Thrifting 101: Thrifting For Resale with Beth of {Parsimonia} Secondhand With Style

I thrift to save money. I thrift for fun. I thrift to archive little pieces of fashion history to pass down to my daughter. I thrift for my husband, my children, my friends. I thrift when I'm bored, when I'm happy, when I'm feeling a little blue and need a little pick-me-up. But I do not thrift for resale - not yet, anyway. Despite the exploding popularity of websites, Etsy shops and Ebayers devoted to selling thrifted vintage clothing, accessories and housewares, I've felt intimidated to thrift with the express purpose of resale.

However, in recent weeks I've grown intrigued with the idea of thrifting for resale, so I decided to turn to an experienced vintage store owner for advice. My friend Beth of the blog {Parsimonia} Secondhand With Style has been thrifting for resale for years, and recently launched a new website devoted to selling vintage clothing, accessories and home decor. I asked her to give some advice to my readers intrigued by the idea of thrifting for resale.

Beth Styles 1

1. When did you start thrifting for resale? What made you decide to do so?

It was kind of providential, actually. I was still in Los Angeles, newly married (as in less than a month) and had recently been laid off from my job (as in the day I got back from my honeymoon...I know, right?). I have a degree in journalism and had been working in publishing, but there wasn't much available at that time. I hadn't really planned on being a stay-at-home wife, so I was going a bit stir crazy. Then one night my husband and I were talking and he asked me one question: "If there's something you could do the rest of your life and be happy, what would it be?" My immediate answer was "thrift." It's something I've been doing since I was about 12, and I never tire of it. I especially love vintage items, and had already been accumulating and learning about them for a couple years at that point. So we set aside a small amount of start-up money for me to build up inventory, and eventually I launched an Etsy store, followed by my own site this past November, then hopefully a brick-and-mortar store somewhere in St. Louis in a couple years.

2. What do you look for when considering an item? Do you buy by season, brand, and /or silhouette?

Okay...I'm going to break this answer into a couple sections, and hopefully not ruffle any feathers. :)

First, I feel there are two kinds of resellers: the pragmatic kind who follow the latest trends to a T and only look for those items to resell. They don't really think about their store's "style" or anything, they just see a rise in demand and try to become a supplier. As such, they tend to buy things at higher price (it's a relative since everyone has a different idea of "high," but for me it's above thrift store prices!) and as a result, their stores are usually fairly expensive. Now, I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this philosophy, especially if you're reselling full time. Everyone has to make a living.

The second kind of reseller takes a bit of an opposite approach. They have a vague idea of what's popular right now, but it's not the only thing that drives their inventory. They integrate their own style into things and bring a bit more creativity to the process, staying true to their own style eye and hoping to develop a demand for their curating abilities, in a sense. (Gee, can you tell which one I'm trying to be?) :)

All that said, my first rule of anything I put in my store is if I wouldn't wear it/use it myself, then it doesn't make the cut. I don't really read any fashion/style blogs (except this one!), and I'm the first to admit I can't name more than five high-end designers (if that); instead, I've learned to trust my instincts and what I'm drawn to. For the most part it pays off, although sometimes I look at something a couple weeks after I buy it and say, "What was I thinking?" But it's a learning process. Over time and with more experience, you develop your eye for items and hone your store's style, which I think is the beauty of reselling. In my ideal resale world, each store would have some broad similarities, but shine on their own in the details and really showcase the owner's eye. I love walking into a store where you can tell something about the owner based on the merchandise.

Now, all of that said, there are some practical guidelines I follow. I shop for every season all the time for a couple reasons: 1) If you ship internationally, that means when it's winter here, it's summer somewhere else, and 2) Summer stuff is usually on sale (or priced lower) during the winter, and vice verse, so you'll often see me picking up coats in the summer and sleeveless dresses in the winter.

As far as brands, I don't really pay attention to them and usually don't know I've stumbled across a good one until I'm researching it at home. Sometimes I'll remember that certain brands are selling well (like Pendleton right now), but it doesn't really drive what I decide to buy.

As for silhouettes, I tend to stay away from that skirt/dress length that falls between the knees and ankles because it's not really flattering on anyone. Long sleeves are also challenging because a lot of them take away from an otherwise beautiful dress. A couple times I've bought them anyway and then took the sleeves off at home, but those dresses are usually for me; my sewing skills aren't good enough to alter for resale, but maybe someday! :) Overall, I just try and stay away from anything that looks frumpy and doesn't have any interesting or defined lines.

3. What items sell best in your shop? What doesn't?

For me, dresses sell best, which, as a woman, I can understand. They're an outfit in and of themselves and are fairly simple (and inexpensive) to have altered. The worst is shoes...they're something that's so important to try on. As such, I only pick up ones I think are especially cute.

4. Any items you recommend thrifters avoid when considering resale?

If you don't think you'll have the time or the know-how to clean or fix things, don't get clothing or linens that have stains or tears, because eventually you'll end up with a pile of merchandise that's just sitting there. (I speak from experience here.) Also, if you're reselling vintage, don't just buy something because it is vintage. As someone who also shops at vintage stores, it's so unappealing to see a store stuffed to the brim with anything that's old, especially when you see a lot of styles that are just never

5. How do you decide what to price an item?

Research, research, research. See what similar items are selling for on other online marketplaces, then decide what to price yours based on comparable quality and condition.

6. Any final tips for those thinking about thrifting for resale?

One time I asked a friend of mine who is really good at photography why she didn't try to make a living doing it, and she said it wouldn't be fun anymore, that she wouldn't enjoy it. If thrifting is something you absolutely love to do, will you still love it if it becomes your business? And will you still love it if your business flops? It's important to ask those questions, because passion is what gets you through the monotony.

Have you thought about thrifting for resale? Do you currently thrift for clothing, accessories or home decor and sell it on Etsy, Ebay, your blog, or a stand-alone website? Got any advice you'd like to share? 


2 comments:

  1. I love each of these tips! With thrifting for resale, practice makes perfectly. I'm learning and refining my merch all the time.

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  2. Hi! I just stumbled upon this blog post while doing a google search for "thrifting and reselling". I've bought things here and there through the years and resold them on ebay, but am thinking about doing it more seriously now (I'm a SAHM). I really appreciate these tips! Also, I'm wondering if etsy is the way to go, especially for vintage clothing. I recently sold a vintage cashmere cardigan on ebay for $20 but wonder if I could have gotten more on etsy. No matter what, it's fun. I love thrifting, and if I can make a small profit from doing what I love, then all the better! Plus, sometimes I just can't pass up a find knowing someone else out there can appreciate it even if I can't use/wear it! Here's a blog my DH and I just started to chronicle our thrifted finds: http://thriftedfinds.tumblr.com/

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