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If you are a footwear guy or gal, eBay is your playground. There are currently 440,393 pairs of shoes on eBay in my size alone! Used shoes, new shoes, rare shoes, shoes for 50%+ off retail – you name it, and you can find it.
And anywhere that there is a shopping bonanza for buyers, you can bet that there is a huge opportunity for sellers as well. In the past 90 days, we have sold almost $5,000 worth of shoes (80% of them used) on eBay.
Learning how to sell used shoes on eBay can be both fun and an excellent source of income.
Many people (even full-time resellers) avoid learning how to sell used shoes on eBay out of fear that they will have loads of returns for fitment issues, or simply because they don’t want to sell grimy used shoes. Whatever the reason, the purpose of this article is to dispel this horrendous notion. We have found shoes with an MSRP of over $800 at our local thrift stores and several of the following brands are actually increasing in value as they age!
How To Sell Shoes On eBay As A Beginner (5 Steps)
Selling used shoes is the perfect side hustle (in my opinion). Not only are they plentiful at nearly every thrift store, yard sale, and discount store but they are incredibly easy to sell online. With the plethora of sizes and styles available, you can almost always find something to resell with very little investment.
What’s more, you don’t need a mannequin, a softbox, or any fancy equipment to make shoes look great.
See those red wing boots above that we just sold for $123.45? They were stuffed with newspaper and the background was a piece of paper from the dollar store. So if you are just starting out and want something easy to source, easy to picture, and easy to ship, learn to sell shoes on eBay!
However, it might be easier said than done. If you’re new to the game, here are our 5 steps for selling shoes on eBay that anyone can follow:
- Recognize brands or types of shoes that sell well
- Learn where to source shoes for reselling
- Photograph & list shoes efficiently
- Store shoes (without ruining them)
- Ship shoes cheaply & quickly
1. Recognize Types Of Shoes That Sell Well (4 Things)
When it comes down to it, the brand is the absolute most important thing in deciding whether or not a pair of shoes will resell and the price you can ask for them.
However, there are exceptions to that rule.
Some well-known name brands resell miserably, and there have been shoes with absolutely no brand that we have sold quickly and for great money. The following 4 things are types of items we look for every time, regardless of brand.
If an unbranded shoe pair has one or more of these things going for it they might be worth picking up, but couple it with a well-known name and you’ve got a home run!
A high-quality material can give a pair of shoes an intrinsic value beyond what you’d normally expect from the brand. After all, a gold necklace with no brand is still made of gold!
Look for shoes made of leather or suede, shoes that still have the hair on, painted shoes, embroidered shoes or shoes with inlays, and pretty much any material that looks out of the ordinary.
The shoes to the right are a good example. They are handmade (in Morocco apparently) and have no brand, size, or makers marks. But because of the awesome amount of goat hair gracing the straps and the leather footbed/stitching they still sold for $40!
2. Unusual Shoe Designs
In 2012, Skechers agreed to a $45 million dollar refund settlement for making false claims about how their Shape-up line could help customers “get fit without ever setting foot in the gym.” Despite this (and similar debunking lawsuits for other unique shoe designs), people still love to get sucked into marketing and nearly every unique shoe design has developed a loyal, almost cult-like, following.
If you see anything outside of the norm sitting on the shoe rack, it’s probably worth looking up. While we’re mainly referring to unusual designs, this can also apply to colors, materials, etc.
3. Shoes With A Specific Purpose
An extension of the “Unusual Shoe” vein of thought is to look for shoes that have a legitimate purpose. For example, fishing waders, weightlifting shoes, and orthopedic sandals can all fetch a pretty penny. When a friend of mine was redoing his roof, he called me up asking me if I had any “roofing shoes” in stock.
I didn’t…because I didn’t know there was such a thing.
After doing a bit of self-education, I found out that roofing shoes were not a made-up thing, and they’re super expensive! While I haven’t found a pair yet, 5 minutes of educating myself and learning some of the more popular brands has given me the edge if I ever see a pair at a thrift store or yard sale!
4. Shoes With Appealing “Content”
I’m sure you remember in high school there were those weird kids who were always drawing pictures or writing things on their shoes. It might not shock you to know that I was one of those weird kids.
I wrote “Right” and “Left” on the toes of my Converse as well as some “inspiring” quotes on the side.
