My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

In my last post, I shared that I had listed thirty wardrobe items for sale on eBay. This was one of my “20 for 2020” goals for the year and I was glad to have finally gotten it done. All of the items that I listed had been shopping mistakes in one way or another and some of them had been quite pricey.

In the post, I highlighted my reasons for selling the pieces in question rather than simply donating them. I also wrote about why the items were purchasing errors and what I learned from my mistakes. I think I’m going to consolidate all of those lessons into a concise document to keep on my computer and phone to remind me of what not to do with future shopping!

selling clothes online

Selling unwanted clothes online can be a good option – but it’s not easy!

Today I’m going to update you on what I’ve sold and what I’ve learned about the process of selling clothing and related items online. I’m also going to share some of the wonderful tips and suggestions I received from readers on how to make the resale process easier and more successful. I’ve already implemented some of these helpful ideas and I think it’s making a difference!

What I’ve Sold Thus Far

I listed the first of my items about a month ago and finished listing all thirty pieces by early September. At the time of this writing, I have sold eleven items, which is just over a third of everything that I listed. I’ve earned over $500 from these sales, which is nothing to sneeze at! Although I’m not going to be able to recoup all of the money that I wasted on ill-advised purchases – and my time spent to create and oversee the listings and manage the shipping process is not insignificant, I do feel good having been able to earn some money through selling my items.

Shown below are the pieces that I’ve sold thus far:

items sold as of September 25, 2020

I’ve sold these 11 items so far since I created my online listings.

Here’s a breakdown of what I’ve sold by item type:

  • 3 jackets/coats
  • 2 cardigans
  • 1 top
  • 2 pairs of pants
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • 1 necklace

Interestingly, nine of the eleven items that I sold (82%) were from the brand CAbi, while the other two were AGL (shoes) and Athleta (pants). Out of the thirty pieces that I listed for sale, fourteen were from CAbi (47%). Clearly, I’ve made a lot of mistakes with that brand! The main reason for that is because their return policy is short (30 days) and there are no returns on items purchased at end-of-season sales, which was where many of the fourteen items were bought. So those supposed “deals” that I got weren’t really that great after all!

What I’ve Learned

In the few short weeks since I first listed my closet castoffs for sale online, I’ve already learned some important lessons, which I will encapsulate for you below.

This Isn’t a Quick Process

One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned so far is that items don’t sell all that quickly. When I first listed my pieces, I thought they’d all be gone within a few weeks. Well, that’s not the case, as I still have about two-thirds of my items listed for sale. I think that unless one is willing to sell things for “dirt cheap” prices, it’s necessary to play a “long game” and be patient (that wonderful virtue that I don’t really have!).

Deciding on Pricing is Challenging

Speaking of pricing, this is one of the most challenging aspects of selling things online. It’s hard to know how much people will be willing to pay for things on resale sites. Of course, this can vary widely, as sometimes people are just looking for deals, whereas others may be searching for the “one that got away” and will be willing to pay more in order to obtain it (that has been me a few times).

I mostly set my prices by doing a search of currently listed and recently sold items that were either exact matches or close facsimiles to what I wanted to sell.  That allowed me to see what the going rates were for particular items, but I noticed that there’s often a wide variation in prices. In such instances, I usually erred on the side of choosing lower prices because I wanted my pieces to sell relatively quickly.

“Buy it Now or Best Offer” is the Way to Go

Even with selecting lower prices from the get go, I still ended up lowering my offering prices for almost everything I listed. I also sent offers to those who had added my items to their eBay watchlists, which helped to facilitate a few sales. When I first did my eBay listings, I split them between auctions (which is how eBay got started, as an auction site) and “buy it now.” However, since I didn’t get much traction on the auction listings (only one pair of shoes was sold that way and it was for the opening bid price, which was much lower than I hoped to sell them for), I switched everything over to “buy it now,” with the “or best offer” option. I received a few laughable offers that I didn’t even counter because I knew there wouldn’t be a meeting of the minds, but I was able to negotiate with buyers on a couple of items.

Shipping is a Big “Gotcha”

It’s hard to know how to handle shipping for eBay listings. The default option is to have the buyer pay the shipping based upon where they live and the weight of the item, but high shipping costs can be a deterrent to a lot of people. As someone who will often “pad” my online retail orders in order to avoid paying for shipping, I understand potential buyers’ reluctance to have to add additional costs to their eBay purchases. On the other hand, though, if the seller opts to offer free or low-cost shipping, that can really cut into profits, especially if the item is heavy and the buyer lives on the other side of the country.

