1. Scout out all the thrift stores in your area one afternoon and walk through them, learning how they are set up, which days a half price days, and ask if there are any other special sale days. I like Goodwill, Goodwill Outlet, Village Discount Outlet, and Unique Thrift in the Chicagoland area. Ross "Clothes for Less" is not a resale but a discounted outlet store that I have seen many ebay users resell from. (As they leave the Ross tags on them when I purchase them!) Ross clearance prices are often like Goodwill "better garments" prices. Salvation Army has never been good for me in this area. If there is a half price day, you might want to get there when the doors open as often there may be a line for a good sale and the good stuff is gone quickly.
2. While shopping, especially on a sale day, if you think you might want it, throw it in your shopping cart and go through everything later so you can keep looking before the good items are purchased. If you have a smartphone, before you purchase it (after its in your cart) look up the item to see what it is worth. I can't tell you how many times I would come home with a bag full of "great deals to sell" only to discover that there were numerous other people selling them, some selling them for what I paid at a resale shop! Check on Amazon, Ebay, google to see what a comparable item is going for before you actually decide to purchase it. I spent usually just $10 a day at resale shops, but as my husband loved to remind me, that is over $3000 a year I spent and usually 50-60% of the "good stuff" I later discovered wasn't worth the time or money to list as so many people were already selling it next to nothing. I didn't have a smart phone to use unfortunately :)
3. Purchase items you are knowledgeable about. I am a plus sized woman and now sell mostly plus sized clothing. I tried selling teen clothing I found at thrift stores but most teens like to go to the mall, and the styles were usually outdated and I ended up giving them away or donating them back to the place I purchased them as I was not familiar with what was "hot" for teens - I do know what middle-aged plus size Midwest ladies like to wear!
4. Pick up each item and examine it. Buttons loose? SMELL it carefully. (this is a big one as customers hate getting musty smelling clothes - I've given more than one refund as I missed the moldy smell and they were very upset.) Holes in pockets? Seams loose? Zipper sticks? I have been so excited about a "great deal" only to get home, try to list it, and find snags, stains, etc. I usually don't recommend selling items that are used with defects as people get upset about the defect, even if it is clearly stated in the listing, as they don't usually read it carefully. If you do have a used item with a defect, I often put in the title: DEFECT: SNAGS (or whatever it is) so they don't miss it in the listing information below. If you wouldn't wear it or give it to your friend, probably its best not to try to sell it. Check collectibles for chips, stains, scratches, marks. Things that are MIB (mint in box) or MWT (mint with tag) sell much better. Donate it back to Goodwill or another charity and get a tax deduction is often your best choice when you find something is not sellable for you on-line (but another person might like it if they are a seamstress and can fix it.)
5. Not sure if you should purchase it? If you have a smart phone, go to ebay and look up the item you are thinking of buying to see how much it is going for. Then go to "advanced" after the search button, click on "completed listings" and you will see how many times that item has sold in the last two weeks. The figures in GREEN are the items that sold, the figures in RED didn't sell. That will save you purchasing an unreturnable item that is not worth listing on ebay, and will help you find the right price to list your item for. (Mentioned earlier, but worth mentioning again).
5. What are good deals? New with tags items, Mint In Box items, up to date electronics, antiques, rare collectibles, vintage garments, nice wool suit coats, designer jeans (especially if new with tags) or whatever you know will sell. Each seller finds their "niche" and often it changes from year to year. There are some standard items that consistently sell well. My husband is 67 and loves to wear 1970s or 1980s Levi Action Slacks. There are lots of men out there that do the same, as they consistently sell for $20-$60 ($60 if new with tags) and I buy them on ebay happily for $60 as I don't have time to check every thrift store in Chicagoland. Genuine hippie clothing, 1970s clothing, 70s dolls, So don't overlook old-fashioned clothing as if you can't buy it in a store, there are many people who want it. Ladies doesn't seem to sell as well for me as mens as perhaps ladies are more fashion conscious but men like what they like and don't care much about fashion. Also, Just because its cheap doesn't mean its a good deal if no one wants it. I bought tons of clothes for $1 each and had to donate them as after 2 years they still hadn't sold on ebay - especially out of date but not vintage clothing or men's waist 66" short shorts like I had! Lucky Brand Jeans or other designer brands sell well. Would you wear it or give it to a friend? If you don't believe its worth something, I have found others won't. If you believe something is an awesome deal, I have found others will believe it is as pay an awesome amount for it. Our attitude comes through in our listings it seems.
6. When looking at an item, ask yourself, "How much can I make on this?" If its a $5 pair of jeans you can only sell for $9.99 plus shipping, after ebay and paypal fees you may end up with a $2-$3 profit for all your work. If you can't make enough, put it back. I usually try to buy something that will list competitively for 3-5X the cost I paid as I offer returns and that eats into the profits. If you will need to dry clean it, you can charge more and people will be more likely to buy from you. CD One Price Cleaners chain charges just $2.50 per item, so figure that price in if you will be selling suit coats, woolen coats, or others with dust or lint on them. If you take it to a cleaners you often can sell it for 50% or even double if you put in the listing "freshly dry-cleaned" - I even often include a photo in the dry cleaners bag.
7. Before you check out from the store, go through everything in your cart one more time, to be sure you didn't miss any stains, rips, tears, etc. as thrifts stores don't offer refunds. I try to remember to pray and ask God to show me what to buy and what to put back. Even then, expect to mind some defects you missed after checking twice and don't worry about it. I just finished washing stains out of thrift store items I purchased two days ago and I missed seeing the stains in and one gaping hole in the store after 2-3 times looking them over.
