Clothing resale is taking the world by storm. The global market is estimated at $36 billion and is projected to be more valuable than the fast fashion industry by 2030.
Although reselling clothing for profit is not a new concept, the market has seen spectacular growth in the last 20 years. Technology, the internet and consumer awareness around pollution and waste caused by the fashion industry are fueling the growth.The abundance of used clothing in existence is helping create new jobs and businesses and is also ushering in a new generation of unique fashion through upcycling.
This article is an all-encompassing overview of reselling clothing. We include an explanation of why reselling clothing is important, its history, how to be great at reselling clothes, and 3 tips for new resellers.
Why Reselling Clothing Matters
The Fashion Industry Produces A Lot Of Clothes
The modern consumer is on a constant quest for new possessions. She/he gets bored of what is familiar quickly and in turn requires stimulation. There is actually science to back this up. You see when one is considering buying something new, the brain releases dopamine, the chemical related to pleasure. Once we acquire that new position, the dopamine spikes, providing us with a “shoppers high.”
It is this desire for new things, clever marketing and the need to increase profits that has the fashion industry producing over 150 billion articles of clothing each year. Yet as you will learn in this article, a significant portion of these garments are never purchased. Creating a strong need for secondary clothing markets.
You Can Make Money Doing It
There are over 25,000 physical resale stores in the United States alone. In addition, a similar number of resale stores exist online. These are small businesses as well as the global giants you’ve heard of, like Vestiaire Collective, ThredUp, Depop and eBay. These sites are available to anyone with a smartphone and clothing to sell.
There is a large wave of individuals making selling used clothing a full time gig. Though if full time is not your goal, not to worry. Supplementing your kids college tuition, funding family vacations, or even your monthly Starbucks habit is totally possible reselling part-time.
Income will vary, but depending on the items you’re selling and the amount of time you’re willing to put in, the reward can be well into the four or five figures annually.
It’s A Welcomed Resource For Those With Limited Budgets
Clothing is one of the only consumer goods that has gotten less expensive over time. It’s for this reason society places little value on the clothing they own. Which is why much of it make its way to the landfill when deemed no longer useful or in style. Yet although it’s gotten less expensive, this does not mean most have the budget for new apparel. The secondary clothing market provides a valuable resource for those without the means to purchase new.
As you’ll read below, reselling clothing has been around for hundreds of years. Companies like Goodwill exist to employ individuals who may have a hard time finding employment otherwise. This is one way they reach their mission of helping the communities in which they exist.
During the recent Covid19 pandemic, the global resale company ThredUp reported 80% of women surveyed began a new thrifting habit they intended to continue. Whether it’s creating your own new job, or working for a resale company, the secondhand market is creating jobs.
It’s Curbing Pollution
The last 75 years have witnessed humans become great at consuming in excess. We now live in a throw away society. The United States alone generates 25 billion pounds of textile waste each year. That equates to 82 pounds per person. The unfortunate reality is most of what we throw away could be resold.
The good news is the globe is taking notice and the situation is starting to change for the better. ThredUp puts out a report each year that highlights how the clothing resale industry is evolving, the number of people reselling, how many garments were resold, and how much pollution has been reduced.
The History of Fashion Resale
There are many examples throughout history of businesses and products that began their lives as one thing and over time became something different. The Roomba robot vacuum is a great recent example.
The Roomba began its life in the early 1990’s as a robot built to detect bombs. The bomb-sniffing robot was called the PackBot and was created by iRobot in collaboration with the United States’ Department of Defense. It was used in military situations to aid in preserving human lives. In 2002 iRobot used the same technology to develop the Roomba. Now instead of detecting bombs it sweeps dust, and amazingly brings in over $1 billion a year doing so.
The idea of reselling clothing, or thrifting, also began its life as something different than how we know it today. According to historian and author Jennifer Le Zotte, clothing was not always regarded as a product to be discarded. “If you had a dress and it got worn out, you’d tear it up and make a pinafore for your daughter, and when that got trashed, you’d tear it up and stuff your chair with it,” explains the author of From Goodwill to Grunge: A History of Secondhand Styles and Alternative Economies.
The Early Days of Thrift in America
Late in the 19th century, the US population began to grow rapidly. This was considered America’s largest wave of immigration. Urban areas began to expand, thus the living spaces began to shrink and along with it, places to store clothing. This meant more possessions were being thrown away.
