The fashion industry is said to be one of the world’s biggest contributors to environmental resource waste and destruction. According to UN Environment, the fashion industry—fast fashion, in particular—is contributing 92 million tons of solid waste to landfills every year. Most of these are textile waste created during production, but a lot of these are consumer waste—that is, perfectly usable items of clothing being thrown in landfills.
With the growing consumer consciousness on these issues, more and more people are now gravitating toward making more ecologically sound decisions when it comes to their clothing purchases. One way is by buying second-hand or used items from thrift stores and selling them online for a profit.
A few years ago, I started exploring my local Goodwill and Value Village nearby. I couldn’t resist the weekday deals. As my bulk of buys grew, my partner challenged me to flip them for a profit (but really it was because he wanted his dining room back.)
At first, sales were slow and I was making only $1 per item after transaction and platform selling fees. I knew I was doing something wrong. I know college students and money bloggers who were making mid-4 figures a month thrift selling part-time.
In the end, I had to learn a lot to pinpoint my lessons and mistakes so this is a guide that will help you make a profit from selling and flipping used clothes online.
In the last month of my thrift flipping mini business, I was able to finally break almost $1,000 ($981.26 to be exact in sales). Due to a change in my work demands, I was unable to find the time to get back to thrift flipping. But I was satisfied with all I learned to break that 4 figures in a few months of trial and error flipping online – especially because it was fun bargain shopping anyway 🙂
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So What Is Online Thrifting?
Have you ever heard of the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”? That’s the whole principle behind flipping, or “the practice of buying stuff cheap from a thrift shop and reselling them at a profit.”
Here’s a quick pop quiz:
- Do you enjoy going to yard sales and thrift stores for cheap thrills and unique OOTDs?
- Do you know fashion brand names like the back of your proverbial hand?
- Do you secretly gloat when people compliment you on your outfit—because they don’t know your wardrobe is filled with dirt-cheap finds from flea markets and yard sales?
- Additionally, does the idea of earning an extra $100, $500, or even $5,000 a month doing something that you already love—that is, looking for value-for-money clothing pieces—excite you?
If you answered yes to these questions, read on and find out how you can make money from flip selling as I did!
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What Are the Perks of Flipping?
While reselling thrift-store clothes may not make you rich overnight, it’s a surefire way to earn extra money, especially if you’re looking to have multiple income streams. It’s recession-proof, costs next to nothing to start, and is a waaay better use of your time (than, you know, scrolling like a zombie through your Facebook or Instagram feed).
Here are other reasons you should consider diving into the clothes-flipping industry:
- You don’t need to have a physical store. No money to take out a lease on a brick-and-mortar store? No problem! With thrifting (as with most online gigs), you can make money wherever you are: at home, at the coffee shop, by the beach—wherever you are, really!
- You don’t need to build your own website. You can use existing shopping platforms like Instagram, Poshmark, or Facebook’s Marketplace. The good news is, most of these platforms will let you create an account with them for free!
- You own your time. While it’s not an excuse to be lazy, with online clothes flipping, you get to decide your own work schedule. Have three to four hours to spare outside your work hours? You can squeeze out a lot from those extra hours by spending it on your online store.
- You don’t need a lot to get started. In fact, you may not even need to shell out cash at all! You can just start where you are. Open your closet and start pulling out items that are no longer “sparking joy.” Who knows, someone might be glad to take that ugly Christmas sweater from you for ten times its original value.
What Do I Need to Get Started?
Before we go into more detail, let’s first go through the building blocks of a successful clothes-flipping and online-reselling side business. To learn the basics of starting one, you will need:
1. An eye for beauty and fashion
While you don’t necessarily have to be updated on the latest runway looks, it helps if you’re clued in on the whos-who in the fashion world, you know what looks won’t go away anytime soon (like LBDs), and you have a flair for knowing how to mix and match clothing.
2. Patience—lots of it
Clothes-flipping is not a glamorous job. You could be filing through endless racks of clothing or browsing through pages upon pages online before you come across a good find. That said, you need to have the determination and persistence to keep it up.
Speaking of patience, you also need to have lots of time. Aside from scouring store racks, your days could be filled with jumping from one thrift store to the next—or, alternatively, browsing through several dozen online clothing catalogs—and that will take up most of your time. Not to mention you will also need to look after your online store and field questions from potential customers.
That good news is, you can fit these tasks around your free time. Even just taking 30 minutes off your break time every day to walk to the nearest thrift store is enough to start.
