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Selling Clothing on eBay: An Introductory FAQ

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Selling Clothing on eBay: An Introductory FAQ
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This guide is an introductory-level summary of the basics of clothing sales in an online auction format, and includes a summary of the kind of information that is helpful to include in a clothing auction.

Selling Clothing on eBay: An Introductory FAQ

1. How do I find items to sell?

Have you ever cleaned out your closets and dressers, and have come up with bags of clothing that you simply can't use any more that end up given away, donated to charity or thrown in the trash?  Have you ever walked through your favorite department store during a clearance sale and gawked at the incredibly low prices on clothing that isn't in your size, but you know someone would love them?

Every clothing seller has a story about how they started off their auction business (large or small) on eBay, and many of these stories start out with a simple closet cleaning!  We all have garments in our closets, storage areas, and dressers that we haven't worn in months (sometimes years) that are taking up valuable space in our homes.  If you are looking for items to sell to get a taste of the clothing market on eBay and to sharpen your listing and selling skills, start by cleaning out your family's closets.  Women's clothing and children's clothing are the hottest sellers on eBay, but Men's fashions can also be a great find.

If your closets are clean and your spouse and children have threatened you with bodily harm if you take one more article of their clothing to sell on eBay, it's time to look outside the box -- it's time to Thrift and it's time to Yard Sale

Depending on the city you live in, Yard Sales and Garage Sales may only last 4 months a year, or they could last nearly 12 months out of the year.  Watch your neighborhood and your city newspaper for sales in your area, and go shopping!  Be sure to bring cash with you - few (if any) yard sale hosts are interested in considering your checks or credit cards for their items.  Another thing to watch for when looking for resaleable items are church, community and school Bazaars and sales.  These are some of the greatest places to go for any kind of item, as the people who are selling the items to you do not have an emotional attachment to what you're buying and they typically have only one day to get rid of it all.

Almost every city in the United States has at least one thrift store, whether large or small (this may be true for other countries, as well!).  Visiting your local thrift stores on a regular basis can yield tremendous results for bargain-basement prices. 

Sometimes you live in an area where thrift pickins are thin or you simply may not wish to visit a thrift on a regular basis.  Other places where you can find some great deals to resell on eBay are retailer Outlet stores, clearance racks in regular retail stores (pay close attention to deals on the day after Thanksgiving and on New Year's Day for some potentially great buys), and auctions/estate sales are also particularly good for finding better and vintage clothing. 

A note on selling any pre-owned clothing on eBay:  All pre-owned/used/worn items sold on eBay must be cleaned before sale.  Be sure that any item that is not New has been washed before you send the item to your happy buyer.  To view eBay's policy on pre-owned clothing, click here .

2. How do I list the items I'm going to sell?

This is the most challenging part of selling clothing: listing your item in a way that makes your lookers and watchers turn into bidders and buyers!  Here is a list of must-dos and must-nots for your listing:

    • You must take pictures of your item. 
      • Many auctions end with no bidders and few (if any) lookers and watchers simply because the clothing seller has not taken a picture of their item.  Your buyers have only what is on their computer screen to tell them whether or not your garment is worth the time and money to bid on it.
      • Pictures that are blurry and unclear give the buyer nearly no idea of what the garment actually looks like, and can often make your item look in worse condition than it really is.  Be sure to focus your camera properly, and if the picture doesn't turn out right the first time, try it again.  Practice makes perfect!
      • Dark pictures also will cause problems with clarity.  If you cannot get sufficient light inside to take a good picture, take your items outside in the sun for a much better result.
      • Taking multiple pictures enhances the value of the item and gives your buyer the opportunity to see your garment from many angles.  Taking pictures of the back and the front of the garment is a must, and additional pictures of little details like beadwork, embroidery, or a unique weave also enhances your auction.
    • You must describe your item.
      • For every seller that lists a garment without a picture, you have a seller who puts up one picture of a garment with little to no description.  Be sure that you describe your garment in detail, especially anything that makes it unique or comfortable.  Remember that you are the eyes and the hands of the buyer, and they are relying on you to know what you are selling.  Describe your item as if there were no picture at all in the auction!
    • Reveal any and all imperfections.
      • Whether it's a tiny little run or snag or a re-done hem, be sure to note any modifications to or imperfections in your garment.  This includes, but is not limited to, any of the following: spots; stains; runs; tears; holes; moth damage; mildew damage; pilling/piling on knits and sweaters; unraveling; odd smells (including tobacco or moth ball odors).  It may take more time during listing, but it will increase your customer's confidence in your integrity and your honesty.
    • List at least the basic measurements.
      • Because of the sharp difference in sizing between manufacturers and designers, it is very important to include the measurements of your garments in each auction.  Some examples of the basics include:
        • Bust/Chest width
        • Waist
        • Hips
        • Length (top to bottom of garment)
        • Inseam
      • Other measurements that are sometimes helpful to include are:
        • Rise (for pants - from the crotch, up the front to the waistline)
        • Shoulder width
        • Neck width
        • Arm length
        • Arm opening width (important for plus sizes)
        • Thigh width (also important for plus sizes)
        • Cuff width (for pants and shirts/blouses)
        • Hem width (for skirts and dresses)
      • For garments that have some give or stretch to them (like elasticized waistlines, spandex, or sweaters), be sure to note whether your measurements are stretched or unstretched.  For items that have a lot of give to them, list both the stretched and unstretched measurements for the basics.
    • Include the other basics.
      • Be sure that for every garment you list, you give the following basic information:
        • Brand/Designer/Maker Name
        • Size
        • Color
        • Condition (NWT, NWOT, Like New, etc.  Please see the CA Board Condition Guide for details on the acceptable condition terms for garments)
      • Other information that may be helpful to include:
        • Washing instructions (in brief - Machine Washable/Hand Wash Only/Dry Clean Only/Spot Clean Only)
        • Fabric content

