This past holiday season, e-commerce sales hit a record high, accounting for 14.6 percent of total retail purchases between Nov. 1 through Christmas Eve; that’s a growth of more than three percent from 2019. Despite my impassioned but disastrously unsuccessful plan to DIY on a budget all gifts to my loved ones, I was one of the millions of Americans who helped nourish this e-commerce growth spurt, managing to not set foot into a single brick-and-mortar store. Armed with my coupon codes and cashback browser extensions, I felt certain that I was saving oodles of money by online shopping only — but as my credit card statements now show, even with discounts, I still spent a lot. To my dismay, I’ve started 2020 off in a fresh dugout of debt.
And so, I will return to where my troubles began: the Internet — though this time not to buy, but to sell. Sites such as eBay, Poshmark, ThredUp and Facebook Marketplace allow just about anybody to vend their goods. Here’s what you need to know to get started, and what has the best chance of selling (and where).
On eBay you can sell everything from books to cars
EBay touts 15 categories, making it the eclectic vendor’s favorite site. Sellers have the choice of opening items to auction, or setting the price with the “Buy It Now” option.
Daniella Flores, creator and author of “I Like To Dabble”, a blog about money tips and side hustles avows “there’s nothing you can’t sell on eBay”, where she’s found fortune “flipping” items, mainly guitars.
“My wife and I make $2,000 to $3,000 in side income from [selling on eBay],” says Flores. “You can sell anything from collector's items, to electronics, to doll clothes and even mason jars and vacuum bags. When you search for the item you want to resell to do pricing research, filter your search on items that already sold. Look at the prices that past items similar or exactly the same as yours sold for and use that as your base price for when you list your items.”
Check out the site and app’s trending list for up to date insights on what’s hot right now. Presently, searches are buzzing around LSU Tigers merch, CorningWare, and “Joker”. If you happen to have a ‘68 Ford Mustang lying around, you might join other vendors listing theirs for upwards of $139k.
“The best items to sell on sites like eBay, are name-brand items and those that are in high demand,” says Melanie Hartmann, owner of Creo Home Solutions. “If you are just starting out with no prior experience or reviews/credibility to your eBay or similar account, you may not obtain as high of a price for high-ticket items as someone with an established account; therefore, it may be better to list and sell a few small-ticket items to first build your reputation and trust with potential buyers before listing something more expensive like a video game system.”
EBay tacks on final value fees (percentages vary based on category and selling price) and, if you’re selling upwards of 50 items a month, insertion fees. Read the fine print here.
Poshmark is best for fashion brands and Starbucks tumblers
Poshmark is the ideal selling destination for those vending designer apparel, accessories, and even certain home goods.
Makaela Premont, a lifestyle blogger at Uniquely Mickie, has been selling on Poshmark for nearly five years, and finds that “well-known or more expensive brands sell the quickest — including Nike, Kate Spade, Michael Kors and Express” sell best.
A spokesperson for Poshmark cites the following brands as most profitable right now, from a seller’s perspective:
- For Women: Louis Vuitton bags, Adidas sneakers, Madewell jeans
- For Men: NFL jerseys, Ray-Ban sunglasses, Jordan sneakers
- For Home: Starbucks tumblers, Anthropologie bedding, Pottery Barn decor
“There are three simple steps to start selling on Poshmark: take a picture of the clothing item, insert relevant details and price, and share with the community — the more you share, the more you sell,” says Kate Franco, VP, customer engagement at Poshmark who recommends new users check out the app’s getting started guide and an overview of its community guidelines here.
“Poshmark is a peer-to-peer marketplace, so everything purchased on the app comes directly from one of Poshmark’s 40 million community members,” Franco adds. “Once an item sells, Poshmark sends the seller a pre-paid priority shipping label through PoshPost. When a sale is made, Poshmark deducts a fee from the listing price. For sales under $15, the fee is a single flat rate of $2.95 and sellers keep the rest. For sales of $15 or more, the fee is 20 percent of the listing price and sellers keep 80 percent.”
Check out the full seller fee policy here.
Got bags of clothes and shoes? Let ThredUp sort it out
If you’ve got clothes, shoes and/or accessories to sell but don’t want to be involved in the process, consider ThredUp, which "is designed for the busiest consumers who want a one-stop-shop. Sell any brand — from GAP to Gucci — without leaving the house, taking photos or managing the transaction,” saysKaren Clark, VP of communications & partnerships at ThredUp.
ThredUp determines the value of your items, takes the photos and pens descriptions. The company also sends you a “Clean Out Kit” with a prepaid shipping label. Make sure your clothes are clean and in great condition. ThredUp’s style experts triple-check for quality and authenticity.
“ThredUp’s 2019 Resale Report revealed the brands with the best resale value,” says Sam Blumenthal, ThredUp spokesperson. “These brands tend to produce high-quality garments that stand the test of time and get better with wear such as Frye and Patagonia. [Our] Seller’s Guide also lists 100+ brands that could earn you a 15 percent higher payout based on data that shows these items are selling fast..”
