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It’s everybody’s dream to make money from thrifting. Or, at least, everybody that I hang out with.
These days, however, every time my wife and I go to a thrift store we feel far less bad about spending a hundred dollars on strange clothes and ’80s cat decorations.
Because we’re resellers, baby!
As of last year, we actually make our full-time income flipping thrift store items on eBay (and several other online marketplaces).
However, learning to make money from a thrift store isn’t something anyone can do.
It takes some perseverance and skill that everyone must learn if they want to be successful. I didn’t have it, to begin with, and my wife had to teach me the ways of the thrift store.
As we just checked off our goal of $250,000 in lifetime eBay sales I figured it would be a good time to share our experience and tips for people who want to get into thrift store flipping!
While this isn’t an exhaustive guide, these 5 steps are enough to get your started making $1,000 or more a month just by picking up second-hand items. What’s not to love about that?
- 5 Steps To Get Into Thrift Store Flipping
- Is Thrift Store Flipping Ethical?
- How Much Money Can I Make Flipping Thrift Store Items?
- Keep Learning
5 Steps To Get Into Thrift Store Flipping
1. Learn What Types Of Thrift Store Items Resell Well
Finding things to flip at thrift stores honestly isn’t very hard. You can go through a thrift store and find literally thousands of things that you can more than double your money on.
The problem is, doubling your money isn’t quite enough in a reselling business.
On eBay, for example, you’ll want to flip your thrift finds for at least 4x what you paid for them to come out well ahead after shipping, paying fees, etc.
Some of the best items we’ve found to flip at thrift stores are not at all what you’d expect!
So I thought that some examples would be best.
Easiest Items To Flip From Thrift Stores (With Examples)
For the examples, I chose items that we’ve sold from our own eBay store within the past couple of months. While you might not be able to find the exact same items, they should inspire you to find similar brands or types!
Despite my love for knick-knacks, I would recommend that nearly every aspiring flipper start off with clothing. It’s plentiful, cheap, and easy to sell.
Not to mention the fact that you are probably already familiar with quality or fashionable brands and may even have some of them in your closet that you could sell today!
There are literally thousands of brands of clothing that you can flip for profit. People who take the time to list every brand of clothing are fighting a losing battle as you literally cannot memorize them.
Instead, learn what types of clothing tend to sell well and you’ll never leave a thrift store empty-handed!
- Trendy women’s clothing. Quality mall brands, high-end denim, sweaters, 80’s garb, etc. all tend to sell well.
- Outdoor clothing. Down jackets, rain shells, gore-tex items
- Workout gear. Leggings, hoodies, sports bras, and even running shorts can sell very well
- Unusual-sized clothing. Plus sizes, tall sizes, huge bras, etc. The harder something is to find in a regular store the more likely it is that someone will be looking for it second-hand online!
- Designer clothing. It might seem obvious, but there are more designer brands than you can possibly imagine and extremely expensive items are routinely donated to thrift stores
- NWT items. We come across brand-new items almost every time we thrift. Tags make the item easy to list and give it a boost in resale value
Above all, look for items in good condition that are ready to be listed and head off to a new home!
Remember, you aren’t looking for expensive brands, you’re looking for brands that the thrift store employees underpriced.
Purses, Bags, & Backpacks
I love selling purses, bags, backpacks, wallets, and every other bag-like type of accessory. Very few people are willing to go down the racks of purses and check every brand so, if you are, you can be prepared for a windfall!
- High-quality leather items
- Camera bags
- Backpacks from outdoor brands
- Trendy vintage brands (Sportsac, Jansport, etc.)
- Sport-specific bags (tennis, skateboarding, etc.)
The biggest warning I can give you here is to be on the lookout for fakes! The purse market is rife with them and you can sink your dreams of being a reseller if you accidentally pick up a few.
One of the most common fakes that people find at thrift stores is Louis Vuitton items so be sure to check out our guide to authenticating Louis Vuitton bags if you find one!
types of clothing to look for
There are people who make six figures per year just flipping shoes.
However, you don’t have to be cruising the Nike Outlet or Ross Clearance section to find shoes to resell. We’ve found shoes at thrift stores that retailed for almost $1,000.
We almost never leave a thrift store without at least one pair of shoes because they are easy to photograph and typically sell for a decent price.
Your best bet for finding shoes to flip at thrift stores is to familiarize yourself with the brands of shoes that sell well and then look up everything you don’t know that seems to be high quality.
