Did you know that there are people just like you who decided to leave the doldrums of their daily job for a life selling online?
When Kirstie (my wife) and I were still in college, I was taking 15 credit hours, working 40-50 hours a week, and then Kirstie got pregnant. Followed by extreme morning sickness. I needed to come up with a solution – and quickly – that would allow me to stay home and take care of her. Enter: selling on eBay.
While it wasn’t quick, I started selling off things around our house that we no longer needed (and some we did need…times were hard…). Within two years we had grown our little sideshow into a $100k a year business that gave me the flexibility to stay home for Kirstie’s next pregnancy!
As much as it hurts my manhood to admit it, if I could attribute my success to something, it would be women’s clothing. For the first two years of selling online, women’s clothing made up more than 50% of our sales. It is as plentiful as it is profitable in almost every part of the country (and the world for that matter), so if you are interested in selling clothing on eBay, the women’s clothing section is one of the best places to start. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most intimidating sections of any thrift store. Rack upon rack of clothing from more brands than you can possibly imagine. Even after selling online (mainly eBay) for several years, we have barely heard of half the brands we come across. Since it’s not effective to look up every single thing you find, we took the time to put together a list of women’s clothing BOLOs!
If you can recognize all the brands on this list, you will very rarely go home empty-handed from any thrifting expedition. So if you’re serious about selling used clothing online, check out our favorite top-selling brands!
You won’t find anything like Louis Vuitton or Gucci on this list. We have done our best to talk about brands you’re likely to find, not just the most expensive brands available. Because of that, some brands may not be exciting or flashy. While high dollar sales are fun, these “bread and butter” brands make up 80% of the orders we send out every day. Even after all these years on eBay, we are learning new brands on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis. With that in mind, I firmly believe that this list will benefit even long-time sellers. However, if you are just starting out, knowing these 60 brands will put you MONTHS ahead of the competition! While everyone else is struggling to figure out how to find brands that will sell in the over-saturated clothing market, you will be focused on how to deal with the influx of inventory and orders!
Before we get to the brands: 5 things that make clothing valuable. If an item has 3 of the 5, it’s a winner. You can never know all the brands. Teach a man to fish – but if you only know how to use fish with worms, you’ll be limited. So let’s teach you how to choose bait!
THE 5 CHARACTERISTICS OF PROFITABLE USED CLOTHING
I spent almost an hour sitting at my desk trying to come up with a super cool acronym that would contain these 5 selling points. I came up dry. So I asked Kirstie…and she came up dry too. The best we could come up with was BMMPS. Just say it like “Bumps.” Does your clothing have bumps?!
The selling price for any clothing on eBay (or any other item for that matter) is made up of a combination of these 5 items. Each one of them plays a valuable role in deciding what you should source, how much you should pay, and how much you can profit!
B – BRAND
The brand is always the first thing people look for when deciding what to sell, and for good reason. The resale value of an item is often (but not always) linked to how much the item cost when new. When we are going through clothing racks, we typically are looking for brands only. We look up items that seem unusual or especially nice, but no one can argue – the more brands you know as a reseller, the more money you can make. You simply don’t have time to look everything up, so get to know a bunch of brands and you’ll have the edge on the competition who is digging through the rack next to you.
For example, Kirstie and I were recently at a thrift store and our competition showed up in a big way. There is a guy who must consider himself the Lord of the Store because he shows up at opening and usually stays until close. This particular day he must have taken his vitamins because when a new rack of clothing or items came out, he was literally jogging after it to get there first. When a rack of men’s clothing came out, he ran over before I could get to it and went through the rack as fast as he could, pulling out a button-down (The Territory Ahead from the look of it) and hurrying away. I’ve been reselling long enough to know that very few people are actually good at what they are doing, so I went through the rack anyway. The first item on the rack was a 100% cashmere blazer from Brioni which retails for just over $7,000. A bit further along I pulled out an Arc’Teryx t-shirt and an Abercrombie & Fitch Muscle fit shirt. While the guy was definitely putting in the work, he hadn’t put in the work to learn anything beforehand and was coming up empty time and time again. Know your brands!
