Selling vintage clothing is a booming business right now. In fact, it’s reported that resale grew 24 times faster than retail between 2017 and 2018. Additionally, the overall resale market is likely to reach $41 billion by 2022. If you’re considering trying the resale market, now is the time to do it – and vintage clothing is the way to go. Within the next decade, it’s expected that American closets will consist of at least 33% of used and vintage apparel.
If you have a love of vintage clothing and want to put that passion to work for you, then selling retro clothes online may be the business for you. There’s a market for trends from the past, but it takes more than just listing vintage clothes and waiting from them to sell to make a business successful. It’s important to know the advantages and disadvantages that you might experience, how to find the right niche within the vintage clothing category, where to source your pieces, and how to price it, for a start.
Before we get started on where to sell, let’s discuss the pros and cons of selling vintage clothing.
Pros and Cons of Selling Vintage Clothing Online
As with anything, there are benefits and drawbacks to selling vintage clothes online. Let’s look at some of each.
- The resale clothing market is booming. Overall, the resale clothing market topped $24 billion in 2018, and it’s expected to reach $51 billion by 2023.
- You’ll have a unique product catalog. Selling vintage clothing means there won’t be a thousand other ecommerce stores selling the exact same products you are. The nature of vintage clothing stores is that they always have new-to-the-store products for customers to see, rather than the same types of products day in and day out. That’s a big incentive for customers to visit the store often to see what’s “new.”
- There’s less competition. Because vintage clothing is unique, when customers fall in love with a piece of clothing on your website, it’s not likely that they’ll find the exact same piece for a lower price on another site.
- Customers are everywhere. You never know who is looking for the vintage clothing you’re selling. You could have a vintage 1920’s beaded dress in Los Angeles that someone in London longs for. With an online store, you can have customers from anywhere, not just your local market.
- Selling vintage clothing is eco-friendly. It’s estimated that 72% of consumers prefer to shop from eco-friendly businesses. Selling vintage clothing means that you are cutting out a significant amount of textile waste (transportation pollution, adding to landfills, use of non-renewable resources, etc.) that new clothing is responsible for – and your customers will love you for it.
- Sourcing vintage clothing can be time-consuming. Finding vintage clothing to sell isn’t as easy as sourcing other types of products. You’ll likely have to spend a significant amount of time finding the pieces that you sell.
- Repairs may be necessary. Vintage clothing often has to be repaired and cleaned. Because vintage clothes are, well, vintage, they often need to have repairs and they always need to be washed or dry cleaned.
- How you store vintage clothing matters. It’s important to store vintage clothes properly. Your storage facility should be temperature and humidity controlled. Also, never expose vintage clothes to direct sunlight, it could fade the fabric.
- Sizing has changed over the decades. Because a size 6 from 1950 isn’t the same as a size 6 today, you have to take the time to physically measure each piece and include those measurements in product listings.
Finding Your Vintage Clothing Niche
You can certainly decide to simply find and sell vintage pieces regardless of type, but you should also consider picking a niche to build a more loyal customer base. You can focus on a specific style (casual, evening wear), price point (couture, designer), decade (1920s, 1980s), or type of item (vintage concert t-shirts).
When you have a specific focus, you have an easier time attracting and engaging with customers. It may very well be the best way to sell clothes, in general. Here are a few things to think about as you search for a niche:
- What’s your personal style? It’s easier to source clothing when you’re familiar with it. If it’s possible, start with the stuff you like.
- Is the niche too saturated? Do some research and see if the niches you like are already over-represented. If so, you should consider something else.
- Is the niche too small? It may be difficult to source products if your niche is too narrow. Make sure that you choose a niche in which you can establish viable sources.
- Keep up on trends. It’s important to know what people are buying. Look at what’s being shown on runways and what influencers are saying.
Sourcing Vintage Clothing
Finding vintage clothing to sell in your online store can take some time, but when you find a valuable piece of the past, it will be worth it. Here are some common ways that ecommerce sellers source vintage clothing inventory:
- Thrift stores
- Estate sales
- Consignment shops
- Flea markets
As you are sourcing vintage clothes, be sure that you inspect each piece closely. There may be stains or other damage.
Pricing Vintage Clothes
One of the most challenging parts of selling vintage clothing is pricing. There are some pieces that are rarer than others, some that are more valuable, some that require more repair than others, and all of these things have to be considered when you price your inventory.
That isn’t terribly specific, but because there is a wide range of vintage clothing, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all pricing formula or algorithm.
You’ll have to consider what you paid, the time it takes you to bring a piece up to selling condition, and what similar pieces are selling for.
Where to Start Selling Vintage Clothes Online
Here’s a list of the top online spots to sell your vintage clothes and some of them offer mobile apps too!
If you use Pinterest, you’ve likely seen this site advertised. Poshmark is a website where you can sell your old clothes. The website is filled with apparel at a range of price points, from Levis to Louis Vuitton. You’ll find a wealth of name brand clothes such as North Face and Michael Kors. You can shop from people’s closets for a deep discount compared to buying in-store.
