A while back I was working on an article about buying inventory from thrift shops. Thrift shops are one of my favorite places to find used inventory – and I have a system that works really well… as I was writing the article, I came across this article by Melissa Smith – she shares all of the strategies I already use when I go to thrift shops (I especially love shopping with my mom to get a senior discount – saving an extra 40% on everything!!)… so, rather than recreate the wheel – I asked Melissa if I could share her article. Here you go…

Goodwill Hunting: Finding Inventory for Resell at Thrift Stores
Guest Article by Melissa Smith

Ebay Seller melissakbs

I’m Melissa Smith, a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) to my 2-year-old daughter, and wife to my husband Tim. I’ve been eBaying since 1998 and selling kid’s clothes for a year. I sell mostly children’s clothes under the ID “melisskbs” and I get 99% of my inventory from Goodwill’s thrift stores. You can see my auctions for yourself here:

Auctions by “melisskbs”

I used to work for Goodwill Industries in the Job Placement Division, and I am one of their most frequent customers! I’ve sold Baby Lulu, Hanna Andersson, Oilily, Kelly’s Kids, Orient Expressed, Lilly Pulitzer, and untold numbers of Gymboree, all purchased from the GW. Even as a kid, I loved hunting for bargains at the thrift stores.

Here’s how you can find great “treasures” and inventory for your auctions at thrift stores such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, and other charity thrift stores.

Let’s Get Started!

First, go often and find out when new merchandise arrives. At my local GW, a truck comes every day from the main donation center warehouse. Also, the stock is rotated every day among the 16 stores in the district so there is always something new to find.

Stores that are in the better sections of town don’t necessarily have the best stuff since the stock is always changing. Every time my husband and I are out of town, we stop at any Goodwill we see along the way. Mondays are generally good for shopping since people have cleaned out their closets over the weekend.

Know The Sales in Advance

Buy your inventory at the cheapest price possible. Even Goodwill has sales! Every Tuesday at my GW is Senior Citizen’s Day where customers age 55 and over get 25% off. That’s more than my employee discount was!

For our family it’s called “Goodwill Day” and my Dad (who gets the discount) and I load up my daughter and hit the GW. Our GW also has 30% off sales around holidays. Plus every time you donate something, you get a 10% discount coupon. Every GW is different, so ask what discounts and sales are coming up.

Knowledge Is Power!

Before you go, know which brands are great sellers. I am a firm believer in “Knowledge Is Power”. There are SO many resources on the internet to make you a smart shopper!

Ebay has a wonderful Clothing & Accessories Board, and is packed with great information. A separate Children’s Clothing Board is also coming soon.

Another recommended reference page is Packzi’s Page, with a list of good brands for reselling, how to measure, size charts, and much more.

I also belong to some Yahoo Groups for children’s clothing, which were mentioned in the 14th issue of Auction Moms – (also mentioned in the 4th issue of HuntedTreasures for Moms Newsletter).

I subscribe to Auction Moms and also AuctionBytes at www.auctionbytes.com.

If you need a line name, www.gymbohaven.com and www.gymboree-lines.com are excellent resources.

www.lululane.com is a site for Baby Lulu items. There is a Lilly Pulitzer thread of messages on the Clothing Board and also a thread for European brands like Oilily, Catimini, Cakewalk, and others.

Another excellent resource is catalogs.

I get high-end clothing catalogs such as Hanna Andersson, Children’s Wear Digest, Kelly’s Kids, Baby Style, and Lilly Pulitzer. I can see what the retail is and how they describe their clothes and if there is a line name, which comes in handy when writing descriptions for the auction.

I also shop at children’s boutiques and see what brands they carry and what they sell for. Here are the links to sign up for these free catalogs:

Hanna Andersson Catalog

Children’s Wear Digest (CWD Kids)

Kelly’s Kids Catalog

BabyStyle Catalog

Lilly Pulitzer Catalog

The Wooden Soldier Catalog (online)
Call 1-800-375-6002 to order a catalog.