M – MATERIAL
There are times when we will look up an item based only on the material, or even buy an item with no brand just because we know someone will purchase it based on material alone. Typically, these is because the material in and of itself is very expensive to make/purchase. Be sure to look up any brand or items when you see the following on the materials tag:
- Merino Wool
- Goose Down
M – MARKET
Two years ago I found an incredibly rare skirt while sourcing at Ross. It was a limited edition wool and leather tennis skirt from a very limited collaboration that Nike did with Sacai. The skirt retailed for $500 and I picked it up for a steal, paying only $40. I priced it at $300 and let it sit, and sit, and sit. I got no interest. So I took some new pictures and fixed the titles. Still nothing. After a solid year of dropping the price, the skirt finally sold, for $29.99 plus shipping. I didn’t even manage to make my original money back, let alone the time spent sourcing, photographing, and shipping the stupid thing. Had I done some more research, I would have realized something: no matter how much the MSRP is on something, the value of a used item is decided 100% by the market. When you become more familiar with market trends, you will recognize that some brands hold their value extremely well (Patagonia, Redwing, Mammut, Harley, etc.) while other with high retail values are worth almost nothing on the used market. The lesson here is not to be scared of investing time and money, but to be methodical and careful in researching the items that you buy (not just pulling the trigger on a whim like I did).
P – PURCHASE PRICE
Many people who are new to reselling make the mistake of thinking that they are simply looking for the most expensive brands they can find. Unfortunately, most of the really expensive brands are known to thrift stores these days and such items are typically quite expensive. People who are looking only for expensive brands end up doing things like pulling off tags, switching prices, etc. (bad juju…don’t do that…). If you want to be successful on eBay, understand this basic principle: your goal is not to find expensive items, your goal is to find underpriced items. You may have to pass on the Eileen Fisher Cardigan that retails for $200 but was recognized by the thrift store and priced at $29.99. The boring Levi’s however, that are priced at $2.99, might be a better purchase. Not that it’s a better item, the pricing just leaves more room for profit.
S – STYLE
If you sell on a fashion-centric platform such as Poshmark, style may be one of your biggest deciding factors. I know many Poshmark sellers whose only criterion for buying an item is, “Would I wear it?” Unfortunately, my cuteness meter is unreliable. I’m sure my meter is just out of whack because I spend so much time around my insanely cute wife and daughters, but I never source based on style alone. The time when style comes into play on eBay is when it is coupled with another of the BMMPS criteria. For example, when sourcing today, I found a St. John Blazer for $19.99. It was a vintage piece that was poop brown, oversized, and (in my opinion and the opinion of every sensible person in the world) absolutely hideous. Despite that fact that the brand was good, it was not a current or desirable enough style to make me part with my cash. No matter how well-priced something is or how amazing the brand can be, there is not actually a market for everything. If something is so out of style that no one wants it, don’t try and convince yourself otherwise. Put it back on the rack and move on! Violating any of the principles in BMMPS leads to lost profits. At best, you will be working inefficiently and leaving money on the table. At worst, your eBay store will slowly shrivel and die. Let’s look at some of the most common mistakes made by beginner sellers and how they violate “The BMMPS.”
THE 3 MOST COMMON MISTAKES MADE BY BEGINNING CLOTHING SELLERS
THE INABILITY TO SAY, “NO”.
When I first started reselling, I bought a lot of crap. Things that make me wish I could reach back in time and slap myself for buying. The main problem is, I knew that they were crap while I was buying them! Whenever I would find a very high-end brand or something that was particularly hard to find, I would buy it. The style didn’t matter, the condition didn’t matter, price didn’t matter. In this way, I bought a lot of overpriced inventory that never sold. I was lucky to get my money back for most of it. Now, I have the self-control to put things back if I know that it isn’t a good flip. You don’t have to prove to anyone that you found a cool brand, leave it for someone else and move on. You don’t always have to find something.
The same inability to say “no” results in other problems for people who violate the BMMPS criteria. One of the most common ones I see and hear about is the inability to say “no” to cheap things. New sellers find it a right of passage to build up a massive “death-pile” of unlisted inventory. If you’re not going to list it, it’s a bad buy – no matter how cheap it is.
NOT LOOKING UP ENOUGH BRANDS
I don’t think I’ve ever made it through a rack of clothing without looking up 3-4 brands. Resellers who become complacent and think they know enough brands, quickly get passed by new sellers who are hungry and always learning new things. When I go to the Goodwill Outlet near me, I see the same group of 3 old couples who are digging through the same brands every single day and usually come up empty. If you see something nice, look it up! If you see something you don’t know, look it up! It might be worth nothing (it usually is) but it’s asinine to assume that just because you haven’t heard of it, it’s not worth anything.
