit off those extra dollars, you can always give a discount for large orders to be fair to the seller.

        Its coats that get a little iffy, but if you’re selling in large quantities I hear many sellers say their average cost tends to even out to roughly an estimated 5.00 per item.

        • Sherry says:

          sorry, I meant fair to the buyer, not the seller. And the 3.00 shipping is if you are shipping first class, priority is a few bucks more for flat rates.

  11. Tima Sammy says:

    Brilliant idea, was discussing this with a friend, got online and found this article. Any updates from people that tried it yet?

  12. adam says:

    Dresm.com is new and exactly what you guys are talking about.

  13. Terry says:

    I have been trying the e-bay clothing sales. Profit is pretty low for the work involved. Some things sell, some don’t. I have decided it is a great way to get rid of clothing that just seems to stay around and never get worn tho.

    • Sherry says:

      From my experience there are a lot of factors when it comes to selling clothing – you have to know what brands are in demand, and not only that, use the right keywords in your titles as well as list the clothing at the right time of day… and often on the right days, otherwise if you are using auction style listings, you may find people are not searching for the terms you used, or not awake/around when the listing ends.

      Also, pictures are a large factor as well, and the amount of detail you list. Measurements are a MUST.

      If you find the “right” clothing brands, it can be quite profitable – but even moreso, the right bag and shoe brands. You can easily find what is being sold for higher amounts by using ebay’s sold listing search function and then sliding up the minimum cost to .. say, 100.

      There are also tools that assist with listing faster and in bulk. :)

  14. Blond Betty says:

    Have any of you ever tried Smashion.com? I listed some items on there about a year ago (free listings) and got nothing. What a waste of time. I sell other items on Amazon and do quite well but can’t list used clothing on there. Would like another option besided ebay – too expensive to list. Anyone have any other suggestions?

    • Jennifer Lee says:

      Hi Blond Betty,

      Can I suggest my site ClosetRaid.co? We make it fun and easy to showcase, sell or swap you stuff! And we charge much less then eBay. Flat 9% on cash sales, FREE to swap! We have even partnered with several well-respected nonprofits to donate items to if you just don’t want to sell or swap them.

      Check us out at http://www.closetraid.co and email me if you have any questions.

    • Steph says:

      I would try Dresm.com. I just listed a few things last week and have already sold two items. The set up is super easy and fees are low.
      Good Luck!

  15. I need to sell use clothes and I think your idea is good can you help?

  16. alan says:

    Ebays fine if that is what you want to do. But if you do not have the time and would just like someone to collect it from your door and give you cash for clothes on collection.

    This site will pay you buy the kilo and can arrange to collect in most of the UK. They also buy books dvds and mobile phones in some areas.

    http://www.cashforclothing.co.uk

  17. Alice says:

    Hello Manager,
    We are Comfeel Industry Co.,Ltd,a professional manufacture of used clothes in China.Our factory is in Shanghai.We mainly offer sorted and mixed used clothes to Africa,with Grade A quality and competitive price.
    Any ideas,welcome here.
    Thank you.
    Alice

    Email:alice_chi@yahoo.cn
    Tel:86-15318726990
    Msn:sweetlucky@msn.cn
    Skype:elvish.ranger

  18. Emili says:

    Nice article. I complete agree with the author.
    I bought a used tshirts for 8 bukcs whereas its real value was 29 bucks.

  19. Marlene says:

    Great article with lots of great tips and tricks on how to make it on the second hand market! Thanks to the author for sharing:) I’ve used Craigslist and eBay myself as an extra income for many years, but I find it extremely time consuming doing all the market research in order to determine what the going market price is for the stuff I’m selling/buying. I’ve been looking for a service to do the job for me, and recently stumbled upon a startup called Statricks who is actually providing price reports and trends for free! Thought I would share it here since its probably more people out there looking for something similar. They’re developing a free resource to help buyers and sellers of used goods maximize savings and profit by statistically analyzing online marketplaces to provide blue book values and price trends. I signed up a couple of weeks ago to be a Beta tester for the site and I’ve found this product very helpful and I feel reassured that I’m not paying too much or underselling. I can highly recommend this site for second hand enthusiasts:)
    Cheers and good luck to you all!

  20. Jen says:

    I do ok selling used clothing on Ebay, however, if I was to calculate all the time and work that goes into taking pictures iisting, ebay, and paypal fees, I would give up. Presently my back is not doing so well because of all the bending involved, so I am looking for other options to make a living. Any suggestions as to how to get started in niche sites?

  21. Jean-Marie says:

    Starting to gets into second hand clothing salez, after of collecting. Also years of clothing swaps, and giving away to friends and the needy. Now that I am that needy I took up a collection from close friends and family. When I promised that the unused I will be taken to donate, all became overly generious. Then also living in Austin dumpsterdive the finest neighborhoods rental complex stop and condos certain time certain days. (ie west campus go to Hyde Park at semesterstop and change of weather. the end of month even.) Youll find most people never get around to dropping there loads off to donate and usually put in box or bag on side of dumpster. This revenue plus use of a local classify to cut S/H, and bamm 100% profit, you score some keeper pieces, and great exersize.

  22. Matt says:

    Try http://www.reattire.com
    I just sold my first shirt off of this site and everything worked perfectly! ReAttire.com is a really great place to buy and sell used clothing online.

  23. Steph says:

    Dresm.com is a great site for buying and selling used clothes online. They have really low fees and a great layout to really dispaly the clothing. Plus, you can work with the sellers or purchasers directly by messaging them questions, to prevent buyers regret:)

  24. michelle b says:

    yes please try it out and document. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time but I just never know what to put for shipping cost like on ebay.

  25. Billy O says:

    If you don’t want to go through ebay you can try the following sites for selling clothes. (google these below)

    Copious
    Poshmark
    Threadflip
    Shophers
    Storenvy (this may cost per month if you use your own URL)
    materialwrld

    Some you may not get accepted depending on the clothes your trying to sell but you have nothing to lose in trying.

    Hope this helps

  26. Greg says:

    Regarding used clothes at Goodwill, expensive items like men’s sport coats and winter coats are pretty quick to find and the price is right.

    I’ve seen brand new sport coats from Banana Republic that sell for over $150 on sale at Goodwill for $17.

    Especially in San Francisco and other cities with a large percentage of wealthy people, they apparently think nothing of giving these new, expensive items to Goodwill.

    It’s time consuming to look at all of the shirts, etc., but it’s fast to look at only the winter coats and sport coats.

  27. Arielle says:

    @Spencer Thanks so much for posting your thoughts. You’ve generated a lot of content rich responses which will make further research less of a hit and miss. Just about any business venture can be successful, as long as the person has all the pros and cons laid out, as well as projections of costs, losses and potential gross revenue. And although many of us don’t consider our time as much of an investment as money it self, wear and tear on self, must also be a part of the equation.

    Just bought my first item from a thrift store yesterday – a black ladies possum lined leather jacket. I will be sure to conduct at least several weeks of research on this topic before posting pics of my item. I’m super psyched about what I can potentially earn, and will be sure to visit soon with a follow up post once I make my first online sale.

  28. Cody Doll says:

    I am! I am just now figuring out what I want to do and this seems to be it. =]

  29. Steve says:

    There are some many people with unused items in their closets right now just sitting there. Selling those unwanted items is a good way to clean out that closet and put it to good use.

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