It was around this same time that Christian ministries began looking for additional sources of revenue to fund their outreach programs. The Salvation Army and Goodwill launched programs in 1897 and 1902 respectively. The Salvation Army’s program started in the basement of a men’s shelter. Residents of the shelter went around the neighborhood with pushcarts asking for used clothing. They got food and lodging in return.
Goodwill’s program was similar. It hired poor and disabled people to collect the goods and do any necessary repairs. Interestingly, through these programs, the Goodwill and Salvation Army gave immigrants a place to find clothing and become “Americanized.” Thrift stores continued to grow in popularity during the early 20th century, then the Great Depression came and thrift became more popular than it ever had been.
The Industrial Revolution was perhaps the most effective catalyst to cheaper, more abundant clothing. Advances in technology enabled the mass production of textiles. Thus for the first time in human history clothing was widely available, and was purchased for reasons other than necessity. Though it wasn’t until the mid 1950’s and the introduction of shopping malls that the number of outfits owned per individual saw a drastic rise. This created the rise in used clothing available and in turn the beginning of the growth cycle of reselling clothing.
Apparel Manufacturing – An Unfortunate Reality
Any industry that manufactures 150 billion of a physical product in a given year is bound create a negative environmental effect. It’s well documented just how much the fashion industry negatively impacts our environment. So much so there now are various global initiatives dedicated to getting reducing it.
ESG, or Environmental, Social and Governance, is a term coined in the mid 2000’s. This was a time when governments across the globe began calling on CEO’s of major corporations to rethink their sustainability efforts. ESG is a term regulators now use to provide manufacturers with a report card of sorts to show how they’re viewed through a sustainability lens. Interestingly, ESG, along with GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) has opened the door for consumers to learn how their favorite brands score.
A Dirty Job
Apparel manufacturing is a very dirty, resource depleting process. It takes around 1,800 gallons (7,000 liters) of water to make just one pair of jeans. The industry produces 2 billion pairs every year. The greenhouse gasses emitted by the manufacturing process total more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
In addition to an extremely pollutive process, there is massive amounts of overproduction in fashion. Of the 150 billion garments produced each year, 30% of those items are never sold. Therefore sending 45 billion garments to landfills or incinerators. This on top of the millions of yards of fabric left over from the cutting and sewing process that is simply discarded.
Click here for more facts about how the fashion industry impacts the environment.
Fashion Resale Terms To Know
- Charity shop – Also referred to as an opportunity shop. A charity shop sells used clothing and goods to raise money for people who are poor, sick, etc… or donates its revenue to a charity.
- Commission – Money earned from selling used clothing not through your own effort.
- Consignment – Getting paid for your donated goods after they sell.
- Cross listing – Software which allow you to list product on multiple platforms at once.
- Donation – Something that is given to charity.
- Junk shop – Original term for Salvation Army and Goodwill stores. Pre 1920.
- Peer to peer – Type of online resale platform that allows individuals to list product and sell to other individuals.
- Re-commerce – A term given to the online resale market.
- Thrift shop – Store that sells secondhand goods, mostly clothing, and is run for charitable purposes.
- Upcycle– Also known as creative reuse. This is the process of transforming unwanted products into new products perceived to be of greater quality or value. In fashion this could be converting a discarded dress into an apron.
Where To Sell Your Used Clothes
If you’re considering getting into the resale game, there’s no better time then now. The word is out and the industry is growing at a rapid pace. Both online and physical resale stores are popping up everywhere across the globe and there is a niche for every type of clothing. From vintage to maternity wear, you’ll have no trouble making extra cash or starting your own resale business.
Read on for an overview of the top 3 ways to sell clothing secondhand. You can also check out our more detailed article on the same subject.
If you want to thin out your wardrobe and help your local community but don’t have the time to sell garments yourself, then selling to local consignment shops is your answer. You’ll make less than half of what you could doing it yourself, but maybe big profits aren’t your goal.
As you begin to go through your wardrobe, be thinking about the current season and what brands are in style. You’ll want to select items that show light wear, but also ones that are trending. We hear many stories of people bringing bags of clothing to their local consignment shop only to leave disappointed when the store only accepts a small amount of what they brought in. Just because you think that pair of vintage JNCO jeans would be a great find, doesn’t mean the rest of the population will.
A quick Google search will guide you to consignment shops in your area. But how will you know what will sell? We discuss this more below.