FOCUSING ON QUANTITY OVER QUALITY
It may be exciting to see pictures of people sending out dozens of packages in a day (heck, we’ve Instagrammed several of ours), but remember: your goal is not a number of sales, but profit (at least I’m hoping it is…). Every time you buy something you shouldn’t, you are cutting into your profits. Not only do you lose money, but you always lose the time you spend listing the item. Consider the Opportunity Cost of every item you buy. If you decide to buy a bunch of mediocre things, you are losing the opportunity to spend that time and money sourcing something better. In our eBay store, we make 80% of our profits from only 20% of our sales. This is know as the 80/20 Principle (we wrote a blog post on it here) and it applies to almost everything in life. Now imagine, if you could stop buying the bottom 80% of crap, you could work 1/4 as much while only losing 20% of your sales! So learn from my mistakes, after you’ve gone through your cart, go through it again and put back everything you know in your gut isn’t worth it. Your goal is to find the diamonds, not shovel as much coal as possible!
Now that we have a pretty good handle on what we are and aren’t looking for, let’s get into the actual meat of things (or tofu, if you roll that way). Being able to recognize brands is incredibly important for any seller. Since knowing more brands translates into having more sales and more profits, let’s get going on building your business! The following brands aren’t in any particular order, but I can guarantee if you familiarize yourself with all of them, you will be lapping other sellers in no time.
1. EILEEN FISHER
What to Look For: The best Eileen Fisher pieces are those most current in style. Keep your eyes open for blazers, sweaters, and the rare dress. The most common items you’ll find are probably pants and blouses. Because thrift stores typically recognize Eileen Fisher items and price them high, we leave behind basic items like pants unless they are current in style.
The Current Market Outlook: Eileen Fisher is a very popular brand currently and we routinely source new with tags items at Nordstrom rack. Because it is popular and expensive, the market for gently used pieces is huge! Saturation has caused the market to drop off a little bit, but we still pick up any pieces we can, even basic ones if the price is right.
What to Look For: Look for lumpy linen-y looking dresses and pants in dull, earthy tones. We typically happen upon FLAX items while looking for linen dresses and shorts for the cruise season. Because their clothing is made of linen (which comes from Flax, shocking I know), you typically won’t find any flamboyant colors. While there are some vintage tie-dye pieces, current trends dictate that their recent pieces are subdued whites, grays, browns, etc. Their linen overalls are, without a doubt, their most popular items (some people list them as rompers but let’s be real, they’re overalls), and can sell for over $200 in used condition. Otherwise, style doesn’t seem to matter much and if the item is large but damaged, people may still buy it just for the fabric.
The FLAX tag may alternatively read FLAX DESIGNS and vintage pieces often say: FLAX by Jeanne Engelhart (she was their lead designer in yesteryear. Now she has changed her name to Jeanne Angelheart and specializes in crazy).
The Current Market Outlook: Flax is an unusual enough brand that we have had no problems moving it in the current market. We only find a piece or two a week, so the market is unlikely to get saturated anytime soon.
3. FREE PEOPLE
What to Look For: In 2001, Free People went through a radical redesign in an attempt to get rid of it’s “Junior” stereotype. Now, they describe their perfect customer as “a 26-year-old girl, smart, creative, confident and comfortable in all aspects of her being, free and adventurous, sweet to tough to tomboy to romantic.” With that in mind, look for bright florals, sheer fabrics, and crazy boho designs. Beaded designs are some of the more valuable that can be had, while basic shirts typically won’t even bring in $10. When you see the characteristic little metal brand tag, be sure to check twice since there are many knock-offs now using the same method. Also, be on the lookout for sub-brands of Free People such as We The Free.
The Current Market Outlook: Free people has been one of the brands that was hit the hardest by the massive influx of resellers. While complex and unusual items still do well, most thrift stores know the brand and basic tops can cost $10 or more, totally ruining the chance you have for any profit.
4. DALE OF NORWAY
What to Look For: If Dale of Norway makes anything but cardigans and sweaters, we’ve never found it. Look for wool knit Christmas-y type patterns. The brighter the colors the more they sweater is typically worth. Women’s sweaters are much more common, which means they’re worth much less. We find a couple women’s sweaters a month, but have only found a handful of men’s sweaters in years of thrifting. The men’s sweaters sold almost instantly for over $100 apiece, so we won’t complain too much. But I sure wouldn’t mind more of them!
The only places we’ve managed to find Dale of Norway pieces is at estate sales and thrift stores. Be very aware of flaws, as wool tends to have moth/wear holes which are hard to see. Also be on the lookout for sweaters from Fjallraven, Oleana, and Skjaeveland. L.L. Bean also has a line of sweaters made in Norway which are valuable for resale. Finding out if a sweater is Norwegian wool is simple, as it is a high end product and is always marked either near the brand tag or materials tag.
The Current Market Outlook: Brands like Dale of Norway can weather any market. They’ve been around for so long and have made a reputation built on quality items, that many people will still pay top dollar for their sweaters – even old ones. While the market has dropped off a little bit for old cardigans, anything that is brightly colored, unusual, or current still sells very well. Most pieces that you find will be vintage and worth around $40.
