It’s now been over six months since I started selling my clothing cast-offs online. Once I got going with it, I experienced some initial success, but then went into a lengthy “dry period” of about three months, when I sold only a few items. During that time, I pondered quitting the whole project, as my efforts weren’t being rewarded and seemed futile. I ultimately decided to keep going, and I also listed another batch of pieces for sale over the past few weeks.
In today’s post, I share how I’m feeling and what I’ve learned after selling clothing and related items online for half a year. I last gave an update on my online sales project back in December. In that essay, I recapped what had sold by that point and on which platforms. I also highlighted my reasons for preferring eBay over Poshmark, and finished with a few observations and lessons learned regarding online reselling. What I’m sharing today won’t be a repeat of that post. Instead, it centers around other aspects of the reselling experience and why I might not be doing a lot of online selling in the future.
A Question of Time
The biggest reason why I might slow down or halt my clothing reselling efforts relates to the sheer amount of time involved in the process. Here’s a list of all of the tasks that need to be completed before an item can be successfully listed for sale:
- Take photos of the item (the more the better for photos, so this can be time-intensive)
- Take measurements
- Crop and edit photos
- Source stock images and crop those (technically, we’re not supposed to use stock photos without permission, but most people seem to do it anyway)
- Write the item description
- Review similar items currently listed or recently sold to determine an appropriate price
- Set the sale price
- Create the listing (this is a lot faster on Poshmark than eBay, but the other steps take the same amount of time on both platforms)
As you can see, a lot of work goes into getting an item listed. I’m sure those who do a lot of reselling become more efficient at the above tasks, but I’d estimate that it takes me at least an hour to complete each item’s listing!
After a listing goes live, there’s still work to be done:
- Sharing items 1-3 times per day on Poshmark (which is required to keep one’s listings high up in the search results – there’s no such equivalent for eBay)
- Making offers to “likers” (Poshmark) and those who’ve added an item to their “watchlist” (eBay)
- Responding to questions and offers
- Packaging sold items for shipment
- Taking sold items to the post office with a day or two of their being sold
I’m fortunate that my husband helps me with packaging and drops items off at the post office on his way to work (he also helps me with taking photos and measurements), but his time investment also counts for something. The bottom line is that between the two of us, we’re spending a lot of time on managing the reselling process, and I’m just not sure it’s worth it in the long run.
People Want a Deal
Pricing items is difficult, especially in light of the fact that very few pieces are sold for their original list price. Buyers typically want some sort of a deal – and “lowball offers” are common, particularly on Poshmark. Most people who like an item or add it to their watchlist are hoping for a lower offer, so it’s common practice for sellers to list items at 20% or more than what they’re hoping to sell them for. That’s done to allow room for discounts and for buyers to believe that they’re getting a good deal.
On Poshmark, offers to likers must also be accompanied by a discount in the shipping cost, which is usually deducted from the seller’s proceeds. The only exception to that is on designated “closet clean-out days,” when Poshmark pays the shipping differential if a “liker” purchases the item within six hours after lowering its price by at least 10%. It’s also common for sellers to offer a “bundle discount,” which gives buyers 10% or more off the total price when they purchase two or more items. Even with that discount, however, it’s not uncommon for buyers to expect an additional markdown.
In most cases, it’s a “buyer’s market” on the resale sites, with the exception of highly-coveted items like designer handbags and “of-the-moment” pieces. The Athleta and CAbi items I’ve listed have tended to sell well, particularly the jackets and sweaters. The pants from those brands also sell, but it generally takes longer, perhaps since pants are harder to fit – or maybe because my pants are all in long/tall lengths and not as many women need those sizes.
