Looking for ways to expand your thrift store sales and get new customers into your shop? Try expanding your sales and marketing efforts beyond your doors. Many consignment stores bring in extra revenue and get marketing exposure by selling items online or setting up satellite booths.
Junior League of Atlanta member Elizabeth Beasley shares that when she worked at their charity thrift store, the Nearly New Shop, “We started an online resale program where we took brand-name specialty items that were donated and sold them on eBay. We were usually able to fetch a higher price and our regular shoppers often bid on the items, too. It made those products feel exclusive and exciting to purchase. It also added a nice bump to our revenue.”
Beasley also suggests that, “It’s ideal to have one person manage sales happening outside of the shop, so they can handle the marketing, shipping, and other details that are different than the usual in-store processes.”
Before you start a campaign in outside sales, do your homework to track which items sell best in your ideal markets, both online and offline. Like any business startup, you need an audience, a plan, and a budget.
Best Items to Sell
Every platform has a different audience and during your research phase you may find that vintage items sell better at antique malls and flea markets, while new clothing and accessories are more popular with online resale outlets. Here’s a quick look at the hottest items shoppers are seeking online and offline.
- Accessories and Shoes: If you run a thrift shop that sells donated or consigned clothing, keep your eyes peeled for popular brands and styles of shoes and accessories. A little online research will reveal what vintage wear buffs and sneakerheads are looking for these days.
- Electronics: Vintage electronics will be your best bet here. People are looking for items they can’t get in stores anymore. This could be a relatively new item that they loved but is no longer on the shelves — like an iPod shuffle. Or retro tech like 8-track tape players and boom boxes. Whatever you sell, be clear on the condition of the item and if it works. eBay is a great place to check what’s hot and what’s not.
- Collectibles: Collectibles cover a lot of ground, but toys are always in demand because they tug at our nostalgic heartstrings and appeal to a wide range of generations. As a bonus, vintage toys are usually easy to pick up at garage sales and resell. Look for dolls, toys with movie or TV tie-ins, Legos and other classics.
- Books: Looking for an easy item to buy and sell? Books are the way to go. As you shop for stock, you can quickly check current resale prices on sites like BookScouter.com. Selling and shipping is simple when you list them on a site like Amazon. Again, always be honest about the condition of the book.
- Brand Name Clothes: Not everyone enjoys sifting through thrift store racks to find a brand name gem. Make it easy by selling higher ticket items online or at a specialty booth. The great thing about designer resale is that new and vintage items are both popular and there are a wide range of sites where you can sell them — from eBay to thredUp. Keep in mind that clothes can take longer to sell, so make sure you have a place to store your inventory.
Setting Up a Booth
Sold on selling outside of your thrift shop? Then a small, satellite booth could be a smart option for you. This is the place to market your highest quality items or products that target a specific audience. Sometimes you can even find local artisans to share a space with. It doesn’t matter who you team up with as long as your products complement each other, instead of compete.
Before you get out your card table and start setting out items, map out a plan for where and when you want to sell, how you’d like your booth to look and how you’ll price your goods.
Flea markets, antique malls, and pop-up markets
Flea markets and antique malls stay open year-round and draw a broad and varied audience, so you aren’t limited to seasonal sales and can market a wide range of products. On the flip side, short-term pop-up markets have the advantage of targeting specific audiences and attracting impulse buyers, since they won’t be able to come back and get your goods next weekend.
Booth design and style
To avoid visually overloading customers, stick with one style in your booth. It doesn’t matter if you’re shabby chic or cabin cozy, commit to a theme and make it memorable. That way shoppers can easily remember your booth as “the one with the vintage French vibe” and have no problem finding you on their next trip.
Pro tip from Christy James of confessionsofaserialdiyer.com: Include items with a variety of heights in your space. James says, “I try to keep a tall piece or two in my booth at all times, just because it makes the booth look better. If I don’t have any tall pieces at the time, I try to stack items (safely) to add height
If everything is all at the same level, it’s boring.”
Pricing your flea market or antique mall booth may be a bit different from your in-store prices and that’s okay — the audience and location are unique. The good news is that sometimes you can raise the prices!
If you find your products are flying off the shelves this may indicate that your pricing is a little low. And if your sales are stuck, your prices could be too high. Remember, you should include a range of prices, so everyone has a chance to find something they can afford. That first small purchase could lead to a repeat customer who spends more later.
Selling Resale Items Online
Posting your products for sale online can be a smart strategy to boost revenue and advertising your storefront. Facebook Marketplace is particularly good for marketing because it reaches a local audience, so you can post an item for sale and have them come to your shop to pick it up. When they see all of the other products you offer, they might become a regular visitor online and offline.
Resale websites require many of the same marketing and sales standards that you’re probably already using in your thrift store. Online sales differ in that customers rely solely on photos and product descriptions to make their buying decisions. Photos should always be well lit and show various angles of the product. Descriptions should be clear and accurately describe the size and condition of the item.
Where to post? Here are some favorite sites for resale. Though new ones are popping up all the time.
Facebook Marketplace: Huge audience for selling locally, so you don’t have to deal with shipping.
Poshmark: User-friendly site for selling women’s brand name clothing.
Chairish: Well-designed marketplace for unique housewares, jewelry and antiques.
Etsy: Popular destination for handcrafted and vintage goods that caters to kitsch.
eBay: Classic online reseller with excellent selling tools that let you sell anything to anyone anywhere.
Now you’re all set to dig into your research and work on your budget. Most marketplaces and platforms charge some sort of fee, so take notes and do a little math to see which option works best for your budget.
It’s also wise to set a trial period to see if your side venture actually brings in money without too much extra effort. Commit to trying it for 3, 6 or 12 months and dedicate a budget and marketing plan for that time frame. Having guidelines like this in place will help you create an alternate resale strategy that can enhance the wins you already have at your main shop.
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