5. DIANE VON FURSTENBERG
What to Look For: Diane Von Furstenberg is best known for its iconic wrap dress, but creates clothing ranging from business casual to trendy party dresses to $1,000 coats and gowns. Their items can really only be found by checking tags, as the style is not easily discernible from dozens of others you’ll find. Dresses usually sell for $100+ but this is heavily influenced by current styles and simply how cute the dress is. Tops generally fall in the $20-40 range in good, pre-owned condition.
The Current Market Outlook: If something is basic and in plentiful supply, you can bet that it isn’t worth much. Diane von Furstenberg pieces in bright colors, good fabrics (such as silk), and more expensive pieces like trench coats and full dresses still do well in the market.
What to Look For: Wilson’s Leather Jackets are probably the most common brand of leather jackets we find at thrift stores. The majority of them are similar ill-fitting jackets from the early 90’s and have very little resale value. The notable exceptions are jackets of unusual colors, tags, and jackets with a history. For example, specific styles that have been featured in movies or TV shows. Try looking up the style of Wilson’s jacket that was worn by Dean Winchester on Supernatural if you want a shock.
The Current Market Outlook: The market will never be saturated with high quality, unusual products. Leave the traditional, boring leather jackets on the rack (since they’re typically overpriced anyway), and keep your eyes open for the gems. When you find something unusual, price it high and content yourself knowing that the right buyer will come along eventually.
7. RISING INTERNATIONAL
What to Look For: You know the style: purses and jackets that look like they’ve been stitched together by a hippie out of colorful rags. Look for hoodies, jackets, dresses, and bags – the more colorful and distressed the better.
The Current Market Outlook: Despite what many low-ballers seem to think, the market for Rising International remains excellent. People routinely price jackets and sweaters under $20, but if you take good pictures and price at $30-$35, as we do, buyers always seem to come. Because every piece is so different, if somebody wants your specific pattern and style, they are willing to pay to get it.
What to Look For: Keep an eye out for the brand tag that says “Moschino” on it. I wish I could be more helpful here, but the only time we’ve found anything of this brand, it’s because we’ve been checking all the brands on a rack. Pieces are so varied, it’s hard to nail down a style to look for. As far as brand names go, there are three main lines made by Moschino that you could possibly find:
- Moschino – This is the main line of both men’s and women’s clothing. It is the most exclusive and difficult to find.
- Moschino Cheap and Chic – This is a secondary women’s line. It is typically more ready-to-wear fashion at a more accessible price. Post-2014, this line changed to the name Moschino Boutique.
- Love Moschino – This is the diffusion line that makes both men’s and women’s clothes. It is the the least valuable line and one that you’ll want to do research on before buying. From 1986-2008 this line was known as Moschino Jeans.
The Current Market Outlook: Moschino items are very difficult to find, and so hold their value very well. We only find a piece every month or two, but when we do, we price it high and wait for the right buyer to come along. Because the items are unusual and are kind of rare at thrift stores, it is unlikely that the market will become saturated anytime soon.
What to Look For: Everyday Pendleton wear is not of much worth to the everyday reseller. The real money is in Western Wear, colorful sweaters, plaid shirts, and jackets. Keep an eye out for Aztec and Southwestern prints in bright colors. Also, we’ve only ever found them at thrift stores, but Pendleton wool blankets (particularly limited edition runs) can be found at estate sales and antique malls.
The Current Market Outlook: It used to be that anything with the name Pendleton on it could sell well on eBay. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Pieces that are drab in color and/or are totally out of style are very very difficult to sell. However, the price for brightly colored and patterned pieces has actually gone up due to the increased brand awareness. Highly desirable period pieces are hard to find, but if you intentionally source for them at antique malls, estate sales, and online, you will find them.
10. HARLEY DAVIDSON
What to Look For: Vintage and leather. I’ve seen vintage Harley shirts with crass sayings on them go for over $300 on auction – the more offensive the better. If it’s old, someone wants it. If it’s leather, someone wants it whether it’s old or not. We’ve sold leather vests, pants, and jackets. The more valuable ones will have some sort of embroidery, a large logo, or other decoration.
The Current Market Outlook: Depending on the season, riding gear and lifestyle motorcycle gear is a very hot market. T-shirts don’t hold their value well unless they have great content or are vintage. Riding gear, boots, and other leather items hold their value very well. Its high-quality leather items are usually priced high at thrift stores, but we double or triple our money on leather riding jackets that we find on craigslist all the time. While tripling your money isn’t very exciting when you’re at the Goodwill Bins, when you’re talking about buying a jacket for $100 and selling it for $300, it gets a lot more interesting.