Selling Pre-Owned Clothing & Accessories on EBay 101: A Guide for Beginners

Trying to sell pre-owned clothing and accessories on EBay? Here are a few pointers for resale thrift from a top rated plus seller.

For beginning Ebay sellers, I don’t recommend spending a lot of money buying “new” inventory. It will clog up your home with additional clutter and you may end up losing money if you don’t have a good grasp on what sells and for how much. Start by cleaning out your own closets first – this includes your spouse’s and kids’ closets (with their permission, of course).

Start with What You Already Have

I like to remove everything from my closet and place things in 3 piles: Definitely Keep!, Donate, and Re-Sell.

I only keep things that

  1. I’ve worn within the last year – or will wear in the near future
  2. Have sentimental value (these items should go in storage so they aren’t taking up valuable space in your closet)
  3. That fit (don’t save anything that is more than 1 dress size away from your current dress size. Women, in particular, tend to fluctuate about a dress size over the course of each month, and by season, so make sure you are keeping enough items to be comfortable, but don’t torture yourself by saving those “goal size” jeans from five years ago!

Throw away / Recycle any clothes & accessories that have major flaws such as excessive wear, large rips, stains, or tears. Items with minor imperfections, like a missing button or minor rip at a seam, can be donated to a local charity. Occasionally, I will sell items with flaws on EBay, though I try to steer clear of selling items with imperfections as it greatly reduces the price.  If you do sell an item on EBay with a flaw BE SURE TO DESCRIBE IT IN THE LISTING! I can’t stress this enough. You never want a surprised or unhappy customer – so be sure you take a lot of photos of the imperfection and describe it accurately.

Items that are still in very nice condition, but don’t fit or you no longer like/wear, should go into the “Sell” pile. Make sure all the items in the “Sell” pile are clean, free of pet hair, perfumes, and/or smoke, and preferably, ironed. Once you have a collection of items ready…

Price it Right

Do your research on pricing. Search eBay for similar items and see how other sellers are pricing their goods. You may also want to use a service like TeraPeak, which allows you to research how much similar items have sold for and where the market is.

Don’t rely on standard retail to guide your prices. Just because something is marked $100 in the store, doesn’t mean someone will pay $100 for it on EBay. In general, you can expect to get 30-50% of the original retail price for a pre-owned item, though some items that are “New With Tags” or current trends purchased retail within the last 6 months may fetch up to 75% of their original cost. Additionally, if possible, seasonal items – such as winter coats or swimwear – should be listed for sale a few weeks prior to the start of the season to assure the best market and therefore the highest price.

Research Shipping Costs

Know ahead of time approximately how much it will cost to ship the item. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten burned by not calculating shipping fees accurately – I’ve even LOST money by selling something for less than the cost of shipping because I didn’t do my research ahead of time. I highly recommend buying a scale and researching shipping prices before listing an item. Shipping fees can vary greatly depending on the weight, distance and destination location.

99% of the time I use the United States Postal Service – they tend to offer the best prices for the types of items I sell. A lot of clothing can be mailed economically using First Class Mail because it falls under the weight limit. Heavier clothing items, like jeans, shoes, and bulky sweaters above 1 lb., go Priority Mail for a few dollars more.

Be aware of the shipping costs and factor it into your pricing. Buyers are turned-off by high shipping costs, so NEVER overcharge or include additional fees like a “handling fee”. Don’t expect a buyer to buy an $8 sweater and pay an additional $14.95 to have it shipped – it just doesn’t make sense.

The cost of packaging materials can also add up quickly – so be sure to factor that into your pricing as well. To keep costs low (and save the environment!), I often re-use cardboard boxes, tissue paper, bubble wrap and other packing materials leftover from online shopping, Christmas gifts, and so on. The USPS will also provide you with free shipping supplies when you use their Priority Mail service.

Take Quality Photos

A good picture can make or break a sale.  Clothing items can be laid flat, placed on a hanger, or displayed on a mannequin or dress form. I like to use a dress form for items with intricate cuts or style – like a peplum dress – because it best highlights the design. Standard items, like jeans, can be laid flat for photos.

Items look best when on a clean, simple, neutral color backdrop. A crisp flat sheet or curtain in white, gray or black is an economical background choice for beginners. Only include the item for sale in your photo – pictures that show off your living room décor or floral bedspread are distracting – and sometimes gross. Personally, I would never buy a pre-owned item displayed on someone’s kitchen floor, rumpled bed, or carpet – it just looks dirty. The worst EBay photo I ever saw was of a sweater, laid on someone’s dirty shag carpet, with the “photographer’s” bare feet in the picture! Ewwww!