The flip side is knowing which brands aren’t really that great as resellers. They may be popular brands, but there is just so much out there. The name of the game is making the most profit from your inventory and I want to get double or better yet triple what I paid for an item.

Generally, the brands you find at the mall from stores that run good sales don’t resell well unless it is a specialty piece, like a holiday velour dress or a nice sweater. Search completed auctions on eBay for common brands and see what sells good and what does not.

Be PICKY about what you buy.

You want to look at an item and say “Wow! Why did someone give this awesome item away?!” instead of “Eww, I can see why someone gave this away!” Look carefully for stains on the front and back, holes/runs, missing buttons, broken zippers, mixed sizes, missing parts like hoods on coats or diaper covers, and names written in permanent ink. If an item is well worn, faded, pilled, or dated (like very vintage Gymboree), I pass on it even if it is a good brand. If I wouldn’t let my daughter wear it, I don’t buy it for resell.

Buy items that will bring in the most money. I always look at the dresses, pajamas, and coats but don’t spend much time looking through the t-shirts or infant play outfits. Jeans are usually well worn, but I look at the pants and leggings.

Buy Off Season, Sell On Season

Another tip is to buy off-season, sell on-season. I’ve been buying smocked Easter dresses and rompers all year long and now I’m selling them like crazy. The same goes with Halloween costumes and holiday clothes. I buy coats and jackets year round and I put these in my store, Just Jackets and Coats.

Selling children’s clothes is a matter of trial and error. What I have learned during this adventure is:

1. Smaller sizes don’t sell as well as larger sizes. I really have to justify buying an item if the size is under 6 months, unless it’s a specialty item, like a smocked dress or romper or a boutique brand, like a Baby Lulu one piece skirted romper.

2. If an item is stained, chances are you can’t get the stain out and it’s been in the clothes dryer and is permanently set in. You can try to get it out, but know what your store’s return policy is if it doesn’t wash out.

3. Speaking of washing, it is eBay’s policy to have all clothes washed before selling, unless they are new with tags.(Sherah’s note: use your judgement here ~ if you buy it used, check it over. If it smells and looks clean, it probably has already been washed.)

4. Items sell better if you put the measurement for length (almost always), sleeve length, and waist (as needed) in the description.

5. Think twice about buying a piece that needs a matching item to make a set. I have a pair of Gymboree Apple Blossom leggings that I’m still hunting down a matching shirt for.

6. Other items besides children’s clothes sell well. I always buy Brownie/Girl Scout items when I see them. I’ve had good luck with maternity/nursing pajamas, plus-size maternity items, tall sizes in men and women’s clothes, cashmere sweaters, and maternity bathing suits.

7. Some sellers on the Clothing Board have had good luck with nurse’s uniforms/scrubs, dance wear, and plus size clothing. If you want to branch out and sell other items besides kid’s clothes, do your research and go for it!

8. If you see an item you want, buy it! Chances are if you wait until later, it will be gone. Don’t hide things in other racks, someone else will find it and buy it. I’ve found and bought many treasures hidden in the maternity or sleepwear rack!

Some of my best and most profitable finds have been:

~ A Hanna Andersson dress purchased for $.99 and sold for $20.50. That’s almost 21 times what I paid for it!

~ A pair of Hanna Andersson pajamas purchased for $1.87 and sold for $18.49.

~ A Lilly Pulitzer dress purchased for $2.24 and sold within hours as a Buy It Now for $25.

~ Two Orient Expressed smocked sundresses, purchased for $2.25 each and sold within hours as a Buy It Now for $26 each.

~ A Carolina Panthers coat purchased for $4.99 and sold for $43.00. A vintage cashmere coat with mink collar, purchased for $5.99 and sold for $50.

As you become more savvy in shopping at thrift stores, you learn to spot the good brands. I can look at a rack of dresses and pick out the Gymboree or Hanna Andersson ones. My shopping trips are much shorter now since I know what to look for and what to pass on, which is great when I have my 2 year old with me. Happy treasure hunting!

Guest Article by Melissa Smith
Ebay Seller melissakbs