With enough time and the right tools, online clothing sales can become a profitable side job or even a full-time job. But before you start selling online, consider recurring costs like shipping labels, storage, and fees from the resale app and payment processor you use. Other factors such as communicating with buyers, taking high-quality photos, and promoting your articles on social media can take your business to the next level. The most successful online resellers lean on their personal style and invest the time to keep customers coming back.
With the recent rise of resale apps like Depop and Poshmark, the idea of selling old clothes online is becoming more and more popular. Many people have turned clothing sales into a lucrative side job or even a full-time job, gaining thousands of followers and dozens of sales per week.
The second-hand clothing market is expected to more than triple by 2030, according to a 2021 study by resale platform Mercari and research firm GlobalData, as more fashion enthusiasts are clearing out their closets and scouring thrift stores to find valuable pieces to resell.
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But whether you have a collection of band T-shirts or office wear, finding success on these platforms takes time and effort. Before you dive into your closet, there are a few things you should know.
YOU SET YOUR PRICES
Unlike consignment and resale stores, you can price items yourself on an online platform. Before listing a piece of clothing, look it up on multiple platforms to find out what it’s currently being sold for. Prices can vary greatly depending on age, condition and brand.
You can also take advantage of instant messaging to negotiate with buyers and use features in apps like Depop and Poshmark that allow you to accept offers and create discounts for multiple items.
“Sales can be sporadic,” says Andres Castillo of Los Angeles, who sells rare designer pieces under the name Debonair Vintage through Depop, eBay and Instagram. Rare or valuable items can take a while to find the right buyer, especially if you’re looking to break even or make a profit.
THERE IS A BIG COMMITMENT
“I treat[clothing resale]like my job,” said Eve Perez, a full-time college student in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, who sells under the name Fitsfinesse and was featured in Teen Vogue in 2021 for her Depop success. She responds to messages daily, in addition to taking product photos, sewing custom pieces, and packing and shipping orders.
Communicating clearly with new buyers is essential: “If you don’t build that relationship, you won’t get sales and repeat customers,” she adds.
While you have control over the prices, reselling online takes much more time and energy than selling to consignment stores. According to Depop, sellers who list consistently — about 15 items a week — sell more over time.
“It takes a lot of time and dedication,” Castillo says. Top sellers must learn to take striking photos, understand shipping costs, negotiate text, and research brands and trends to get the most out of their inventory.
OVERHEAD COSTS INCREASE
Yes, you can set your prices, but there are a few overheads to keep in mind. Online resale platforms charge a commission fee, plus additional fees for shipping through the platform or accepting payments through a processor such as PayPal. Depop takes 10% of every sale and eBay takes 15%; Poshmark costs $2.95 for items under $15 and 20% for items over $15. PayPal, which integrates with Depop, Poshmark, and eBay, charges an additional 3.49% plus 49 cents per transaction for payment processing.
In addition, you’ll need to pay for packaging, label printing, and possibly stocking inventory, including bins, hangers, and shelves. Top sellers also recommend adding a personal touch to shipments, such as free stickers, small accessories, or a thank you note. When all those costs add up, you’ll find that only higher value items are worth mentioning.
You can save costs by reusing shipping cartons and boxes and printing labels at your local FedEx or UPS store instead of purchasing a label printer. Or reduce shipping costs for buyers by bundling multiple items into one shipment, which can motivate buyers to buy more from your store.
THE SOCIAL ASPECT IS A PRIORITY
The most successful online resellers have one thing in common: a strong personal brand. Finding your niche and building a loyal following is essential to long-term success on a resale platform.
“It’s like Instagram, but for sales,” says Perez, who focuses on creating a consistent aesthetic and marketing her store on social media platforms like TikTok.
Castillo grew his business by targeting a very specific market: vintage designer collectors, specifically for Moschino and Chanel. He sells on various platforms and uses his Instagram to rent pieces to stylists for photo shoots and red carpet events. Although he caters to a fairly small community, his narrow focus helps him reach his ideal buyers.
Other top sellers on resale platforms take a similar approach, with store themes ranging from band T-shirts to vintage dresses. “Lean on your personal taste,” Castillo says. Even if you don’t have a curated collection to sell, personalized packaging or a unique photo background can make your items stand out.
Both Perez and Castillo emphasize the importance of cross-linking social media platforms to reach as many potential customers as possible. Creating a dedicated Instagram Business account and following other online sellers and designers can help attract buyers to your store. Check popular pages for trendy hashtags and add them to your posts. By taking the time to advertise on social media, you can turn your closet into some serious income.
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Dalia Ramirez is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected]