I have a confession to make. I am a man, and I buy used clothing online. This might not strike you as odd (it shouldn’t if you’re an aspiring reseller), but the majority of people we meet are surprised to find out that not only does used clothing sell extremely well online, men’s clothing is typically worth more than women’s clothing! But wait, isn’t it women that love shopping? Well, yes…maybe. That is, there are a lot of women that DO love shopping. Couple that with the fact that most clothing resellers are women, and you end up with an eBay marketplace that literally has 10x the amount of women’s clothes as men’s clothes listed. Even with the massive influx of new sellers, if I want to buy a pair of used Levi’s in my size (511s, 34×36, preferably black) there are currently only 3 used options available and the cheapest is $25.50!
So if you want to set yourself apart from the gaggle of basic resellers who make less than a part time wage on eBay and stall their business for years on end… quit heading to the women’s clothing racks! I can guarantee that those who insist on heading straight to the women’s workout apparel and sweater racks so they can find Lululemon and Free People stuff will continue to see their businesses shrink over the coming year or two. While the men’s clothing market may eventually reach the saturation level of the women’s market, it is currently a ripe plum to be picked! (get it? picked?)
GETTING A START IN CLOTHING…
In 2013, Jet Anderson (name changed to hide the fact that I made this story up) was a man with a mission. A mission to not look like a dweeb. He thought his wardrobe was HOT! His girlfriend, on the other hand, said it looked like he’d been in a coma since 2002. Graphic t-shirts with funny sayings and ill-fitting jeans. Jet didn’t have much of a budget, so he decided to head to the local Goodwill and see if he could freshen up his look. Before heading out he did his research and knew exactly what he wanted, dark denim jeans, leather shoes/boots, and a button down shirt. Unfortunately for him, the Goodwill he chose to go to was extremely picked through. He wandered up and down the aisles with nothing to show for it. Finally, his eye was caught by a pair of jeans stuck in the women’s coats section. He grabbed them out, dark wash Diesel jeans in a size 28×34…perfect! For a very thin, tall mouse…but they sure as heck weren’t going to fit Jet. For $4.00 though, he was determined to fit into them. He bought them, telling himself that he could lose 30 pounds (and grow 4 inches?) in the next few months. You may not be surprised that he didn’t lose any weight, so several months later when Jet had a yard sale he put out the jeans for $20, and was shocked when someone snapped them up. This got him thinking…in the past year his Wells Fargo Savings account had netted him a grand total of $3.34 in interest. He had just made 500% on his money within a couple months! Imagine if he had put his jeans for sale earlier? Or online where he might have gotten $40-50 for them!
We currently have about $60,000 worth of clothing listed on eBay. Each year it generates more than $60,000 in profit while growing our business! If you have a computer, a little ingenuity, and a place that sells used clothes nearby, it is within your power to create a second income, get out of debt, travel, or even – if you want – build a full-time, thriving business! All on the back of someone else’s used long-johns. Well, maybe not quite. But you get the idea.
In the circles of resellers that we hang out in, people are staunchly divided: either you sell mainly clothing, or you sell mainly hardgoods. While I absoluley love hardgoods (and they account for more than 40% of our profit), ignoring clothing is foolish in the extreme. In fact, if you are running a reselling business, ignoring ANY brand, item, scrap of information, etc. that can give you an edge and increase your profits is foolish. While some sellers preach that you should choose a niche and stick with it, we find that it’s helpful for most resellers to keep their options open, particularly if you are counting on eBay to provide a living. The more selective you are about the type of product you sell, the more likely it is that you leave the thrift store empty handed.
We recommend that new eBay sellers start by selling things they have around their home, but once that source of inventory is exhausted, clothing is typically a good first step into the world of buying for resale. Why clothing, you ask? Well:
- It’s ubiquitous. Clothing is everywhere and everyone needs clothing. You would think that this would mean the market is saturated, but that is far from true. The more people there are, the more unique tastes exist, and the more likely it is that there is a buyer out there who wants your specific piece of thrift store-found clothing.
- Clothing is easy to store. Our first storage unit was 10 feet x 15 feet. In addition to storing a ton of personal belongings in it (we had a tiny apartment at the time) , we stored almost 1,000 items of clothing there. Unlike hardgoods, clothing is relatively uniform in size and shape once it’s folded, and can easily be stored in baskets or totes.
- It’s cheap and easy to ship. Clothing can be had for a pittance at yard sales, thrift stores, liquidation auctions, etc. If it doesn’t sell, you can always re-donate it and find something else. Good luck finding another business that you can start today with less than $20 and no technical skills.
- Clothing fulfills the perfect “side hustle business model.” Perhaps you are not like most people, but when the majority of people start a business or side hustle, they need three things: a business that is cheap to start, easy to understand, and has the potential to provide instant profits.
If none of that lights your fire, maybe entrepreneurship and reselling are not for you. I’ll be the first to admit that it takes hard work and dedication which not everyone is willing to give. However, if you’re here, you are probably one of those action-takers who is ready to start making money (or maybe you already are and want to make way more money!) Whichever of those groups you are in, if you are still reading, let’s dispel some of the biggest myths about reselling used clothing.
MYTHS ABOUT SELLING USED CLOTHING
While there are literally hundreds of myths and terrible business practices in the reselling world, here we’ll focus on just 3. These should be enough to provide you with a solid foundation to blow past hundreds of stagnant eBayers:
Myth #1: A High MSRP Means a High Resale Value
We have sold shirts that retail for $30 for $35, and failed to sell $200 dresses on auction for $.99. While the market for used clothing does have some relationship to the new cost, buying things based solely on MSRP (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) is foolish. Instead of going off of purchase price, successful resellers learn what brands hold their value on the used market and make purchases accordingly.
Myth #2: Everything Sells Eventually
This is a motto for resellers that has been around longer than I have been on eBay. Despite my best attempts to debunk and destroy it, new resellers quip, “List it and forget it!” This refers to the notion that you don’t have to worry about dropping the price, checking if things have watchers, tweaking listings, etc. because, eventually, the right buyer will come along. I’ll say it outright – that is a stupid and lazy business practice. Businesses with stupid and lazy practices do survive, but they rarely thrive and they NEVER live up to their potential. With the number of clothing items listed on eBay, you cannot afford to simply source whatever you want and throw it up for sale. If you want to be successful, you need to be calculated in your sourcing, smart in your listing, and always evolving, bringing your old listings with you. Having had inventory that has sat for 2+ years at a sale price under $10, I can tell you – some things never sell. And if it ever does, you can be darn sure that I won’t be pleased after storing it for years and paying 15 cents a month to keep it online.
Myth #3: You Will Get Hundreds of Returns When the Clothes Don’t Fit
Our return rate on clothing is actually lower than our return rate for non-clothing items. Our average clothing return rate for the last 2 years has been right around 2%. The truth is, people don’t often buy brands they’ve never heard of online. The majority of our sales are to people who want to replace a similar item, have an item from that brand they love and they want another, etc. In the case of people buying new and novel brands, we include measurements on all of our clothing listings (and so should you!).
SO WHAT MAKES USED CLOTHING VALUABLE?
When I first started selling on eBay, I was super excited to find a heavy leather trench coat at a local thrift store. While I’m not really the trench coat type, I thought that someone would love it for sure, and despite the mediocre brand, bought it for $14.99. Six months later I was finally shipping it. It had generated absolutely no interest in the time it had been online and had finally sold for $19.99 when I put it on auction. Shipping it was expensive and after all my work, I barely managed to break even. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was violating one of the most basic rules for reselling clothing: BRAND IS KING. While there are some items that can sell without a brand (cashmere for example, or unique one-off pieces), the fact remains: people love brands, and people search for brands. No matter what level you are in the reselling game, learning new brands is the fastest way to level up. Trends change, there are only so many exotic fabrics to learn, but the infinite number of brands in the world means that the more brands you know, the more your business will grow. Let’s talk about 47 of them:
1. THE TERRITORY AHEAD
“Well, I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and civilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before.” – Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Territory Ahead makes “Quality Casual Clothing,” meaning shirts, pants, shorts, and shoes. The best sellers in the used market are bright and colorful button down shirts. Particularly in the heavy textured cotton that is so characteristic of the Territory Ahead Brand. Also keep an eye out for tall sizes, as they are typically harder to find and, therefore, more valuable.
2. ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA
We were selling and profiting from Ermenegildo Zegna clothing long before I took the time to sound out the name (just do it now…it’s phonetic…).
Zegna typically makes dress and dress casual-type clothing, so keep your eyes open for dress shirts, suits, jackets, polos and dress pants. You’ll need to be checking tags, as the company does not have a style which differentiates it from the hundreds of other business casual items on the racks.
Filson is a high-end outdoor brand that specializes in wool and canvas products. As can be expected from a company with a logo like, “Might as well have the best,” their clothing can be very expensive, running $500-600 for a coat.
Keep an eye out for their characteristic red and black buffalo check (similar to Pendleton’s) and for leather/canvas bags. Filson also makes belts, hats, and other men’s accessories: all which are profitable if you get a good deal!
Carhartt work gear not only has a reputation at the job-site, it gives a reputation to anyone who wears it to the store, to church, or even (heaven forbid) a school dance. Wearing Carhartt items has become such a life-style that people don’t want to wear anything different, because Carhartt says something about them as a person. This, of course, is the reason that it’s valuable.
The majority of Carhartt items on eBay are underpriced. Get a good idea of how much your item sells for new and then price it at 50-75% of MSRP. Also, don’t avoid Carhartt items that are dirty, stained, or have logos. People generally want beat up Carhartt items for one of two reasons:
- There is a “breaking in” period for new Carhartt items where they are typically stiff and uncomfortable. Buying used bypasses this.
- They don’t want to be the guy at the construction site with the brand new shiny work jacket. Rugged and used speaks volumes about “work ethic.”
Schott NYC was founded by two brothers in 1913 in (surprise) New York City. They have several claims to fame, including:
- Being the first company to put a zipper in a jacket
- They made clothing for the U.S. Air Force during WW2 and, later, for law enforcement
- The latest claim to fame is the “Perfecto” motorcycle jacket which is named after Irving Schott’s favorite cigar
Keep your eyes open for all forms of leather jackets including moto jackets, bombers, greaser jackets, etc. The most valuable jackets are shearling bombers from WW2, and we often search Craigslist and other local avenues for them to flip on eBay.
Founded in 1830, Woolrich is the oldest manufacturer of outdoor wear in the United States. The original purpose of the company was to buy furs from trappers, but they soon branched out to wool milling. They provided clothing for soldiers during the civil war and several expeditions to the Antarctic. Now, the company’s production has been significantly downsized and moved overseas, but vintage items are still plentifully available in thrift stores. Look for items made of canvas, denim, or leather, typically lined with the characteristic red and black plaid wool.
7. LOUDMOUTH GOLF
Loudmouth Golf is a relatively new and small company, founded in 2000 by a former graphic designer. They are known for their “colorful trousers” and make custom patterns and fabric for their range of golf pants and shorts. Anything you see hanging in the pants section that is terrifyingly lurid is probably worth checking. It just might be LOUDMOUTH!