Sell Items Online
Self selling is the fastest growing segment in fashion resale. According to ThredUP, over 36 million people resold an article of clothing online for the first time in 2020. This is great news for anyone looking to become an online reseller as there is no shortage of buyers and platforms to sell on.
As long as you have a camera and clothes to sell, you can sell online. The platforms you’ve heard of in the past are still relevant, such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and Poshmark. There are also dozens of new and niche platforms. We detail the most popular online do-it-yourself resale websites and apps in this article.
Send Items to Online Consignment Sites
If you’re really strapped for time or there are no local shops to sell to, your best bet is to send your items to an online reseller. Companies like ThredUP, The RealReal, and Swap have perfected the process of taking in your unwanted garments, selling them and sending you a commission!
The process is as simple as requesting a pre-paid package, stuffing as much as you can into it and dropping it in the mail. The company will take care of inspection, garment prep, photos, listing and description. You can opt to have them send back what they do not accept, or allow them to donate those items.
How Do You Know What Will Sell?
Now days you shouldn’t expect to cash in by listing just any used garment for sale online. It needs to be the right item at the right time. As with all industries there is both supply and demand, we’re talking basic economics. The reason Jordan Brand sneakers are expensive is because there is high demand. Water is inexpensive because there is a large supply…for now.
Though don’t let this scare you off. The process of learning what will sell is much easier than it sounds and here we’ll share some tips from the pros. Also, don’t be afraid to develop your own method of market research. If you’re serious about reselling clothing, this step can make or break your efforts.
Poshmark’s Trend Report
Poshmark is one of the most widely used resale platforms in the world and they do a great job helping sellers learn what brands and styles are popular. They do this in a repot they put out each season called the Trend Report. The great thing is you don’t even have to be selling on Poshmark to access it. In this article we provide a link to their Trend Report and share pro-tips for how to be great at selling on Poshmark.
The RealReal’s Luxury Trend Report
New for 2021, The RealReal published its first ever Luxury Resale Trend Report. If you’ll be selling a lot of designer brands this will be something to monitor. Check it out here.
ThredUp’s Cart Filter
There is a term the eCommerce industry calls “shopping cart abandonment.” This is when you add something to your cart you intend to purchase but ultimately do not buy. Well now ThredUP has a nifty filter on their site that allows you to see what items are in someone else’s cart. At any given moment there are thousands of garments abandoned in carts on ThredUp and now you can see what those items are. Giving you direct access to what is hot right now!
Additionally, similar to Poshmark and other peer-to-peer platforms, ThredUp now allows you to peer into other thrifter’s closet’s through Shop Her Closet. This is a clickable option on the ThredUp site that gives shoppers access to numerous ThredUp stylist, style icons and other thrifters curated collections.
All eCommerce sites allow you to sort their catalog using various filters and they’re only getting smarter. One of the best ways to learn what items are selling is to simply sort a catalog by “what’s popular.”
Where To Acquire Used Clothes To Sell
A benefit of reselling clothing is there is no shortage of quality items out there, you just need to know where to look. The best resellers know the kind of items that will sell quickly and for the highest price. A great place to start is right in your own closet!
Your Own Closet
We might feel we need all the clothing we own, but how much of it do we actually wear? The German relocation company Movinga recently conducted a study of 18,000+ households spread across 20 countries and reported some interesting findings. It appears we humans are delusional about the clothing we need. The study was broken down by country and found we actual don’t wear between 53% and 88% of what’s in our wardrobe. With the United States and Belgium being the most wasteful.
Buy From Local Secondhand Stores
During a meeting Tailored had with Goodwill Industries in 2018, their director of eCommerce commented that the majority of people who buy apparel on ShopGoodwill.com are buying to resell.
This is also true with local secondhand clothing shops. You should aim to have a mix of both online and brick-and-mortar avenues for acquiring apparel to sell. The most successful resellers spend between 10 and 20 hours per week locating quality used apparel. The rest of the time is spent getting it ready to sell.
Doing this often will ensure your online store has a steady rotation of new gear and will keep shoppers coming back.
Buy Used Clothing In Bulk
If you’re starting a medium to large size resale business (one you won’t operate out of your home), you’ll need a quick influx of used garments to sell. An often overlooked method for acquiring secondhand apparel is buying in bulk. Yes, there is so much used clothing available in the world that you can literally buy it by weight. Some even sell by the shipping container (Tailored has a client in Florida who has acquired clothing in this manner for years).