I know “electronics” is a wide range but there are just so many things that we’ve flipped that I couldn’t come up with a more succinct title.
While you may have to branch out from thrift stores to find some of these, here are a few of the items that we look for when we’re thrifting:
- VHS Players
- Cameras & Camera Accessories
- MP3 Players (especially older ones)
- WiFi Routers
- Kitchen Appliances
- Unique Chargers
- Pretty much anything that’s NIB
As with the other categories, your best bet is to simply look up the items that you find by researching the sold items on eBay. Most electronics will have a model number on them that you can type in to see similar items.
Flipping books on Amazon is all the rage but there are still plenty of opportunities out there for the steady thrifter.
Apart from books, you can make money on CDs, tapes, vinyl records, video games, software, and even coloring books.
Toys & Games
While it’s not entirely in my wheelhouse, I do pick up toys and games to sell when something unusual catches my eye.
Apart from the obvious (things in packages) look for:
- Wooden puzzles
- Wooden toys
- Vintage or antique toys
- Sealed board games
- Legos or building sets
No matter what you’re looking to sell, I hate to say this, but brand is king.
Even something from a great brand that is in poor condition will sell faster than a trendy item with no brand. People often look things up by brand so be sure that, when you’re starting out, you’ve at least heard of the brand you’re trying to sell. This will ensure that somebody is searching for it.
At the end of the day, the best items to flip from thrift stores are the things that you can find the easiest. This may be unique to your area! For example, I live in a ski town and sell ski apparel year-round. If you live in the city, you’ll have a different set of items available to you.
Just be patient with yourself and realize that you’re going to buy some duds before you hit your stride.
How To Research Items
Anytime you find something that you’re unfamiliar with, be sure to look it up.
Even if an item was expensive when it was new it’s no guarantee that it will sell well or for a good price.
For example, we once sold a rare limited edition wool and leather designer skirt that retailed for over $600 for about $30+shipping. We should have looked it up before buying it.
Luckily, doing a bit of research is easy and will save you tons of money.
Simply get the eBay app, type in the item you want to look up, and then filter it by “Sold Items.”
You can then see the number of that item (or closely related items) that have sold recently and get a feel for the price range they’re likely to fall into.
Searching complete listings is a must even for seasoned resellers and should only take you a minute or so. No matter what platform you plan on flipping your items on, eBay is by far the easiest and most comprehensive place to do research. Plus, it’s free!
- Best Women’s Clothing Brands To Sell Online
- Best Men’s Clothing Brands To Flip
- How To Flip Thrift store Jeans
- Reselling Cowboy Boots For Profit
- 21 Outdoor Brands To Sell For Profit
- How To Resell Shoes (What Brands To Look For)
- 31 Non-clothing Items You Can Flip For A Profit
2. Find Places To Source Inventory
If you’re looking to flip thrift store items, I would imagine that you love thrifting.
However, getting stuck with only sourcing your items to resell from a thrift store is quite limiting. There are tons of places to find second-hand items to flip and you’ll have the most luck if you frequent all of them!
7 Places To Find Used Items To Flip
Thrift Stores are, of course, the bread and butter for most resellers. They have a constant inflow of inventory and you can regularly find amazing things that you can resell for 10x or more your investment
Don’t limit yourself to mainstream thrift stores either. Mom and pop thrift stores are often less visited by resellers and have some treasures hiding in plain sight.
Cons Of Thrift Stores
The main drawback to sourcing at thrift stores is that they can often be picked over. I can walk into most thrift stores by my home and instantly recognize half a dozen other local resellers. It kind of takes you fire to go through a rack when you know someone did the same thing before you.
Add in the fact that many thrift stores are raising their prices to try and cut out resellers and there are diminishing profits across the board. Some thrift stores even sell online (such as Goodwill on eBay).
Even so, there are still deals to be had!
The Goodwill Outlet
The Goodwill Outlets are what you get if someone takes a thrift store and distills it down to its essence.
It’s wild, everything is dirty, and (most importantly) everything is super cheap. Since all their clothing is sold by the pound you can find designed clothing for literally less than a dollar.
Just be sure to read up on it so you’re prepared when you go.
If you live in (or can drive to) an affluent area, yard sales can be a goldmine of inventory. You get great deals on items that people were loath to send to thrift stores because they were “too nice.” Ironically, thrift stores would often mark the prices of those things up much higher than the person having a yard sale!