Because colors can often be deceiving in photos, do your best to incorporate lighting that shows off the color as accurately as possible. Buyers can be disappointed if an item looks different in person – and that can open the door for returns or negative feedback.

Take several photos from different angles. Buyers want to see the item in its entirety and too few photos can raise suspicion that an item is flawed. If there is a flaw on an item, take extra photos of that particular spot – and be sure to describe it in detail in the listing. Lots of photos can also protect the seller if there is a problem with the buyer after the sale – photographs are your best evidence if a dispute arises.

Develop a Title that Sells

You have one chance to grab a buyer’s attention – use your title as an opportunity to draw in potential buyers by using keywords that sell. Use all the space you are given and describe as much as you possibly can in the title. Is it a woman’s or a man’s shirt? What is the label/designer? What is the style? Color? Size? Pattern?

Create a Detailed Listing Description

You know what they say – the world sees you the way you project yourself. The same rule applies to EBay. Listings that are sloppy, haphazard, or incomplete (worse yet – inaccurate!) portray your products and you similarly. I’d never buy from a seller who couldn’t be bothered to include at least something in the description – does omission mean the product is somehow inferior? Would the seller be as apathetic about customer service should an issue arise as he/she is about his/her listing? Show buyers you are a quality seller with quality merchandise by offering a quality

Include all pertinent information in your listing, such as color, brand, size, fabric content, etc. Because sizes vary by brand to brand and style to style, measurements are also a huge plus. And be sure to always use the EBay item specifics fields – they will help potential buyers find your items quickly and easily.

You may also consider adding additional information to your description – such as shipping and return policies, whether the item comes from a smoke/pet free home, and response time to messages and questions. You don’t want to overwhelm your buyers with a lot of extra dialogue, but being upfront and transparent about your business will help to keep you and your buyers expectations in line.

Package and Ship Items Appropriately

Package an item the way you’d want to receive it. You don’t have to get fancy with wrapping (though a bow or thank-you slip is always a nice touch if you’re so inclined), just make sure items are neatly folded, clean, and wrapped so they can withstand the turbulence of shipping. I prefer to wrap all my products in plastic bags to keep them clean and dry, followed by an envelope or box. Rarely do I have an issue with an item being damaged in the post, but it does happen, so be sure to wrap your items well. Remember – sellers are always responsible for ensuring their products arrive safely at their destination.

The faster you can ship an item, the better. I provide Same Day/Next Day Shipping, but it’s not mandatory that sellers ship this quickly. However, if you want positive feedback, don’t wait several days to go to the post office.

Also, use the EBay tracking tool to upload shipping and tracking information so your buyers can see the shipping progression. This will also save you a lot of headaches if there is an issue with shipping – I’ve had a handful of customers who have claimed their packages were never received – fortunately I’ve always had the tracking information uploaded to EBay so I can protect myself from fraudulent claims.

Your Feedback Score is Key

The Feedback Score system is what sets EBay apart from so many other selling sites – and EBay is proud to have earned shoppers trust by providing this useful tool to its customers. Don’t ever underestimate the power of a feedback score and treat yours preciously. Do everything in your power to keep a perfect rating. Buyers will trust you and be more apt to buy from you rather than a competitor.

It’s often a hard pill for sellers to swallow, but “The customer is always right – even when they’re wrong”. Most customers are reasonable people looking for a quality product at a great price. If a customer does contact you with a problem or concern, do your best to accommodate them. Sometimes this means a price deduction, full refund, or return. It happens to every seller. Don’t take it personally. Even if you disagree with the customer’s complaint or the customer is rude, accommodate them anyway – it’s often not worth ruining your feedback score over a few bucks. However, if a customer is threatening or downright fraudulent, ALWAYS contact EBay for support. Often, EBay will step in and can resolve the matter for you.

Have Fun

Even the best, most experienced sellers have “down-days”. At one point or another, we all deal with an unhappy customer, go through sales droughts or don’t sell an item for the price we’d hoped for. Don’t let it get you down. Selling can be a lot of fun – and a great way to earn some extra cash from home. Enjoy the ride – now let’s get selling!

Thanks for reading!  We hope this guide helps!