On Poshmark, sellers can quickly list clothing for men, women, and kids directly from their phone with the Poshmark app. Fees for listing your vintage clothing on Poshmark are taken from the listed price once you make a sale. It’s a flat $2.95 for items under $15, and 20% of the listing price for everything else.
The best part of selling on Poshmark, is they take care of the financial side of the transaction, sending you a pre-paid shipping label, and providing customer service for your shoppers.
With ThredUp, selling couldn’t be easier. They simply mail you a clean-out bag, you fill it up with the clothing you want to sell, and then send it back for them to do the rest.
They have a huge inventory with 15,000 new items being listed each day. Like Poshmark, ThredUp charges 20% of the sale price as commission.
#3 The RealReal
If you are looking to sell upscale retro clothing, then The RealReal is the site you should sell on. They identify themselves as a “Luxury Consignment” business and will accept your used designer apparel.
Quality products are likely to sell within just a few days, and you will get to pocket as much as 70% of the sales prices.
Tradesy, similar to Poshmark, is another online designer resale site that boasts deep discounts on name brands. In addition to clothes, you’ll also find great vintage accessories.
Tradesy sends the seller a box along with a prepaid label to make it faster and easier for the buyer and seller. While you can list any apparel from any designer, luxury clothing and handbags tend to sell the best. For items that sell for under $50, there is a fee of $7.50, everything else is 19.8% of the sale price.
#5 ASOS Marketplace
The ASOS Marketplace is an online resale shop that is perfect for selling vintage clothing. It is, after all, the “home to the best independent brands and vintage boutiques.” You can list all your vintage, edgy, and retro clothing in one place, and they charge less than the other sites listed here – only 10% of the sale price.
Refashioner sells designer pieces and exceptional vintage clothing with wonderful accompanying stories. While there are many luxury items and upscale pieces, Refashioner looks for more avant-garde designers and unique selections.
Items are organized by owner and all considered “owned” not pre-owned. Though they do have a backlog for selling and their fees are not disclosed, if you have valuable and unique vintage clothing, Refashioner is worth looking into.
The Mercari website makes it easy for sellers to list and sell vintage clothing through their mobile app. The process is simple: upload a photo, choose your price, and list your items. When you sell something, you’ll receive a pre-paid mailing label and ship the item directly to the buyer.
One nice thing about Mercari is, though it’s an ideal place to sell vintage clothing, you can also sell other non-clothing items as well. Mercari charges only 10% of the sale price.
Depop is a website that lets you sell your old clothes, hats, and shoes to make extra money all from your mobile device. It lets you follow friends like shops and you can sell everything just by taking a picture of it from your phone.
They also allow you to sell other items such as art, books, illustrations, and vintage records. They call themselves a community and really push the connectivity of their shoppers and buyers. They don’t charge to list items, but they usually take up to a 10% cut of your sale along with PayPal transaction charges.
Letgo is a website where you can buy anything from tables and chairs to electronics and, yes, vintage clothes. It’s like a trendier version of Craigslist, going by the common saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” What’s great is the fact that there are no listing fees or commissions.
Also, if you’re looking to furnish your first apartment and you’re low on funds, Letgo is a great place to find inexpensive furniture.
Varagesale is a site that is very similar to Craigslist. On this site, you can sell pretty much anything. You can surf the site from your computer and from your mobile device. Varagesale is community based, sort of like a giant virtual garage sale. They make a point to weed out sketchy sellers to protect the community as a whole. Again, similar to Letgo, there aren’t any fees.
On average, products on Bonanza are 3% less expensive than eBay and they allow sellers to make their own page or “webstore.” Bonanza states, “Until you make a sale, we pay all advertising costs on your behalf. We only make money when you make money.
No listing fees, no monthly store fees, no other sneaky fees.” Sounds like a great deal to me.
OfferUp is similar to Letgo. You can buy and sell things online near you or look for things at a distance. The OfferUp mobile app is the main way shoppers access the site. It is one of the top apps in the shopping category on the Apple app store.
Sell Vintage Clothes on Etsy and eBay
We hope that the above list helps you started selling in the vintage clothing resale market. All the vendors we chose are experienced in finding and marketing to their own target audiences.
While these sites are trendy, cross listing your products on multiple platforms will net you even more sales and happy customers. This is what we call multichannel selling and is great way to succeed in the ecommerce industry. Once you’re ready, start selling on more established sites with tons of traffic such as Etsy and eBay.
Of course, once you grow and start selling on multiple places, an inventory management software may be helpful to automate boring tasks such as keeping your product quantities the same on every marketplace you sell on.
This means you can list your vintage clothes on tons of different sites at once without worrying about accidentally selling the same pair of boots to two different people at the same time. Another great idea is to open your own online shop with a software option like Shopify. There are a lot of great Shopify apps just for fashion retailers too.
No matter which vintage clothes site you choose we wish you luck in your endeavor.
While there are some tricks and strategies that you have to figure out along the way, selling vintage clothing online can be a very lucrative and fun business. Knowing the pros and cons, how to source products, and finding your niche, will give you the best chances for success. If you’re new to the vintage scene and need a place to start, try out one of the most popular marketplaces. Launch your very own Etsy shop and reach thousands of thrifters in no time!
Are you already selling on one of the sites listed above? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.