Pricing Your Clothes
An all star pricing strategy will bring your resale game to the next level. Price too high and you items won’t sell. Price too low and you’ll leave money on the table. Since we are not affiliated with any specific resale platform, we’ll provide some general rules to live by. Read more on how much money you can expect to make reselling clothing online and expert tips on pricing.
A Little Research Goes A Long Way
How will you know what price to assign to the items you’re selling? A simple strategy used by many is to start off with a price of around 50% of what you bought the item for new. Though many things come into play when determining price such as condition and demand. So you’ll want to research the market to learn what items similar to yours are selling for.
If something isn’t selling in a timely manner, it’s ok to reduce the price. In fact it’s encouraged to monitor your stock frequently. You don’t want items sitting on your page for longer than a month.
How To Be Great at Reselling
Being great at reselling clothing involves a bit of common sense. Things as simple as making sure your garments are clean and wrinkle-free will go a long way in attracting buyers. Making sure you follow the basics will also encourage their trust in you. Below we list some pro-tips that will help anyone get started being great at resale.
This is super important to those looking to buy from you. Since secondhand clothing has been previously worn, washed and potentially altered, buyers want to see measurements. Though not all the measurements, just the ones important in regard to fit.
The bad news is everyone hates measuring because it’s tedious and time consuming. The good news is there is a software that will measure your garments for you. It’s called Capture and it was developed by us here at Tailored. Take a single photograph of your garment and Capture will measure the entire thing. It will also produce a handy image showing each measurement and where exactly it was measured. This can be used as one of the images you show your customers.
If you’re not ready to jump to automated garment measuring, check out our detailed article on how to measure clothing for sites like eBay and Poshmark.
Take Quality Photos
As is true in real estate, weddings, corporate events, and social media – quality photographs help products sell. The good news is you won’t need to go out and spend thousands on a DSLR camera because you have a great photo taking device in your pocket.
Whether you’re taking photos on body, on a mannequin or flat, use lots of natural light. You’ll want to take your photos in portrait mode (with your mobile device held vertically, not horizontally). If need be, you can doctor your photos later. If you want a clean look to your online store, photograph all garments on the same background. You can even get real fancy and remove the background from your photos with software like PhotoRoom.
Write Good Product Descriptions
Something that is often overlooked is creating a quality description of the item you’re selling. What many don’t realize is this step is becoming increasingly important. Why? Because of the way search engines like Google find the things people are searching for. Sure, you want people to find your garments on the platform you’re selling on. But what about someone who searches “black tunic” on Google? A quality description could help your item appear in the search results.
Here are some examples of great product descriptions for items being sold online.
Keeping your online store feeling fresh is important for keeping visitors coming back. Even if you’re only listing a few new items at a time, we recommend listing at least once a month to keep your store flush with new gear.
3 Global Events Dedicated To Resale
Today there are networking events and conventions for just about every industry. Resale is no different. Through our network of clients we’ve become aware of events dedicated to the space. And not just for reselling clothing either, the resale industry as a whole.
At these events you’ll have the opportunity to meet with other resellers as well as hear from experts who have made a career out of resale. Below we’ve listed a few for you to check out.
3 Tips For Beginning Resellers
- Be responsive – As you may have noticed in your travels around the internet, response time is a metric being tracked more often. So do your best to respond to customer inquiries in a timely manner.
- Ship quickly – Immediate gratification is largely unattainable when buying online, so don’t make buyers wait longer than they have to. When orders come in, try to ship within 48 hours so as not to receive a bad review.
- Personal touch goes a long way – A surefire way to get people coming back is to provide a personal touch. Something as simple as a handwritten thank you note, or one that’s typed but has your written signature, will go a long way in building your credibility. Consumers love that kind of stuff. Sending discount codes with their order is also a valuable way to keep customers coming back for more.
The Resale Community As A Whole
If there is one thing we’ve learned about the resale community it’s that it’s vast but also tight knit. There is always someone with the passion to share their knowledge just as there are always newcomers eager to learn. We’ve spent the past three years working alongside and learning from some of the largest clothing resellers in the world. These relationships are what have enabled us to create a one-of-a-kind software for helping them be more efficient. We hope to continue to help add value to an industry that’s doing good in more ways than one.