3. BOY that sounds complicated!  I quit!

Don't give up yet!  A lot of these things will become second nature to you as you sell more and more things.  Most sellers have only learned to include much of what you see above only because they've received ASQs (Ask Seller a Question) in many of their auctions asking for this very information.  Don't let the list intimidate you!

4. What materials do I need to be a successful clothing seller?

There are three basic pieces of equipment that are a must have for any clothing seller:

    1. A camera that you have unlimited access to.  It doesn't matter if it's digital or 35mm (some clothing sellers DO still use traditional film methods, but it does make the process take a lot longer), as long as you can take pictures with it whenever you need to.
    2. tailor's measuring tape.  These tapes are made out of cloth, and can be found in any sewing store, in the fabric & crafts department of any K-Mart or WalMart, and can often be found even in some grocery stores.  If you plan on selling plus-sized clothing, splurge a little and buy the tape that is at least seventy inches long.
    3. A scale for weighing your items.  This is invaluable for any eBay seller (not just clothing sellers) for helping you accurately determine how much to charge your buyers for shipping.  Scales may be purchased on eBay for reasonable amounts, and you will rarely need one that is more than a 30 pound limit.

5. You mean I don't need a mannequin?

Having a mannequin (or manni, for short) is a blessing to a clothing seller.  It allows them to shape their garment to a human figure, giving the buyer a better idea of its form and flow.  If you can find a mannequin, a dress-maker's form (these don't have legs, arms or a head - just a torso), or a hanging form (inexpensive plastic half-forms, like what many department stores use to sell bathing suits), you can certainly buy it if you think you'll be selling enough clothing in the future to warrant the purchase.  When it comes right down to it, however, mannis are not a requirement for being a "real" clothing seller on eBay, nor does the lack of manni make your auctions less professional.

Whether or not you have a manni, it is important that your pictures are clear, well-lit, and in an appropriate background.  Hanging your clothing against a solid-color backdrop (a plain white sheet, for example) can make for good presentation.  If you must lay your clothes on the floor or a table to take a picture, be sure to use a drop sheet there, as well, so any distracting background clutter or floor patterns do not detract from the appearance value of your garment.

6. How should I ship my garments?

When you have successfully made your sale and your buyer has paid for their items, you have a number of ways to ship your items.  In the United States, most sellers prefer to use USPS (United States Postal Service) to ship their items.

Shipping via USPS Parcel Post is the cheapest way to send your garment via USPS.  You will need to purchase (or find) packaging material to put your garment in to use this service.  eBay clothing sellers use many different types of mailers to ship their goods, including Tyvek, Poly, Paper and Bubble Mailers.  Shop around before purchasing and be sure that you're getting the best deal on your mailer purchase.

If shipping via USPS Priority Mail (typically a 2-3 day delivery), you can receive free mailing supplies, including boxes and tyvek mailers.  By far, USPS Priority Mail flat rate boxes are the best deal for shipping for shipments that include many items -- for one flat fee, USPS will ship anything you can fit in their flat rate box to anywhere in the United States of America (including Hawaii and Alaska).

Whichever method you use to ship your item, be sure that you ship safely:  If the mailer you're using isn't already waterproof, place your garments in an inner bag (grocery bag, small trash bag, ziplock bags, etc.) that will provide the garment with water resistance.  You don't need to package the item to withstand water submersion, but do keep in mind that many buyers live in residences where the USPS carrier will need to leave the package exposed to the elements.  One good rain storm can ruin the beautiful silk blouse your buyer just purchased, so be prepared!

If you print your postage online via PayPal or the USPS website, Delivery Confirmation is a must-have and is free.  Delivery Confirmation provides proof that the item you sent was dropped off at its delivery location, and if you accept PayPal, DC is a requirement for seller protection.  Don't let that package leave home without it!

7. What else do I need to know?

One last bit of information that is useful is knowing where to turn when you have questions.  eBay's Community is full of discussion forums that can provide you with a wealth of information on any topic relating to making your eBay business work.  For clothing sellers and buyers, one of the most useful forums is the Clothing, Shoes & Accessories board.  Here, you can talk with other buyers and sellers, get their input, and ask questions.

These are the basics when it comes to selling clothing here on eBay!

laurel.bay has been selling clothing and vintage collectibles on eBay for two years, and welcomes the opportunity to help new sellers learn the ropes.

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