4. Photography Skills
Thrift-store items are like diamonds in the rough. Sitting on a dusty shelf or rack among hundreds or thousands of other bargain-bin items, they may not look like much. But if you give them their own spotlight (and an Instagrammable flat lay), ta-dah! You’ll be amazed at how much people will be willing to pay to get them off your back.
Does this mean investing in an expensive, high-resolution digital camera? Not necessarily. You can start snapping away using just your smartphone. But having advanced skills in photography and editing will go a long way when you’re flipping thrift-store clothes.
Buying a fashionable mannequin is absolutely recommended, they are not too expensive. Plus you can save yourself a lot of customer returns if you give the mannequin measurements as well as clothing measurements (since different brands vary wildly in what is XS vs S vs M etc.) It’s one extra expense that will save you more money if you have it, in the long run.
5. Flipping App of Your Choice
In place of a traditional store, you’ll have to look for a marketplace online that will help show your thrift-store finds to the world. No need to have your business registered; all you need is to set up your account by providing the necessary personal information, linking payments to your bank account, and you’re good to go!
Popular places to resell your clothes for a profit are eBay, Poshmark, Carousell (International), Mercari, and ThredUP. Most of these online stores have apps too, which means you can run your flipping business even with just your phone.
Note: Although signing up is free, some of these online selling platforms charge a fee for every successful sale that goes through them. Make sure you factor that into your pricing. Also, be prepared for the logistics of shipping items. If you wish to stay local, try advertising via Craigslist or OfferUp instead (but traffic will be limited and involve contact with strangers.)
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Good Places to Find Bargain Clothes To Flip?
So now that you have your online store set up, here’s the exciting part: filling up your virtual “clothes rack” with your carefully curated selection of clothes. Below are places where you can get your time and money’s worth searching for great pieces to put up on your store.
When it comes to finding clothes to resell for profit, charity non-profit thrift stores are some of the best places to go to find used and brand-new clothes at clearance sale prices. More well-known thrift stores include Goodwill, Community Aid, The Salvation Army, Thrift Store USA, St. Vincent’s de Paul, Deseret Industries, Value Village and Savers.
There are other small thrift stores within your area, so make sure you check those out too. Here’s a helpful list of the best thrift store in every state, courtesy of Yelp.
Garage & Yard Sales
They say fashion trends repeat every two decades. If that’s the case, don’t knock church sales, rummage, yard, and garage sales: they’re a goldmine waiting to be discovered!
Garage sales are a great option for finding clothes to fill your online thrift store. People who hold garage or yard sales are usually eager to get rid of as much stuff as they can before their moveout date, so chances are high that you’re going to come across plenty of clothes priced really cheap (which means more profit for you, yay!).
Tip: Try to hit garage and yard sales at the end of the day, when owners are most likely to give in to a rock-bottom offer.
Have a favorite brand of clothing? If you can’t get enough of them from thrift stores, try your luck with their online stores. They probably won’t be priced as cheap, but every once in a while, online clothing stores will hold promos and sales. Make sure to subscribe to their mailing list to get alerts on when stores are selling their items at reduced prices.
If there’s a clothing store or department store near your place of work or home, find time to drop by every now and then. Make friends with the staff to get first-hand info on discount days and when they’re clearing racks to make space for new stocks.
Tip: Have extra time? Shop for clothes at higher-end locations, where you’re most likely to come across better-quality clothing brands.
Your Own Closet
Are there clothes you’ve bought but have never worn in the past six months? Chances are slim that you’re going to wear them at all ever, so why not place them in a home where they’ll be better appreciated and have more use? You’ll be surprised to find that even your mom’s or grandma’s closet could yield plenty of interesting thrifting finds—just make sure to resist the urge to keep some of those finds for yourself, or we’ll be back to problem number one.
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How to Make the Most of Online Clothes Flipping
The profit you stand to make from online clothes flipping varies wildly (depending on how hard you work at it). Some thrifters claim to make as much as $5,000 a month just from selling used items online. (Check out this woman who gave up a corporate job to focus on reselling thrift store clothes full-time!)
As with all other gigs and jobs, flipping requires skill and work. And while there may already be plenty of online clothing resellers in the market, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for one more player. Below are helpful tips we’ve gathered from already established online clothes resellers that will help ensure you’ll get the most from your time flipping:
1. Do Your Research
Before you reach out for a certain item, take out your phone and look up its expected value online to find out how much people are willing to pay for it. (A good place to start are eBay listings, which give you a good idea of how much a certain item is worth.) When it comes to online reselling, it helps to learn as much as you can about the items and brands you are selling. Customers will appreciate getting helpful and expert information when they throw inquiries your way.
2. Timing is Everything
Take advantage of Bargain Tuesdays at your local thrift shop or clothing retail store. Go shopping on days when stores are most likely to give the biggest discounts (like a few days before new stocks arrive). The cheaper you’re able to buy a thrifted item, the greater your profits.
3. Go Natural
Beyond popular styles and cuts, look for clothes made with high-quality fabric as these tend to have a higher resale value. Check the label for 100% natural fibers such as cotton, silk, cashmere, wool, or leather. Clothes made from blends are usually sold cheaper (and a dime a dozen), but that usually means you can’t put a too high price tag on them.
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4. Keep Tags
Thrift clothing are a mix of used and brand-new items, with brand-new items naturally costing more. Buyers are usually willing to pay good money for clothing items that have the tag still attached to them, so make sure to add this information to your product’s description.
5. Add Value
Make sure you exhaust all efforts to make your item as presentable (and expensive) as possible before you take a photo of it and upload it on your store. Below are some tips to make your items stand out:
- Give used items TLC. Wash and iron used clothes. (Make sure to read the tag for washing and care instructions!) Also, try to take care of signs of wear on used items (for example, by using a clean razon to go through a pilled-up sweater, or using fabric dye to make faded clothes look brand-new).
- Place your items under the best light. Select a professional-looking backdrop to shoot your items against. (Neutral colors are best.)
Have extra money for a mannequin? Use that for your shoots to give clothes better silhouette. Otherwise, taking photos of clothes using a wooden hanger will do.
Also—and most importantly—don’t underestimate the power of good lighting. As much as possible, take advantage of daylight by setting up your shoot outdoors, otherwise use artificial lighting.
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Find a Niche and Stick to It
A good tip when you’re flipping is to stick to a niche. Don’t be all over the place with the items you sell, lest you risk displacing your customers. It’s wise to stick to a niche or clothing category when selecting wearables to flip, since it lets your target customers find you better, and it helps narrow your search radius too.
Here are some good ideas for niches you can build your clothes-flipping empire on:
- Baby clothes. Moms and dads can’t get enough of dressing up baby. Baby clothes are great for flipping because they’re usually priced cheap. If you want to narrow your category further, focus on costumes for babies (or even kids).
- Vintage clothing. Vintage shirts, dresses, sneakers, leather jackets, denims, sweaters, hats, men’s ties, scarves—just about anything vintage will have a market. Just make sure you know how to tell the difference between vintage and run-down.
Note: Vintage clothing sizes are usually smaller than what’s printed on the label. Make sure to keep note of this when selling vintage clothing online.
- Costume pieces. A very narrow niche, but you have plenty of potential for scoring great finds—plus these things have great resale value.
Stay Away from Thrift Item No-no’s
While it’s tempting to buy something just because it’s cheap, take note that not all used clothing items available at a thrift store or yard sale can be resold. Well, you can probably resell them, but you know, gross. Stay away from reselling the following used items:
- Used underwear. Do we really have to say why? Just don’t. Like seriously, don’t.
Tip: There are alternatives though, such as boxed (read: never-been-used) overrun underwear. You can stick to reselling these instead.
- Second-hand shoes. This one’s probably a matter of preference. There are those who actually don’t mind walking in somebody else’s shoes (literally speaking), but for other people, hygiene is the best justification for staying away from selling and buying second-hand shoes. You could wash them though, but that isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be able to remove odor and fungi—plus you might end up ruining them.
- Used swimwear. Unless it comes with a tag and unless you’re sure the sanitary liner is still intact and hasn’t been tampered with, don’t attempt to resell second-hand swimwear (for the same reasons we don’t advise selling used underwear).
- Items that are damaged beyond repair. No matter how cheap, stay away from the following lost causes:
- Armpit stains – Gross and impossible to remove
- Missing or broken zippers – Unless you’re really handy with the sewing machine, don’t attempt to fix this.
- Damaged or missing beadwork – Not worth it, let it go.
- Holes – It depends on the size, the fabric, as well as the type of clothing (if it’s a vintage concert shirt, it’s probably okay since it adds character).
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