If you’ve been to many ard sales, you’ll know that you need to get there early. Try to be there right when they open on the first day or on the last day. If you miss out on all the good early-bird deals, drive hard bargains as the person would probably rather sell the item than donate it or take it back into their house.
Pretty much everything that is purchased with tax payer’s money is, at some point, offered back to the public via an auction. You can buy liquidation or surplus from schools, branches of the military, churches, maintenance, fire stations, and more!
If you love the adventure of shopping at the thrift store but can’t make it out of your house at any given time, why not try a mystery box?
Mystery boxes are a great option for resellers as they allow you to get cheap inventory that can (possibly) turn out to be amazing!
You can get quality mystery boxes from thredUP and (my personal favorite) straight from Goodwill as a Goodwill Bluebox!
While you can’t expect to flip the items and get wealthy, this is a good option when thrift stores aren’t on the table.
If you want to take a step beyond thrift stores, you can buy lots of clothing and items in bulk.
And when I say “bulk” I mean anywhere from a box to a semi-load.
You can get used clothing, new clothing, seasonal clothing, or any other type of item you can imagine.
If you want to dip your toes into flipping liquidation items, check out our Liquidation.com review to see how!
Last, but not least, you can always use local ads such as Facebook Marketplace to source products! When thrift stores were closed due to the pandemic we picked up dozens of items off of Facebook to flip both locally and on eBay.
If you’re willing to hustle, there are items everywhere that you can make money on!
Places are crowded. Be imaginative.
3. Choose A Platform To List Your Items On
Choosing the best place to sell your thrift store finds is a much harder task than it used to be.
A year or two ago everyone would just list their items on eBay because that’s where all the shoppers were.
Now, however, there are a dozen different platforms and, if you want to have the best sales, you’ll have to choose the right one for your situation.
However, unless you’re finding very unusual items, everything that you find at thrift stores can be resold on one of 3 platforms:
eBay is the OG platform of thrift store flipping. They have a streamlined process for new sellers to get started as well as the tools to help you grow into a full-fledged business.
There are resellers that sell into 7 figures a year on eBay and still find inventory at local thrift stores!
- You can sell almost anything on eBay. Unlike other platforms, they don’t cater to a specific demographic or category.
- A simple fee structure that is cheaper than most other platforms.
- A huge number of shoppers (several times more than any other platform apart from Amazon)
- eBay’s Managed Payment System. While I don’t hate the new payment system, I prefer the days of getting paid instantly on Paypal.
- Lots of sellers. I won’t say that the market is totally saturated, but there is lots of competition on eBay to be sure.
Mercari is one of the newest “big” platforms and the one that has the best opportunities for new sellers. Mercari functions very similarly to eBay but without as many restrictions (or selling limits for that matter).
Sign up for Mercari using our LINK and get $10 off your first order and a $20 bonus when you hit $100 in sales!
- Low fees
- Subsidized shipping
- Smaller shopping base
- You have to end and relist your items regularly to keep them c urrent
- You don’t get paid until the item is delivered
If you are looking to flip clothes, Poshmark might be the fastest-growing place to do it.
Poshmark has a social-media-like feel to it where you “share” your items to your feed and gain followers that like your sense of style.
Sign up for Poshmark with our Coupon Code “POSHBONUS” to get a $10 credit towards your first order!
- Lots of buyers shopping for a single category of stuff (clothes)
- Items can sell if they’re trendy, even if the brand isn’t great
- High fees
- Limited categories
- Significant effort is required to build a following and consistently share your items
If you’re in doubt about where to start, go with eBay. There are tons of eBay sellers, reseller communities, and customer support.
Alternatively, you can do what we do and utilize software like ListPerfectly which will allow you to copy your listings from one platform onto 10+ others with just a few clicks. Way more sales with way less work!
4. Photograph & List Your Items
Now that you have your items and know where you’re going to list them, it’s time for the rubber to meet the road! After all, you can’t sell what you don’t have listed.
While each platform has a slightly different listing flow one thing is true for all of them: pictures sell.
A good picture will do wonders for making your item sell faster and for more money.
So how should you picture your thrift finds?
Well, it obviously depends on what it is. So I’ll share with you a couple of examples from our store and some tips about how we took the picture
This picture is a prime example of how we used to take pictures of all of our clothing inventory.
The result is a great-looking picture! However, it is far too time-consuming if you are not looking to sell high-end clothes or if you want to sell at volume.
We still have a mannequin just in case we find something really great but if you’re just getting started reselling you don’t need to go through the expense and effort to use one.