I’m still not sure about “best practices” for shipping. I think that if I had a better sense of what shipping actually costs and/or knowledge on how to ship things in the most cost-effective manner, I would better be able to handle this tricky aspect of online sales. Because I didn’t know what to do, I left eBay’s default shipping option in place, but I fear that this may contribute to my items not being sold. If I consider “the Golden Rule” of treating others how I would like to be treated, a lower shipping cost is better, but will require either raising the listing price of items or being willing to accept lower proceeds for sales.

And Then There’s Poshmark…

One reader who has a lot of experience in selling clothing and related items online suggested that I list my items on Poshmark. She said that because what I’m selling is a “cohesive collection” in terms of brands and sizing, I would likely have better luck there. I decided to give it a try, so I took the time this past week to list my remaining items on Poshmark. I opted to also leave them listed on eBay since I took so much time to create those listings and I wasn’t sure which site would work better. I figured that since I’m home and near my computer or phone most of the time, it would be easy for me to remove an item listing from one site if it sold on the other one.

What I found was that it’s much easier to create a Poshmark listing than one on eBay, as there’s not as much information that must be filled out there. Of course, it’s helpful to include more details, as that can help with sales, but there aren’t many boxes to check off before an item can go live (I’ve typically found that most Poshmark listings don’t include much information at all, which can be a blessing for the seller but not so much for potential buyers).

Poshmark takes 20% of the proceeds of all sales, but as you’re creating your listing, the site reveals how much you will make on the sale so you can adjust accordingly to an amount you’re comfortable with. Additionally, there’s no decision to make regarding shipping, as everything that’s sold on Poshmark (with the exception of very heavy items) is shipped at a flat rate of $7.11. When an item is sold, Poshmark emails the seller a shipping label that works for any packaging that weighs five pounds or less.

One issue that I had with the Poshmark listings was that all images need to be square. Many of my images were more rectangular, so I had to either retake photos or find a way to make them work given the Poshmark constraints. What I did in most instances was add spacing around my rectangular images, which sometimes necessitated using black bars along the sides of the original image. That wasn’t always all that pretty, but it worked and I didn’t want to spend an inordinate amount of time retaking photos, especially since I had already boxed everything up (but hadn’t sealed the boxes) to make it easy to ship items after they sold.

My Poshmark Results So Far – And a Problem

Since I listed my remaining items on Poshmark, two of them sold. Well, actually I made three sales there, but I had a bit of a problem… On Wednesday night, one of my CAbi jackets was purchased on eBay, but when I went to remove the listing for that jacket on Poshmark, I was unable to do so. The reason was that I had an outstanding offer on that piece. Just like on eBay, a seller is able to extend a lower offer to those who show interest in one of their items (for eBay, that means adding an item to one’s “watchlist;” for Poshmark, it means “liking” that item). The offer is in place until it expires, which is 24 hours for Poshmark and 48 hours for eBay.

Although I crossed my fingers and my toes that the jacket wouldn’t sell on Poshmark before I could remove the listing, that unfortunately happened. It wasn’t entirely surprising because “likers” of a listing are reminded of the offer before it expires, which can often propel someone to take advantage of it. Of course, that put me in a bit of a “pickle,” as I only had one jacket and it had been shipped out to the eBay buyer on Thursday before the Poshmark buyer purchased it. I ended up having to cancel the Poshmark sale and write to the buyer on that site, who thankfully was understanding about what had happened. I’m sure it’s not entirely uncommon, but I still felt bad about it and it was stressful for me.

A Decision Made

After my double purchase snafu, I had a decision to make. I realized that it wasn’t practical to keep my items listed on both eBay and Poshmark. Even if I refrained from sending limited offers to prospective buyers (which isn’t ideal, as such offers help to sell listed items), there was still a chance that something might sell in both places and I’d be left with a problem once again. Not only did I not want to upset buyers and stress myself out, I also didn’t want to risk potentially being blacklisted by one of the sites for repeatedly cancelling sales.

I decided to remove my listings from eBay, at least for now (it’s very easy to relist items later if desired), and concentrate only on Poshmark. My reason for this is that the shipping is much easier on Poshmark and I also trust the advice given to me by my reader who is an experienced online seller. One downside of Poshmark is that it takes longer to get the money for sales (buyers don’t pay until they receive the items, whereas eBay buyers pay before shipment), but I’m not in a huge rush to receive the funds.

Poshmark sellers can opt to use their proceeds to buy things on the site (which can be dangerous for shopaholics), or they may request a check or direct deposit to their bank account. The choice can be made at any time for whatever balance is available. I plan to always select direct deposit, as this will make accounting much simpler (and there isn’t a discount for buying things with Poshmark credit anyway). I also haven’t had the best of luck with buying on resale sites for reasons that I mentioned in my last post.

