So this is an eBay selling method that has been getting allot of attention over recent months and with the economy at it’s lowest ebb this style of selling used items has become more popular than ever.
If you’re not from the North America thrifting is simply the act of shopping at charity shops, car boot sales or 99p style stores and reselling the items you buy for a profit.
This can be a very good way to generate much higher profit margins than with new item sales as often the stock is unique or at least one of a few available on eBay rather than one of many exactly the same items as can happen with new stock.
But is this a viable business? For years I have dismissed this style of selling as you have to be continually sourcing new stock, as in physically going out and looking for it! You don’t know what you will find, never sure if they will sell and how much travel and time is involved with getting the stock.
When I build a new eBay business I like to know my market, to know what I will make, have uniform sized items that easily fit into packaging and be shipped out in the same way each time, minimum fuss, and minimum time spent packing and wrapping. So this type of business for me seemed like far too much time spent on the front end with unknown returns on the back end.
But recently I have read so many articles about thrifting in the eBay and eCommerce world I decided that it might be fun to give this a go and report back on my findings for you guys to make your own minds up.
To give you an idea of my background I have always been a dealer, a wheeler, a buyer and a seller. From a young age I used to go with my Mother to car boot sales in the UK (garage sales) I would buy things and just naturally want to sell them on for a profit. I remember buying a load of Thomas The Tank Engine books, probably about 15 of them, I think I paid just a few pennies each.
Most of them were first editions and I sold them for between £10 and £15 each on eBay, not a bad mornings work that day. I had quite a few paydays over the years but it was never something I thought could be repeated week after week for a regular income more like a profitable hobby.
So I knew I had the smarts to make money, I always said if the world turned upside down tomorrow I would back myself to be able to start making money from scratch pretty fast so that was the game I played for this experiment.
Rules Of The Game:
Lets say I have no online businesses, no income and I need to generate some money t0 survive. I gave myself just £30.00 which is probably about $50.00 across the pond and just my own smarts to help me make some money. With cash in hand I set off for a charity shop in my local town.
So this is a scaled down exercise I would expect to spend more money and scour more shops to make this work on a bigger scale but this was simply a test of the principals so it was one shop and £30.00!
I wandered around hoping something would leap out at me which of course it never does, I looked over some of the antiques which didn’t look that antique, plus I didn’t fancy posting china or glassware so I moved on. Skimmed over the books, I had success with these back in the day but nothing looked very interesting as I wandered past so I was starting to get a little concerned as I had covered over half the shop with no clue on what I needed to buy when I got the the used clothes, something I also have experience with as I sell new branded apparel online so I started looking through the clothes thinking that if I could find some good brand names it would make for good search traffic as I could use them in the title descriptions on eBay, as I was pondering this I stumbled across a nice looking shirt with this label..
I’m hoping most of you would recognise “Savile Row London”? The number one place in the word to buy a suit. World class tailoring on one street in London and Gieves & Hawkes are one of the oldest and finest tailors. So you can imagine I was quite happy to find this on the rail with a price of £4.95. I was guessing that the new price would have been over £80 so there should be plenty of room for a profit and some excellent keywords for the title. I grabbed it along with a few other shirts also from Savile Row tailors that were all next to each other plus an Yves Saint Laurent shirt again for £4.95. I was quite pleased with my haul when I spotted my final purchase, a very nice looking mens jacket from GAP, a great brand name, great condition and once again £4.95 I can’t miss with this one!
So I bring my charity shop haul home and set about listing, I used a spare eBay buying account that had about 50 feedback. As with any eBay auction images are so important, I would normally be looking for professional looking stock images when selling new items but here I need to be creative and try to get the best photos that I can. I used my trusty cell phone camera which is actually a pretty good thing and with the help of a load of natural sunlight I gave it a go. Below is a quick snap of the shirts I bought
The photos came out looking pretty good and I spent some time creating some compelling auction text, it turns out the savile row shirts originally sold for £150 each so I was even more happy when I got home. Not wanting to be greedy and hoping for a swift sale I listed them for a sensible but still very profitable £24.95 each, the YSL shirt I listed for £14.95 and the GAP jacket for £24.95 also.
The Results so Far
After just a week I have sold two of the shirts one for £24.95 and the other YSL one for £9.95 so I’m pretty pleased with that to say the least. Was it a hassle? Yes.. a bit I guess but if my life depended on it then it wasn’t much hassle at all and I got paid for my time in profit so all in all not bad.
For me it’s a case of changing my frame of mind, usually my business head carefully weighs time against profit and anything that can’t be measured is an issue, so wandering around a shop hoping to find some things to sell does not sit well with my way of doing things but thats not to say its not a good plan. Lets just say that if it wasn’t a test and when I went out I went to all 7 charity shops in my town and came back with £200 worth of items which I then listed, its fair to say I would have probably sold quite a lot more things and made quite a bit more money. The more things you have to sell the more chance of selling so looking at it like that with a £15 plus profit per item you would soon be making a reasonable income stream.
Would I do it Again?
If I have the time yes, it was fun and I will keep the remaining items up for sale and may add to them next time I’m in town with some time to spare. I’m sure with a bigger selection this eBay account could turn a reasonable profit.
So if you’re thinking of a new eBay business and you have some time don’t dismiss a used item store, I’m sure you would learn what sells well and could zero in on a selection of items that you could always sell and in fact get the process of buying and selling to quite an efficient process. If you were making enough to live on then you would have as much time as you needed and I’m sure there are plenty of people that would love to go shopping for a living!
If you’re not sure where to start with eBay or you want to take your business to the next level you may be interested in my step by step eBay tutorial DVD, click the image below for the intro video..