This picture is a better example of the way we photograph items now. Commonly known as a “flat lay” it just involves finding a decent background and laying out your item.
Here, the hoodie is laying on top of a large whiteboard from my office but you can also use a wooden floor, a park bench, a piece of poster board, or anything else.
Just be sure to turn your brightness up on your phone so you can capture as much detail as possible!
If you want to flip shoes, set up a photography station in an area that you won’t have to take down again.
This picture was taken on a piece of poster board that curved up onto the wall.
Just be sure to place your station in an area with lots of natural light.
Nothing special to see here. Just our item laying on a whiteboard. Throw it one, snap 6 pictures, move on to the next item.
All done in less than 2 minutes!
If you want to improve your pictures a bit you can also use a background burner to make the background all white.
If you sell on eBay there is a built-in background remover that you can use during the listing process.
Now, the above pictures obviously aren’t great (especially since they were all taken on an iPhone I bought from eBay). However, they’re good enough to make sales while still being easy and super fast to take.
If you want to sell at a higher volume you’ll need to streamline your process so that your pictures are appealing but not time-consuming.
Just be sure to avoid a background that would be off-putting to buyers (such as a dirty floor or your messy house…)
5. Ship Your Items & Get Paid
Congratulations! You flipped your first thrift store time! You’re a reseller!
But now comes the part when you actually have to act as a business and provide customer service.
Packaging and shipping your items is the bain of many resellers but is an obvious necessity.
While each platform will walk you through the process of printing a label, here are some tips that will make your whole experience a little easier:
- Get polymailers to ship clothing in. They’re light and will be much cheaper to ship than boxes. Not to mention they’re super cheap.
- Use newspaper for packing. You can get free newspapers that are going to be thrown away at many stores. When at all possible, source free or cheap shipping supplies. Every dollar you spend on supplies decreases your profit margin.
- Get the best packing tape you can find. It will be much faster and save you a million headaches.
- Once you can afford it, get a thermal label printer for shipping like the Rollo.
- Better safe than sorry. Packaging items takes time but it’s way better than having your item get broken and refunding the entire thing.
Now that your item has shipped you just need to sit back and wait to get paid!
Most platforms will hold the funds of new sellers until the item is delivered and the buyer gives you a rating. At that point, you can choose to spend the money or transfer it to your bank account.
But let’s be real, you’re going to transfer it to your bank account so you can head straight back to Goodwill and get some more clothes to flip, aren’t you?
Is Thrift Store Flipping Ethical?
If you tell many people that you’re flipping thrift store items you can probably expect some kickback.
Most of the nasty things I’ve been told as a reseller falls into two veins:
- “You’re literally stealing from people who need those clothes. Thrift stores aren’t for people like you.”
- “You’re just preying on people who are desperate enough to be buying used closed. eBay isn’t for making money.”
Here’s the thing, people who say those things literally have no idea how thrift stores work or how the economy in general functions.
Thrift stores function (and provide charity) by making sales. Their provision of used goods is only a small portion of the good that they do. They donate a portion of sales and provide job training for underprivileged people.
Both of those missions are only helped by resellers.
At its core, thrift flipping operates on the same principles as every other business: identify a product that people want, source it cheaply, and sell it to them.
And believe me, there are still plenty of things available to buy when I leave the thrift store with my 10 items.
p.s. did you know that Savers alone throws away millions of tons of donated items every year because they didn’t sell in time or were not quite good enough to hit the sales floor?
That’s how thrift stores operate to maximize profit.
Get out of here if you think thrift flippers and resellers who are putting food on the table for their families are the unethical ones.
How Much Money Can I Make Flipping Thrift Store Items?
Honestly, it depends on your luck, the area you live in, and mostly how much work you’re willing to put in!
Most new sellers can make $1,000 a month within a couple of months of starting flipping money.
My wife and I netted over $1,000 our second month when we were mostly selling items from around our house and still routinely turn $100 into $1,000 or more several times a month.
On the other end of the spectrum are full-time thrifters who make $30,000 or more a month (and there are lots of them).
If you are willing to put in the work to scale your reselling business, you’ll even find people who have over a million dollars in sales per year.
It’s all what you make it.
So, in the meantime, list items daily! Slow and steady wins the race!
The main difference between people who are successful long-term in reselling and those who fail is that the failures stagnate. If you do things the same way forever then platforms and buyers will move on and your business will fail.
In the meantime, get to a thrift store and get flipping! Let us know in a comment or email how it goes!