The Whole Process is a “Slog”
I used to think it would be fun to resell items online, but I’ve arrived at a different opinion now that I’ve been doing it for a while. It’s possible that I might have a more positive viewpoint if I were sourcing items to sell rather than reselling my own clothing castoffs. In that case, I’d likely see a higher profit from my sales, particularly if I was able to procure pieces for very low prices at thrift or consignment stores. Even so, I’d still need to factor in the time spent on various aspects of the process. It’s not just about how much one buys an item for and what they’re able to sell it for; the time investment along the way cannot be overlooked.
I fail to see how most people can make a good living reselling clothing and related items when the time investment is factored in. I’ve read that some resellers obtain pieces at Goodwill outlets at “by-the-pound” rates or through church rummage sales for bargain-basement prices. Such situations would tip the scales more toward making a sizeable profit, but there’s still the matter of the time involved for the many steps in the process. Even with shortcuts to streamline how long it takes, there’s only so much one can do. One still needs good photos and at least basic information about each item in order to do a listing. Some resellers don’t list measurements or much in-depth data about each piece, but that may invite more questions from prospective buyers – or it may lead people to just scroll on by due to a lack of information.
I’m sure there are those who like all or most of the steps in the resale process, but that’s not the case for me. I can see liking to source items for sale, but I haven’t been doing that because I’ve been reselling my own pieces (most of which were purchasing mistakes, which casts a dark cloud on the whole process). It’s not that I hate the other reselling steps, but I find them to be time-consuming and a bit of a slog when combined, especially when I’m listing multiple items on a given day.
One way I could see enjoying reselling more would be focusing on a niche within the resale market, such as a particular brand or type of item. For example, some resellers focus only on handbags, whereas others may opt to only sell Lululemon pieces. In such instances, they gain more expertise on both their product areas and their prospective buyers. They learn what does and doesn’t sell and how much people are willing to pay. If I were to become a more serious online seller, I’d definitely zero in on a niche and focus all my efforts there. I’ve purchased pieces myself from these types of resellers on eBay, where I’ve bought multiple Athleta garments (a favorite brand for my casual lifestyle – and available in tall sizes) from the same sellers.
The Bottom Line
I’m going to continue the online clothing sales for the time being, but I’m not sure I’ll do much more of it after my current group of items sells. At the time of this writing, I have twenty active listings and another ten items to list, hopefully within the next week or so. Since some of you might be curious, here’s a peak at these 30 items:
Of my current listings, quite a few have been active for months with little interest, including the jewelry pieces, dresses, handbags, and shoes. I believe that some jewelry, handbags, and shoes do sell well, but it really depends upon the designer. When I’ve listed CAbi and Brighton jewelry pieces, they were snapped up within days, but the handcrafted items I have for sale (that are not from a known designer) have languished. I recently bundled them together (two pieces per listing, as shown above) to try to boost interest and provide a shipping discount, but it doesn’t seem to have made any difference.
I’ve sold a few pairs of shoes and one handbag in the past six months, but I don’t think most of the brands and styles I’ve listed are highly coveted by buyers. As for dresses, I question how well they sell in general, as they’re harder to fit and buyers might be hesitant to purchase them sight unseen. There are just too many fit points on a dress, and one area being “off” can make or break the purchase, so I get it. Unless someone is highly familiar with a brand or style, they might not be willing to take the risk.
The Sunk Cost Fallacy
The final point I want to make concerns the phenomenon of “sunk costs.” When people list items for sale, they may place a lot of importance on how much they originally paid for them, thinking they’re worth around that same amount today (especially if they’re “new with tags”). As such, it might be difficult to accept a lower sales price, because it’s viewed as a big loss. I’ve been struggling with this issue myself, especially with pieces that I bought and never wore. As much as I’d love to recoup my full investment, that’s just not realistic. Except in very rare cases (i.e., designer handbags that are no longer being sold), sellers won’t recover the full amount they paid for an item. I have to remember that I already spent the money and I’m not going to get it back. I may receive a fraction of my initial investment, but what I paid is a “sunk cost” that is already lost.