This whole process is taking much longer than I thought, but I’ve learned a lot along the way and hopefully my sharing my experience will help some of you if you decide to venture into selling wardrobe pieces on resale sites. If my Poshmark sales go well, I may list some additional items that I’ve been considering getting rid of, but I’m going to just stick with my current listings for now.

Resale Tips from Readers

If you read the comments on my last post, you saw some excellent tips from readers on how to best negotiate selling wardrobe items on eBay or other resale sites. But since I know that not everyone wades into the comments section, I thought it would be helpful to consolidate reader tips here. Many thanks to all those who contributed their words of wisdom on this matter!

Listing Tips:

  1. List clothing measurements for the items you sell. For a dress, for example, measure length, bust, waist, and hips.
  2. In the description, include features of the item, such as a deep V-neck, sheerness, or a hidden back zipper or lining.
  3. Provide information on item condition, as well as the original item price if you know it.
  4. Take both front and back photos of the item and also photograph the size and brand tag(s), care tag, and materials composition listing. If the item is patterned, it can also be helpful to include a close-up photograph of the pattern.
  5. Some buyers primarily look at the text of a listing and others mostly look at photos, so make sure to include as many details and photos as possible.
  6. Only use your own photos and words, as this adds credibility. Many sellers copy entire listings, including photos, but this is not a good practice.

Pricing and Shipping Tips:

  1. People want a deal. Even “new with tags” items should generally be listed at half of the original price or lower.
  2. Some brands retain their value better than others and can sell for higher prices. Some examples include Anthropologie, Lilly Pulitzer, and Eileen Fisher.
  3. One reader mentioned that she sells her designer pieces through eBay and the RealReal and sends her mid-level items (from brands like Talbots, White House Black Market, Chico’s, and J.Crew) to thredUp.
  4. Selling things on thredUp is very easy (they send you a bag for shipping your items to them and they set the prices), but the proceeds are typically quite low. For this reason, some sellers opt to try listing pieces on eBay or Poshmark first before sending things off to thredUp. This is also a good option now because thredUp is very backed up and sellers won’t have their items listed for a number of weeks.
  5. “Buy it now” is generally preferable over auctions for clothing listings on eBay, although some people successfully use the bidding option.
  6. If your prices are sufficiently low and/or you don’t want to accept less, don’t include the “or best offer” option on eBay.
  7. Buyers don’t like to spend a lot of money on shipping, so if you have the option to set the shipping amount (on eBay, you do, and Poshmark allows you to lower the shipping rate and pay the difference), go for a lower amount like $2.99 to $3.99. Make sure to keep in mind the shipping differential (actual shipping costs are usually much higher) when pricing your items.

Last Words…

Hopefully you’ll find these suggestions as helpful as I did! One other thing to note is that many items purchased on resale sites – even those that are listed as “new with tags” – smell bad because they’re often sourced at thrift stores by professional resellers. Thrift stores usually spray all their items with Febreze or a similar product, and resellers might also do so to try to cover up the thrift store smell. This explains a lot and I was glad to receive an answer to something that has been puzzling me for quite some time!  I’m not sure how much I will purchase on resale sites anymore, as I’m sensitive to fragrances (Febreze is just awful for me). I may just be a periodic seller on such sites and opt to only purchase my clothing new – or at local resale stores when that’s a viable option once again.

I will continue to provide updates on my online clothing sales from time to time, either in standalone posts or at the end of a post on an alternate topic. If you’d like to share more about your online selling – or buying – experience, feel free to do so. If you have more tips to add to the above, those are also welcome. It’s great that we can help each other with either selling or buying online, as it can be a confusing and daunting prospect!

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6 thoughts on “Online Clothing Sales Update – What I’ve Sold and What I’ve Learned

  1. Krissie says:

    So many useful hints and tips on selling, I will definately use your ideas. I have been meaning to sell my 2 mother of the bride dresses for ages now, I have found selling things whatever they are a real pain and that always puts me off doing it. We have a smalll ovenette on sale at the moment and would you believe, not even one offer for it and I am practically giving it away! So when it comes to the dresses which I paid a lot of money for just to wear on that one occassion I hope they go fast. I’m t a bit annoyed with myself for not having done it sooner, as seeing them taking up valuable space in my wardrobe. Once the weather warms up here I will take photos of them and try our selling pages and if they dont ‘t sell then I will try FB market place and reduce the price just to move them along. Thank you for always doing so much research and giving us the benefit of your experiences too Debbie!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad you found the tips helpful, Krissie. There’s definitely a lot to learn about online selling and I still feel like a total novice. It took me forever to list my items, too, as I started talking about doing do late last year! I’ve never tried Facebook Marketplace and don’t know much about it, but it’s another option that might work well, especially for those who are on FB a lot anyway. I wish you the best of luck with selling your ovenette and the two dresses. One of the items I’m selling is a dress that I wore to my brother’s wedding two years ago (that was the only time a wore it). No “bites” on that one yet, but hopefully it will sell.