Blumenthal points prospective sellers to ThredUp’s Payout Estimator for a general reference on what to expect. “You’ll find that as items increase in original retail price and listing price, the payout percentage increases. The payout on a pair of Old Navy jeans might only be five percent of the list price versus a Gucci handbag that might payout closer to 80 percent of the list price. You can opt for cash or ThredUp credit and there is no difference in value.”
Sellers also have the option to “order a donation bag”— a great way to support a charity if you’re tight on funds. “In lieu of a payout, ThredUp will donate $5 to the charity of your choice, and you receive a tax receipt. In 2019 alone we donated $150K to charities including Feeding America and Girls Inc.”
Note: ThredUp only accepts women’s and children’s clothing.
For unwanted tech, click on DeCluttr
DeCluttr is a destination to buy and sell technology, and it’s free to use.
“As soon as your items arrive, our expert team will check them over and you’ll get paid the day after by direct deposit, PayPal or check or if you’re feeling generous you can donate to charity,” says Liam Howley, CMO, Decluttr.
Facebook Marketplace for local, social selling
Over at Facebook Marketplace, you can vend items based on your location. This is ideal for selling larger items like furniture and car parts without having to fuss over shipping — and spreading the word to your social media community.
“Facebook Marketplace does a good job of tracking statistics for your listing. You can see how many views your listing has received and compare it against the number of inquiries you get,” says Kait Schulhof, author of “A Clean Bee” blog. “That information will help you determine when to adjust pricing, photos or keywords to better set up your listing for success.”
Like Craigslist (which vendors should use with caution given past scams), Facebook Marketplace is free to use and users negotiate how they want to pay; unlike Craigslist, it touts the benefit of being able to sell to/buy from people in your social network. The service shows the location of users, along with their public Facebook profiles. Do some homework on the buyer to make sure they’re legit, and never invite them over if you’re home alone.
5Miles: Nextdoor meets Craigslist
Free and with no transaction fees, 5Miles, an app for local selling and buying, is another option for selling stuff locally.
“One common mistake is overpricing an item that you’re trying to resell,” says Lucas Lu of 5miles. “Do a little research online to gauge the average sale price of an item. Also, even though an item may be brand new—i.e. unopened, never used—you're still selling it secondhand, so consider discounting the price vs. retail. This will help your listing be more competitive in attracting buyer interest, and you're more likely to sell your unwanted item faster.”
7 quick tips for a better sale
If you’re using a platform that requires you to upload details on an item and ship yourself, remember these tips:
1. You need a camera (your smartphone should be fine)
A picture is worth a thousand words, or however much you’re trying to get for an item. You don’t need to be a master photographer, but you do need to put some care into producing clear photographs that accurately relay colors, form and other key details.
“I like to use a solid background and natural light to photograph my images,” says Amy Mings, a lifestyle blogger at “Maison de Mings” who sells on Facebook Marketplace.
Shannon Welch, a Texas-based Poshmark Seller Stylist, uses an iPhone to document all her goods, finding that she has the most success “modeling items to show the fit and flow.” For this she uses a bluetooth remote and phone stand.
2. Take measurements
Taking measurements is imperative if you’re trying to sell something high-end like a wedding dress or designer blouse. You’ll want to relay the bust, length and shoulder width. If you’re selling jewelry or other small objects, include measurements, but also place it next to a quarter or dime in at least one photo for perspective.
3. Describe in vivid detail
“The more info you can provide, such as year, style, material, type of material (i.e walnut vs. wood), model number [the better],” says Al Scobell, COO at Caring Transitions, a company specializing in senior relocating. “We like to say, ‘Write descriptions as if there are no pictures and take pictures as if there are no written descriptions.”
4. Disclose even the smallest flaws
If there’s any kind of flaw (this can be as seemingly insignificant as a tough zipper or a mark on the interior), disclose and photograph that detail. Note that you’ve reflected this flaw in your pricing.
5. Use those search engine keywords
“You have to use the right keywords in your listings if you want people to be able to find it in their searches,” says John Linden, an interior and furniture designer selling on eBay and Poshmark. “When someone searches for a ‘Supreme sweatshirt,’ for example, you need to make sure that your listing shows up in the results, otherwise, no one will ever find it. Be sure to [in this example,] include terms like ‘Supreme’ and ‘black sweatshirt’, but also broad phrases like ‘skater’, ‘athletic’ and ‘high-fashion’. That way, you'll capture not only the people who are seeking Supreme gear specifically, but also those who are looking for clothes that fall under a certain aesthetic.”
6. Pack your item robustly and with some love
Ship your package to the buyer as if it must survive a great USPS catastrophe and make it look pretty by wrapping in tissue paper. The trick is to give people the sense of opening a gift. A personalized “Thank You” note is also a nice touch.
7. Provide a discount to return customers
“To keep sales coming in, practice exceptional customer service by always striving to keep customers satisfied with their orders, and offering them a returning customer discount,” says Welch. “I would say that returning customers make up around 40 percent of my business, so this is key.”
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