That type of drawing and writing is a great example of something that makes shoes terrible for resale, not to mention making parents crazy.
A good example, on the other hand, can include something like hand-painted art pieces, embroidery, shoes from a specific sports team, shoes that represent a t.v. show or cartoon, etc.
2. Learn Where To Source Shoes For Reselling
Figuring out where to find shoes to sell on eBay is one of the biggest hurdles that people face. It doesn’t matter if you can name hundreds of profitable brands if you can’t find them to resell.
Most people who flip used shoes get their inventory from these three places:
1. Thrift Stores
If you’re just getting started, thrift stores are probably your best bet for finding lots of ultra-cheap inventory.
If you’re looking to sell mainly shoes, stay out of the rest of the store. Go in, go through the shoes, and head to another thrift store.
The more time you spend in theft stores (and the more stores you hit) the more luck you’ll have!
If you’re really short of cash to get started, finding a Goodwill Outlet near you is probably the cheapest option as you might only pay $2 per pair of shoes.
2. Liquidation Lots
Buying lots of unclaimed mail, Amazon returns, and liquidation lots is a great way to level up your sourcing.
While the cost per item is a bit higher you won’t have to spend hours upon hours coming through shoe racks. You can buy several (or several hundred) pairs of shoes at once and then simply focus on getting them sold!
3. Retail Arbitrage
If you’ve ever looked at (or sold) shoes on a site like StockX you might be chagrinned to know that most of their “premium hard-to-find” shoes were sourced at Ross or TJ Maxx.
If you can find a store that offers brand names at a significant discount you can often flip those items on eBay for a profit.
This may also include the clearance aisle (or online section) of any major stores such as the Nike Outlet, Frye, etc.
Otherwise, the majority of “New” resale shoes are purchased:
- TJ Maxx
- Designer Shoe Warhouse
- Nordstrom Rack
While the margins tend to be a bit lower this is a good option if you want to raise the vibe of your store and don’t fancy thrifting.
While those places are the most common, shoes worth reselling can literally be found almost everywhere. We have gotten used shoes from thrift stores, yard sales, craigslist, school/church sales, discount stores, estate sales, store return liquidations, and even dumpsters! (How’s that one for the “ick factor”?)
Once you know a handful of profitable brands, you are more likely to have problems storing your growing shoe inventory than sourcing it!
3. Photograph & List Shoes Efficiently
If you even hear someone having slow eBay sales, simply ask them if they’re listing on eBay daily. Many people don’t realize that you don’t have much success until you have hundreds of listings completed.
If you want to get there quickly, here are my best tips for photographing and listing your shoes:
- Batch like tasks. Assembly lines are used for a reason, because they’re efficient. Structuring your listing the same way can make things much faster. Clean all your shoes at the same time, move on to photography, then listing, then inventorying. Jumping around means that you’ll have a lot of wasted time and effort.
- Take the same pictures every time. It takes me less than a minute to photograph a pair of shoes because I take basically the same pictures of each pair: side, front, other side, toes, back, sole, inside, size tag…NEXT!
- Have a dedicated photography station/method. Once you’ve figured out your light and background, take as many pictures as possible. The smoother you can make the whole process the quicker it will go.
- Use a generic description. I use a copy & paste the description on almost all the shoes I sell. It states that they are pre-owned, in good condition with normal signs of wear, and I’m available to answer any questions. Trying to write something new or clever will turn out to be a poor use of time in the long run.
4. Store Shoes (without ruining them)
How you store shoes is really dependent on the number you have. If you have a dozen or a couple of dozen, buying a shoe rack from Walmart might be your best bet. But when we’re talking about hundreds or thousands of shoes it gets a bit trickier.
We put all of our shoes into laundry baskets marked with an inventory number and record the number in the listing. While it would obviously be better for the shoes to have them stored flat (and not stacked) on a shelf, we simply don’t have the room for it. We do our best to be gentle with the shoes we’re selling and not scuff them up, though! When we wonder if we’re being too rough with shoes, we just remember how they were probably treated by their previous owner and how the thrift store we bought them from treated them before putting them on the sales floor.
In reality, your shoes will probably suffer more from just sitting unused than from being stacked in a tote. So how do you keep them looking nice while in storage? Well, you need to take some precautions!