  2. Sue Barlow says:

    Hi Debbie,

    Another interesting post.

    I have never bought from ebay or poshmark but have purchased a couple of items from Etsy. Etsy is no use to you as a private seller but here in the UK it is way of finding interesting smaller online shops.

    Your previous post on why you were selling or donating items was fascinating and really helpful. Since March I have not bought many items but there is one that is going to the *clothing recycling bin. It is still on the hanger but why don’t I wear it? Too fiddly because it does not fit as well as I thought. Hopefully I will remember and learn from this mistake.

    * In the UK we have clothes/fabric recycling bins outside some supermarkets. Very useful if you don’t live near a charity shop. However the actual clothes may not end up in a charity shop. Often sold on to be processed into something else e.g padding or sold abroad but a portion the money does eventually go to charity.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Etsy seems like a great place for artists to sell things, Sue. I’ve bought a few things on there (including a scarf earlier this year) and I like to support small businesses when I can. Good for you for not buying much this year! As for your one mistake item, it can be hard to know that things will be “fiddly” when we buy them, but if you’re able to discern what the problem was, that will help you to avoid such issues in the future. There are donation bins outside of stores here in the U.S., but I’ve never seen recycling bins for clothing and fabric. I think that’s a great idea, but I know that given “fast fashion,” a lot of donated items don’t find homes because there’s just too much of it. I hope that recycling fabric catches on more here.

  3. Katrina B says:

    It’s a fantastic idea to keep your lessons learned close at hand. I have most of my closet inventory on my phone, to remind me why I don’t need another navy tee shirt for example, but I don’t have photos of the mistakes. I definitely need a constant reminder to stay away from polyester blouses with beautiful prints.

    It seems like you have gained years of experience in these few weeks of selling! It’s really helpful to read about your successes, failures, and ongoing challenges, since so much of it parallels my own selling experience. I had completely forgotten about the times I was double listing craft supplies on Etsy and eBay. Every sale caused huge anxiety as I rushed to remove the listing from the other site! I think your conclusions about double sales are correct, that it is not uncommon (a seller once sent me a refund with a huge apology for the very same reason), but very much to be avoided if at all possible.

    I’m really excited for you that you’ve made $500 so far. Even your purchasing “mistakes” are always very good quality items, and that clearly shows in the photos. Interesting that Cabi is such a strong seller! Are they still a direct sales company? When I was selling my jewelry collection, I found that items from Silpada and Premier, both direct sales companies, sold better than even one-of-a-kind handmade pieces with semi-precious or precious gems. I haven’t come up with any possible reason for this, but something to keep in mind, I guess.

    I’m grateful to you and your readers who provided so much great advice. It never occurred to me to try selling on Poshmark, but armed with this information I will look into selling my shoes there. They are all recognizable brand names and in new condition, so Poshmark might be the better way.

    Congratulations on your selling successes!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I need to keep my closet inventory on my phone, too, Katrina, as I sometimes do buy things that are far too similar to what I already have. Of course, I can usually return such pieces, but it’s far better not to buy them in the first place! Yeah, I’ve definitely learned a lot about online selling in this short time. I think that I don’t really want to do it long-term because it’s a lot of work and does involve some anxiety, but I think it’s good experience for me and I’m happy to have recouped some of my losses for the mistake items.

      Yes, CAbi is still a direct sales company. A friend of mine has a CAbi party every season and she and I have gone to end-of-season sales a few times. I love Silpada jewelry and bought quite a bit of it ten years ago or so. I think that a lot of the direct sales companies develop strong followings for sure. The jury is still out for me in terms of Poshmark vs. eBay. I took the items off of eBay for now, but I may do the reverse if they’re not selling on Poshmark. No “bites” there on any of my pieces since I wrote this post… It’s worth a try with your shoes, as it’s easy to do the listings. I think there’s a lot more to being a successful Poshmark seller, as it’s kind of like a social media site. I’ve been reading more about it over the past few days and I’m not sure I’m willing to put the work into it that it seems to require to be successful there. But if something is high in demand and isn’t overly represented there, it could sell well. Good luck on selling your shoes soon!

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