Everywhere you look, there's a side hustle. Whether it's being a delivery driver, social media whiz, or cake baker, everyone seems to have their fingers in more than one pie. If you're a fashion lover, a potentially lucrative way to boost your income is by shifting secondhand clothes. With more and more people open to pre-worn, it's a growing market. But figuring out how to make money selling vintage may be a case of trial and error.
The first thing to remember is that no money-making method is easy. Successfully selling vintage garments (or anything secondhand) will require dedication, industry awareness, and a knack for marketing. Luckily, the world is on your side.
According to ThredUp's 2019 Resale Report, more secondhand shoppers exist now than ever before. By 2023, the resale market is expected to hit $51 billion (almost £40 billion) and by 2028, it will be larger than the fast fashion industry. Those are some pretty impressive statistics. So how do you go about entering it?
Where to sell
Thanks to technology, there are so many places to sell vintage clothing. The traditional option used to be car boot sales or eBay, but this has been somewhat replaced by apps such as Depop. Other options include Etsy, Facebook Marketplace. You can even sell directly from your Instagram profile. Each of these platforms have their pros and cons — which often include taking a percentage of sales — and you may wish to try out a few before settling with a final choice.
Depop, which takes a 10 percent cut of each purchase, is fast becoming the number one option for fashion sellers. "You have vintage sellers specialising in the '70s, people with a more Y2K aesthetic, then there are of course the ones who are into the culture of the drop,” Depop founder Simon Beckerman told the Guardian. And as he mentioned, "there's very little risk in trying."
If you already own a huge vintage pile, you've got the start of your very own inventory. To increase it, you're going to have to do some digging. Small charity shops, larger thrift stores, car boot sales, estate sales, and wholesale companies are ways to source secondhand gems.
Lora Conrad, owner of Hungry Heart Vintage, told personal finance site The Penny Hoarder that she even makes private appointments with the families of people who have passed away: "I get to learn all about the women who wore them, and when I leave I feel like I’m leaving with more than just dresses. I’m leaving their homes with bits of their family history that will live on through others."
Defining your aesthetic will make you stand out from the crowd. Do you love a particular decade, designer, or even a specific item? Whatever it is, hone in on it. Keeping up with current fashion trends is also worthwhile as the cyclical nature of the industry means vintage looks are referenced again and again.
Consider buying pieces in bulk if you think they could be popular. And try to find as many sizes as possible. This can be incredibly difficult with vintage, but a little effort will go a long way with customers.
Whether you're selling one item at a time or an entire collection, you'll need to make garments look as attractive as possible. Ensure clothes are clean and in good condition. If buttons or zips are missing, sew them on yourself or visit a tailor. And if an item doesn't require dry cleaning, simply steam it for a fresh look and smell. "You want to present it like it’s a new piece. That way, the customer can immediately incorporate the item into their wardrobe," Caitlin McNulty, founder of Narro, explained to Racked.
When writing the description for each garment, be as accurate as possible. Don't rely on the size printed on the label. Instead, give precise measurements. Include information about materials and brand and explain how the item fits as well as its condition level. If there are any marks, mention these and include clear close-up photos. You'll also want to take high-quality shots of the clothes from various angles. A decent phone camera should do.
Last but not least, try listing items that fit the season. For example, stick floaty dresses and lightweight looks up in spring or summer and knitwear in the winter.
Pricing is a balance between making money and appealing to customers. Research other vintage sellers to see how much they charge for similar items and the history of the garment to see if its price can be boosted. Check the likes of eBay too. Azeezat Owokoniran-Jimoh, co-founder of vintage store Coal N Terry, told Shopify the next step is to "look at the condition of the item, see how rare it is, and how much people want it." That should give you some idea of a sensible price range.
Although it is possible to buy something for a fiver and sell it for 10 times the price, realising that you may not make a big profit on all sales is key. You also need to be prepared to work with buyers. Breanna, a 19-year-old Depop seller, told i-D that she gives "lots of discounts and [is] willing to negotiate."
Many vintage sellers have made so much money that they've transformed their hobby into a full-time job. Whether you do that or keep it as a side hustle, don't forget to report your extra taxable income to HMRC to avoid a nasty fine.