Precautions we take:
- Stuff Shoes. To prevent shoes from getting squished and misshapen in our inventory, we will typically stuff a wadded piece of newspaper into the toe area. Just be sure to use blank paper so there is no ink transfer to the shoe.
- Avoid Extreme Heat. Our shoes are kept in a storage unit with the rest of our inventory, and we have several pairs die every year. The dry heat of Utah totally dry-rots rubber, and we’ve had shoes that have sold break in half when we try to ship them. If possible, find a temperature-controlled unit.
- Condition Leather. Leather can also dry out and crack if left sitting for too long, so we typically condition high-end leather shoes/boots before sending them to storage. The leather usually retains enough moisture to be alright in the heat. Just be sure to treat the leather before taking pictures, as it has the potential to darken the shoes a bit.
- Move them. When all else fails, drop the price and sell your shoes. They’ll be fine in storage for a year or so, but any longer than that and you’ve probably priced them way too high anyway.
When it comes down to it, storing your inventory is just one more hurdle you have to overcome, whether they’re shoes or not.
5. Ship Shoes Quickly & Cheaply
When I was doing our taxes a couple of years ago I was absolutely floored to find out that we spent over $20,000 shipping just shoes during the year.
While we now do a better job of tracking our expenses for eBay there’s no doubt that shipping is a profit-killer.
Shoes are typically too large to fit in any sort of flat rate box so we send them in a Priority Mail Shoebox (you can get free shipping supplies from USPS). Shoes typically weigh 2-3 pounds and we always use calculated shipping. If we are shipping a pair of extra heavy boots, we typically ship via FedEx.
And just like that you’ve mastered how to sell used shoes on eBay!
I’m sure, however, that you still have a few questions. I’ll do my best to answer a few more of them below but, realistically, you’re going to continue having questions until you actually start selling shoes.
Just a couple of listings and sales will teach you more than a hundred online articles. So get busy!
eBay Shoe Seller FAQs
Do you have tons of returns for fitment issues?
No, actually. Our shoe return percentage is lower than our store average (around 2%), and we rarely have expensive shoes returned. When people buy expensive shoes online, they are well aware that fit can be an issue so they either buy a brand they already own and know their size, go to a store and try on a similar shoe, or just guess and get lucky!
How do you answer questions about fit?
The most common question you’ll get on shoe listings is from potential buyers who are wondering if the shoe runs true to size.
In other words, they don’t seem to have any idea how eBay works. The truth is, the majority of items being sold are not coming from the original owner.
First off, if you want to make money selling used shoes, don’t ignore questions like these! Ignoring them can lead to either a lost sale or bad feedback/a return if they buy them and they don’t work out.
Here’s what we do: research their question and answer it! If you are selling a newer shoe that you can find online, both Amazon and Nordstrom have fitment guides and will tell you how the shoes run, size-wise. If that fails, we read reviews of the shoes to get a general consensus of how they fit. Then we respond to the question with something like, “I am selling these shoes on consignment but was told that they fit true to size. Thanks!” Sales every time.
Do People Still Buy Shoes On eBay?
The world is divided into two types of people: people who are fine with used shoes and people who think used shoes are “EW!” If you are a reseller, it doesn’t really matter if you are into rubbing your feet where someones else’s have been or not. What matters is that there are millions of people who don’t see the “ick factor” and are happy to get their feet into some used kicks.
In my experience, the majority of people who buy used shoes on eBay fall into one of these 5 categories:
- People looking for rare or hard-to-find shoes (Jordans, high-end shoes, limited edition colors, etc.)
- People with unusual or mismatched shoe sizes (we have sold up to a men’s size 22!)
- People who want an exact replacement for a pair of shoes they have worn out
- People who are loyal to discontinued shoe lines or brands (eg. Skechers Shape-Ups)
- Deal-seekers and those with a tight budget
We have sold well over a thousand pairs of shoes on eBay and, despite market saturation, shoe sales don’t seem to have slowed much. There will always be people with feet (or foot, amputees buy single shoes off of eBay all the time) willing to give money to resellers. In fact, there are half a dozen resellers I know that sell exclusively shoes and do over $100,000 in sales per year. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that pie?!
Learning how to successfully sell shoes on eBay is more about tenacity and perseverance than anything.
Many people claim that eBay is dead but, in my opinion, eBay is simply an ever-changing hydra that you’ll have to tame if you want to be successful long-term.
So get started and simply course correct along the way. Happy selling!