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) and 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. For the most part, people are reasonable and will expect that pre-owned items may have a “storage” or “closet smell”, but if you are a pet-owner, smoker or wear heavy perfumes, I urge you to clean all your items thoroughly and store them in sealed, plastic bins before sale. If you can’t, or don’t want to do this, I recommend noting in your listing that your items come from a “pet-friendly” and/or “Smoking Home” so buyers aren’t surprised and unhappy with your products. Many people have allergies and/or find these smells very offensive. Buyers do leave negative feedback if an item has strong odors – even if it can be washed out. I once bought a dry-clean-only blazer off eBay. When it arrived, it smelled so badly of cigarette smoke I had to have it dry cleaned multiple times just to get the odor out. The dry cleaning bill cost more than the blazer itself! So much for a “great deal”. I was very disappointed the seller didn’t disclose it came from a “smoking” home in the listing.
Recruit Friends & Family
When I first started selling on Ebay, my friends and family were literally begging me to help them clean out their closets. It seems as though everyone has too much stuff, too little space, and absolutely zero time, energy, and motivation to give the closets the deep-clean they need. Completely through word of mouth, friends-of-friends started asking me to sell their things – and so on.
I have consigned items with the fairly standard 60/40% split when an item sells, but I found it incredibly difficult to keep track of – especially because it can often take weeks – or even months for an item to sell. When you are juggling multiple clients and payouts, this can be a tricky thing to manage. Now, I only do full buy-outs – meaning I set prices upfront and buy their items outright. They get fast cash, and I own the items and can choose to sell them at my leisure.
If you choose to do outright buy-outs, have a price list ready beforehand to make available to your clients. This will eliminate haggling and uncomfortable feelings about money – especially when working with friends and family. It will also give you an opportunity to research the market, including the current fair market value for each item and about how much you can expect to make off each piece.
Your price list doesn’t have to be fancy, just a basic list of what you accept and about how much you pay for each item. For example:
- Women’s Jeans
- Economy Brands like Lee, Faded Glory, Forever 21, H&M – Payout approx. $2 a pair
- Mid-Level Brands like Levis, Gap, L.L. Bean, Banana Republic, Express – Payout approx. $4/5 a pair
- Higher End Brands like Michael Kors, 7 for All Mankind, Rag & Bone – $15-25 a pair
*All prices are subject to change based on the level of wear / condition of the item
Shop Thrift Stores
If you’re an Ebayer, chances are you already know your local thrift stores well. Larger chain-style thrift stores (like Goodwill) tend to have the biggest selection of merchandise, though they have steadily increased their prices over the years. To get the best deals, shop on sale days. Most thrift shops have ½ price or even $1 days each week. And many places run holiday sales where everything in the store is 50% off. Some thrift shops will also provide you with a 10% off coupon if you make a donation of goods. Others provide a loyalty rewards card with added perks for frequent buyers or donators. Check in with a sales associate or the store’s website to learn all the sales and rewards programs the store has to offer.
Always bring a smartphone or iPad with you when shopping. It’s important to know the brands and the current market before buying. For example, I’ve bought several gorgeous Coach purses at thrift shops for about $30 – 50 each, only to find out after I’ve bought them that the Ebay market is flooded with Coach and the going rate is only $30 – 50. Add in shipping fees and I barely broke even. Lesson learned.
Inspect each item carefully. Most thrift shops don’t accept returns – so if you buy a shirt with a rip in the seam, you’re stuck with it. It’s not a bargain if it’s damaged. Again, many times I’ve bought items and didn’t see a flaw until I got it home. ALWAYS check things over.
And another thing about thrift shopping … always clean and sanitize the items you are going to sell. My rule is I don’t bring it into my home-office until it’s cleaned. Most items – even dry clean items – can be sanitized by placing it in the dryer on high for 30 min. to kill any germs, etc. Shoes should be thoroughly wiped down with a sanitizing wipe. Washable items should be freshly laundered. Remember – you want your customers to be happy with their purchase.
Buy Seasonal Items on Clearance
If you have the storage space, buying items at the end-of-season clearance sales is a great option. Shop retail stores for winter coats in May when they are deeply discounted. Holiday sweaters in January. Swimsuits in October. Place your goods in plastic storage bins so they stay fresh until the following seasonal sales cycle.
Try out wholesalers and retail liquidators. These places have great bargains on new items – many are retail overstocks, surplus goods, shelf-pulls, customer returns, etc. Unfortunately, a lot of these places require large orders or make you buy by the pallet, so invest in these only when you are seasoned and have some cash to spare!
Local auction houses are another place for liquidations, going-out-of-business sales and vintage items. Lots can be purchased in bulk or individually.
Tag Sales, Yard Sales, and Estate Sales
I love tag sale season! The same rules for thrift stores apply to tag sales – don’t buy anything without inspecting it carefully and doing your market research. Buy the local paper on Fridays so you can get a list of all area tag sales each weekend, then make a guide map and get going!
Thanks for reading! We hope this guide helps!