You open your closet and see the business suit you purchased for that job interview. But you landed at a company that is purely business casual—and that suit will probably never be worn.
At least not by you.
There’s a healthy market for secondhand clothing in the United States that serves dual purposes. You, as the seller, can recoup some of your investment on an item of clothing or an accessory. The buyers, on the other hand, want to add quality, lightly-used garments to their wardrobes at a fraction of the retail price. A win-win.
The Resale Phenomenon
Selling clothes and accessories that no longer fit (physically or for your lifestyle) isn’t a new concept. You’ve listed them on eBay or sold them at a garage sale. And consignment shops, which accept clothing for resale and typically give the owner a percentage of the selling price, have been around for years. But the secondhand clothing and accessories market has exploded in the past decade-plus, driven by the Great Recession, then fueled by millennials seeking to reduce their carbon footprint, and now Generation Z, who are inundated with clothing ads on social media and may feel the need to “keep up.”
In 2009, when retailers were going out of business because American consumers had to tighten their belts amid layoffs and losses in investments, the secondhand market grew. People who needed money sold their clothes, and those who needed a wardrobe refresh at below-market prices were eager buyers.
That gave rise to resale stores—Buffalo Exchange, Beacon’s Closet and Crossroads among them—that will pay you for your used clothing. As the secondhand industry has evolved, a number of online-only competitors have jumped into the business, including Poshmark, thredUP, tradesy and Kidizen (for children’s clothes).
How to Sell Your Clothing
The amount of effort it takes to sell your clothing online—and the money you’ll reap in return—depends on the service you choose to work with. Each service has different features and while some only work with niche markets, we’ve listed some resale stores below that may be a good fit:
thredUP: Order a free kit from the company, and when it arrives, box up your items send them in. The company will assess your items—they typically accept 40% of what they receive for resale—and then put them up for sale. Be aware that if thredUP doesn’t accept your items, you’ll be charged a fee to return them to you (they also give you the option of donating them for free). You’ll receive between 5% and 80% of the selling price. The higher the value, the more you’ll receive. The 80% payout is reserved for items that sell for $200 or more, which might make thredUP a good choice if you’re trying to sell expensive designer brands.
The RealReal: As the name implies, this site looks for the real thing—goods from designers such as Chanel, Cartier, Gucci, Hermes and Louis Vuitton. Send in your items, and a team of “luxury brand authenticators” will determine their authenticity and price, then list them for sale. Depending on what you sell and the amount The RealReal receives, you’ll earn between 40% and 85% of the sales price. Want to be approve the selling price before it is listed? The RealReal allows consignors to approve the authenticators’ assigned selling price, upon request.
Tradesy: Download the Tradesy app, snap a photo of your garment, write a description, set the price and list your item for sale. The app walks you through the steps. Once it sells, Tradesy will provide a free mailing label to send your item to the buyer. The company will collect payment from the buyer, then deduct a commission of 19.8% on items selling for more than $50. (For items under that price, Tradesy’s commission is a flat $7.50.) Any funds you earn will be added to your Tradesy account. You can then withdraw money from your Tradesy account using an ACH transfer, a debit card or PayPal.
Buffalo Exchange: This is a brick-and-mortar store, but if you don’t live near one of its locations—it operates stores in 19 states and Washington, D.C.—you can sell online by requesting a prepaid UPS shipping bag, packing your clothes in it and dropping it off at any UPS store.
If the company agrees to buy your item, you’ll receive a check for 25% of the sales price or a voucher for 50% of the value to use in one of its stores. If not, the company, be aware that the company will charge a $14.99 fee to send your item back to you or donate it at no charge.
Bonanza: Open your own virtual store, take photos of your clothing, write descriptions and then post them in your shop. Sellers will pay a flat fee commission of 3.5% to Bonanza in exchange for hosting your store. That price could rise if sellers choose to take advantage of Bonanza’s advertising options, which could add up to 30% onto the fee paid.
Tips for Selling Your Clothes and Accessories
As you decide what you want to sell, remember: If you wouldn’t buy it, don’t try to sell it.
Here’s some guidance from secondhand sellers as to what makes a marketable, or more valuable, item.
- Check for unintentional holes, pilling (tiny balls of fluff that accumulate on fabric), worn fabric and spots. Make sure clothes are laundered and don’t have any pet, smoke or perfume smells.
- Stick to seasonal clothing. If you’re packing your items for resale in April, shorts and designer Polo shirts are a yes. In November? Skip those and send in your hardly worn winter coat instead.
- Make sure the clothing is on trend. A suit is from 1989 is a better candidate to sell at a vintage shop than at one of today’s modern secondhand retailers.
- With the secondhand sites dominated by women’s clothing and accessories, inquire if they’ll accept children’s or men’s clothing before you send in your items.
- Research the brands that the sites want. Some secondhand sellers accept only luxury brands, such as Louis Vuitton or Chanel. Many others want higher-end labels, including Urban Outfitters, Ann Taylor, Gap, J.Crew and Banana Republic.
Selling your clothes takes some research and time, but it’s well worth it when you receive cash for something you don’t expect to wear again.
Editor’s note: Quorum is not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this article and derives no benefit from these businesses for placement in this article.
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