I’ve found that when I view the money I receive for my castoffs as “gravy,” I’m much happier. I get to regain a portion of what was lost, which I wouldn’t have otherwise. I could have chosen to simply donate my mistake purchases, which I’ve typically done in the past, at which point I’d receive nothing back. Even when I used to take my castoffs to a local consignment store, I only received a small fraction of their original cost (but it was quick and easy, which counts for something!). I should appreciate whatever proceeds I get from selling my castoffs and view them as a win, rather than lamenting the sharp contrast between what I paid and what I received.
An important consideration in all of this is that it may not be worth it for me to invest additional time in order to regain a portion of my sunk costs. I actually don’t believe it’s worth it, but a big part of why I’ve been doing the online sales is for “penance” and as a learning process. I want to learn from my mistakes and do better moving forward. I feel that taking the time to resell my mistake pieces has helped me to better understand a few key things. I’m now more aware of why certain pieces didn’t work for me, and I’ve gotten more in touch with the value of my time.
It’s Not All About the Money
It’s not all about the money. My time matters, too, even if I wouldn’t otherwise be making money during that time. There are many things I’d rather do than engage in the resale process, which has hopefully taught me a valuable lesson about impulse buying and ill-advised shopping that I didn’t learn when I simply donated my castoffs or took them to a consignment store. Spending so much time on the reselling steps will hopefully make me think longer and harder before buying anything I’m not sure about. I’ll also more readily return purchases that haven’t been worn prior to the end of their return cycle.
It hasn’t all been bad, though. I’ve managed to earn close to $1500 so far from reselling. Of course, this isn’t a profit for me since I paid much more for the pieces I’ve resold, but it does represent recouping a portion of my losses. I’ve also learned a lot of useful information about the reselling process, which I’ve been able to pass along to readers who might be interested in giving it a try.
I hope that my lessons learned – and the tips and suggestions I’ve offered in this and my previous essays (here, here, and here) – will help to save you time, should you opt to sell some of your clothing items online. I suspect that many of you will decide that it’s not worth the trouble – and I can’t say that I blame you! It’s an individual decision with no right or wrong answer. For some, reselling is a way to earn money for future shopping, so the time investment is a lesser consideration, especially if it’s their main or only means of funding new purchases. Others may opt to use their proceeds for future travel, home improvement, gifts for their children, or other pursuits that have nothing to do with shopping.
Clothing reselling as a “side hustle” can be beneficial to some, for the reasons I outlined above, among others. Perhaps there are also those who succeed in doing reselling as a viable business (although this article casts a lot of doubt on that possibility). If so, more power to them! I support anyone who’s making an honest living, especially if they enjoy what they’re doing. Reselling is ultimately not for me long-term, beyond listing an item or two here or there (after this current experiment is over). But we’re all different and what one person hates, another will love.
I don’t actually hate reselling and I’d rather do it than many other things (such as anything that involves intense public content – very challenging for us introverts!), but fortunately I don’t have to do it. It feels like a grind to me – very time-consuming for little profit. Perhaps I could streamline and speed up the process if I stick with it, but I’m probably not going to do that. I’ll likely sell the thirty shown above and then move on to other pursuits that are more my forte – like doing more writing!
As always, I welcome your thoughts and insights on this post, as well as any questions you have for me about what I wrote (or about anything else you’d like to know). Some of you have already shared your online reselling experiences, but I’d love to hear from others who may wish to chime in now.
Additionally, if you’ve been more on the buyer side of the equation on eBay, Poshmark, or other such sites, it would be interesting to learn about your experiences as well:
- Which are your favorite sites for buying resold clothing and related items – and why?
- What tips do you have to better navigate the process?
Back in 2015, a reader did a guest post on Recovering Shopaholic on how to successfully shop for clothes on eBay. Some of her tips may be outdated now because things move so fast on the internet, but I think a lot of the suggestions still apply. If this topic is of interest to you, be sure to read the comments as well for more tips and tricks that you might find helpful.