We all know to avoid the fast fashion habitrail of buying a five-dollar t-shirt because it was on sale, only to have it sit at the back of your closet for decades. And now that so many people are jumping on the Konmari bandwagon—finding joy, everyone?—there’s a lot of closet clean out going on. But what do you do with those clothes you’ve rejected? People, listen up: Here’s how to sell used clothes.
Now that so many people are jumping on the Konmari bandwagon, there’s a lot of closet clean out going on. Here’s how to sell used clothes. Perhaps it’s my skewed perspective from doing the Shop Drop Challenge for the past three years, but recycled fashion seems to be growing in popularity. I’m thrilled about this for two reasons. First, because buying new clothes comes with significant environmental and social impact. And second, because as a devout #preloved buyer—thrifting and swapping pretty much exclusively for the past few years—I need your old clothes for my new (to me) fashion fix. Here’s the best way to sell used clothes.
So. Your closet is clean and your trunk is full of bags of clothes to sell. Sorry, but now’s the time to haul them back inside. Before you sell, you need to pull everything out and make sure:
- All items are clean and well-kept—no missing buttons or frayed hems.
- Everything smells fresh and—this is important—nothing smells overwhelmingly of perfume or laundry fragrance from heavily scented fabric softeners or dryer sheets. (You’re not still using those, are you?)
- Clothes are folded neatly, with labels out.
- Accessories aren’t cracked or broken and are separated from clothing.
- Bags are sorted seasonally—i.e. winter sweaters in a different bag from summer skirts.
What’s it all about?
In order to know how to sell used clothes, you need to understand the different places you can take them:
- Consignment stores will take your goods, but won’t pay you until they sell.
- Thrift stores will pay you up front for the clothes they want to sell in their store.
- Combination consignment/thrift stores, like my beloved The Closet in Santa Monica, lets the buyer assess the clothes to determine whether to buy them on consignment or up front.
Try to sell used clothes at stores where you would actually shop. Why? Once you’ve gone through the process of selling, you get more money in store credit than you do from taking cash from the transaction. It depends on the store, but you’ll usually get at least 10% more if you take store credit. This can go a long way at a consignment store, where items can be tagged at as much as 90% off retail.
When you sell used clothes, what you get is determined by what price the store will list the item for. Often, it’s a 40% split if you take credit, and 30% if you choose cash. So, for example, if you sold a shirt that the store would retail for $10, you would have $4 to spend in store credit—but only $3 if you choose cash in hand. Remember, true consignment stores further complicate matters: You don’t get paid until the item sells.
Identify your targets
Consignment and thrift stores vary tremendously. Some, like Moss in Austin, are ridiculously high-end, where you can score a black quilted weekend bag from CHANEL for a mere $3,295. (Follow their Instagram @MossAustin for a seriously drool-worthy feed.) At others, like the treasure trove that is the National Council of Jewish Women Thrift Shop in West Los Angeles, you can find an Anthropologie brand top for $5—and if you haggle you can probably get it for $3.
Find out which stores in your area buy clothes and rank them in order of preference, listing the high-end store first. Then make a few calls or visits to determine policies:
- What are their buying hours?
- Do you need an appointment to sell your clothes?
- Does the store purchase the clothes up front or only on consignment?
- What season are they buying for?
Sell, baby, sell
The moment of truth: Sell day! Once you’re in the store, follow the steps for your clothes to be assessed. Usually there’s a wait—at popular boutiques, it can be as much as an hour. If you can leave your bags while you wait, take a few minutes to shop—you’ll show the buyer that you’re not just there to sell, but could make the store some money as well.
And here’s the thing about buyers—they’re human, like everybody else. You’ll have a better response if you make a good impression. So dress for the occasion, especially if you’re hitting a high-end boutique. Being polite and well-dressed may tip the balance towards the store taking your J. Crew flats, despite those scuffs on the side.
Keep your cool
For some reason, people are often stressed out by the experience of trying to sell. Often they feel judged when their clothes are rejected. Remember, the buyer is probably following criteria that you’re unaware of. Maybe they already have too many J. Crew flats in inventory, even if you don’t see them yet on the floor.
Try, try again
The first store only took one of your 25 items? Don’t worry about it. Pack the rest neatly back into your bags and hit the next location. Or sell to an online consignment store like thredUP—shipping out is free, but make sure to choose to pay for return shipping if you want to get your rejected items back.
Once you’ve exhausted all your options, assess the remaining clothes. Were some good items rejected because they’re out of season? Put them away to sell when the weather changes. But please don’t dump them in the trash—there’s too much textile waste there already. Donate the remainder to a local charity thrift shop such as the National Council of Jewish Women Thrift Shop, where the proceeds support a cause you believe in.
Like my closet.
What’s your favorite place to score and sell used clothes? I’m always on the hunt. Please tell me about it, in comments below. Thanks!