6. Once home, put away as soon as possible so those "great deals" don't pile up like the "Hoarders" TV show! If I need to wash something, like clothing or stuffed animals, I do it in cold water and air dry. If you iron sweaters wet from the washer the pilling is less; and jeans look newer if you hang them up to air dry. I put stuffed animals in front of my heat/AC ducts to dry rather than in the dryer which makes they look washed and old. Rubbing alcohol with a q-tip or cotton ball cleans many products like electronics, barbie dolls, or hard plastic. Goo Be Gone is another good product but it leaves a strong odor so you wouldn't want to use on delicates.
7. When listing the item, don't think, "Oh, this is just something from a thrift store" but "Wow, what a unique great deal I'm offering" as they say you are like you think - think you're a first rate ebay shop, and you will be! Take lots of photos, showing seams, loose threads, any snags or anything, and I like to end with another nice photo of the item - start with nice, detail photos, end with nice photo. I have $100 jackets but one of my favorites is a 99 cent name brand jacket purchased from a local charity resale. If you wouldn't wear it, don't purchase it or sell it.
8. Be sure to measure the items carefully and put it in your listing. I learned the hard way after numerous returns or complaints of "wrong size" to compare the measurements with a universal size guide for women/men. If the size 12 you are listing has a 28" waist, it won't fit a modern size 12! I put in my listing and often my title: tag size 12 - fits like size 6 - waist 28". People often don't read the details of the sizing and just look at the size, so if its unusual, state it a few times. Vintage sizing runs very small, so I'll say, "Vintage size 12, fits like size 8, waist 29"
A FEW SAMPLE MEASUREMENTS IDEAS:
- PANTS: waistband flat across, not stretched, side to side:__________; front rise from crotch to top of fly:____________; inseam measured from crotch to bottom of pant:___________. Never stretch the clothing when doing measurements, just lay flat and use the measurement that shows up. So many times I would purchase items on ebay but there are no measurements. I am tall with a long inseam and I jump to the next seller's ad who lists those measurements.
- SHIRTS: chest straight across armpit to armpit:___________; length of garment from center back collar seam to hem:___________; length from armpit seam to hem:_____________; length flat across waist area, seam to seam:_________________
- DOLLS PLUSH TOYS: sitting height:_____________; stretched out longest way:_______________ (for example, a teddy bear may be 8" sitting and 12" laying down so you want to put both)
9. Pack the item for shipping like you are a boutique. People love it if you use tissue paper. I use tissue paper and shirt bags I purchase from U-Line. You can use free shipping supplies if you ship priority mail by using the Priority Mail tyvek envelopes as shirt bags and putting them inside a box or priority mail envelope. You don't want to ship something out loose in a box as it may get wet. Include a packing slip like a "real store" - (or if you don't want to spend the money on toner ink, at least include a business card with a note and email address thanking them and giving them a way to contact you - before ebay -- with any problems). Vista Print has many free business cards where you just pay the $5- 6 shipping for 100 or so. See my guide on how to fit any pair of jeans into a flat rate priority mail envelope - my record was a pair of W66" jeans to Canada!
10. If you purchase things that you would wear or like, when you get a return that isn't re-sellable, perhaps you or a family member can wear it. You can receive a tax deduction by taking it to a charity and getting a donation receipt. Plus you are helping others.
11. Always be kind in emails and communications about your products. If someone doesn't like something, I always accept returns. Yes, I've received swim suits back that they said "didn't fit" that were obviously worn in a pool as they smell like bleach. I still refunded the people and thanked them for shopping ebay, and donated the product to charity which is a write off. Many of the leading websites say to expect 10-30% returns, I seek to have below 3% returns by using the detailed description, but they still happen. I don't purchase from people who don't offer returns, so I always offer returns. If you want you listing to show up in ebay search results higher, you definately have to offer returns. Just figure it in as an expense like stores figure in shoplifting or damage and then mentally it won't bother you as much, although I don't know any seller who likes returns, its part of business.
12. Sell the item fixed price or auction? If its a hot item like electronics, my son who is tech savvy always sells via auction and does well. I sell clothing and everytime I do an auction I get too low of bids as I don't sell fad clothing but regular clothing. I prefer to use "make an offer" feature if its not a fast moving product, but if you are selling the #1 toy or video game for Christmas and they are sold out in the stores, auction will probably get you the most money. Pray about it.
Well I hope that gives you at least a few helpful tips. If you can take a minute to vote thumbs up or thumbs down, that'd be great. My other guides have more tips as well. Happy shopping and selling on ebay!
PS Updating this 10/21/15 - Reselling new clothing from stores like walmart, kohls, macy's etc. have great deals but I have found usually if its on clearance its because its either end of season (can you store if it doesn't sell) or not popular. However, sale items can be fabulous if they are name brand. Disney, movies, super heroes products sell well -- store brand kmart or walmart usually doesn't sell well, at least for me. Take photos showing it is new with tags. Many people shop online and don't go to walmart or kmart so they don't mind paying double the price to avoid the trip. Ebay is great as unlike amazon, ebay participates in google shopping so if someone searches google for the product your listing can show up. ALWAYS PUT THE most important words in the first 4 words of your title. DISNEY FROZEN GIRLS DRESS, not $59 new with tags frozen girls dress. Google and ebay use the first 3-4 words to sort.