How to Start a Used Clothing Business

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Image of cloths on a rack

Insight for The Used Clothing Business

The best part about operating a used clothing business is the relatively low startup costs.

You can easily purchase large, bulk stocks of clothing at online sites, yard sales, thrift stores, and flea markets, and then sift through those collections to find the items that suit your intended customer base.

A traditional thrift store serves a purpose for the local community, offering decent merchandise to those with limited budgets. If you’re going for a trendy, fashionable used clothing, it goes without saying that you’ll want to set up shop in the hip part of town.

Do some research and see if there are any spots available in the parts of town with popular bars or coffee shops, places where a lot of young people hang out

To run a hip style shop, keep an eye on fashion trends and pay attention to what people are wearing, especially what the people who come in to browse are wearing.

Some shoppers love to search for bargains and vintage clothing in second-hand shops. For budget-conscious individuals, buying clothing second-hand may be a necessity. During any type of economy, a second-hand clothing business may do well, but it may really thrive during bad economic times.

If you wish, you can also set up online. This is a great way to start if you have limited funds and would rather not look into securing loans.

To begin this way, you need only the fashion sense requisite to build up an impressive collection of popular items, and plenty of boxes. Prices vary, but domain names can be surprisingly cheap. If you’d rather not set up a website though, you can do just fine by catering to the fashion-loving eBayers of the world.

One big plus of online business is that your market isn’t just the local community, but the entire world. By offering unique and rare clothing and, you can easily build up a strong base of loyal customers.

Skill Set:
  • Retail sales skills
  • Spotting good deals at garage sales, flea markets, etc.
  • Identifying Fashion trends
  • Fashion Design is plus
  • Clothing repair and cleaning
  • A good eye for color coordination
  • Good at matching clothing
  • List of Common Business Skills
Employee & Job Consideration During The Start-Up Phase Or In The Future

Common staff positions needed to run some businesses

Approximate Daily Hours Needed:

If your online, it can be a 24/7 operation. Brick and mortar outlets generally have retail store hours. Flea markets and other used clothing sale outlets are typically open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Equipment, Supplies, & Services During Start-up OR In The Future:
Monthly Expenses and Operating Costs To Consider:

See our list of common business expenses

Licenses:

See Our Page on Licenses and Permits

Approximate Minimum Startup Cost:

If you shop at yard sales and flea markets, the startup costs for merchandise can be as little as a few hundred dollars. Hangers can be purchased at discount stores. A label maker can be used for racks, but a fine tip marker and paper tags work well for pricing.

Tips and Considerations:
  • You will find and repair clothing items that are fit for resale. If you have sewing skills, mending torn hems or ripped sleeves won’t take long at all. Your best finds will come from yard sales and thrift stores. Name brand pieces will sell for more than lesser known brands, but all will sell and bring a profit to you.

 

  • Keep an ongoing inventory of what you have so that you know what sizes to look for when you shop for new merchandise. Launder all clothing before hanging it up for final sale. If special washing instructions are needed, include them with the article of clothing.

 

  • Shipping clothing requires appropriate boxes. Buy boxes, tissue paper, and other packing essentials in bulk to get the best deal. Be sure to figure in the cost of shipping when deciding on the final cost of each item you want to sell.

 

  • When orders are placed, include coupons for discounts on future orders. If someone orders a delicate fabric, include a trial size box of cleaning cloths for stain removal or a box of detergent. Orders over a certain amount can receive free items like garment bags, small storage items, or lint brushes.

 

  • Carry a wide selection of clothing which sells well used. For example, children outgrow clothing fast. Some parents may be in the market for second-hand clothing. Maternity clothing is also a good item to carry. Since women only wear the clothes for a short time, they may want to look for alternatives to buying new clothes. Designer items may also be good sellers since their price tag is huge when new. Vintage clothing, which is hard to find elsewhere, maybe a specialty item that sells well in a used clothing shop.

 

  • Look at the condition of the clothing to determine the price. If the clothing looks new, you may be able to price it higher than well-worn merchandise. Also, consider the type and style of clothing for pricing ideas. For example, if the used clothing is a designer name, you may be able to price it higher than other items.

 

  • An owner of a used clothing retail business in a different city may be more than happy to give you a few tips, so long as your businesses are far enough apart that they won’t compete for customers. Some may not be so helpful; you may have to call ten business owners in order to find one who is willing to share their wisdom with you.
Pros and Cons:

The Pros:

  • It can be very lucrative.
  • It is a good business for a slow economy.
  • It offers several niches such as vintage, used wedding, and children’s’ clothing.
  • Sales are relatively simple to make.

The Cons:

  • You may have to do a lot of mending and other sewing repairs.
  • A lot of laundering/cleaning/stain removal.
  • Pricing items can be a chore.
  • Good used clothing can be hard to find in bulk at a good price.
Type of Customers:

Low-income families, and bargain-hunters. This is why you will find the bulk of your customers online (such as eBay) and at flea markets or other venues where bargain-hunters shop.

Resources:

Business Plan:

Clothing Retail Business Plan Sample – Executive Summary | Bplans

Business Plan for a Start-Up Clothing Store | Chron.com

Retail Clothing Business Plan | MoreBusiness.com

Business Articles & Tips:

How to Start a Used Clothing Thrift Store | Chron.com

Things to Consider When Starting a Used Clothing Store | Chron.com

How to Start a Second Hand Store | Secondhand4business.com

Starting a Used Clothing Retail Business | Gaebler.com

Brother and Sister Team Start a Trendy Used Clothing Franchise | Entrepreneur.com

How I Built It: Startup Takes Second Look at Used Clothes | WSJ

Can selling second-hand clothes be profitable? | Toronto Star

How to open a consignment store | Auntie Kate The Resale Expert

How to Start a Thrift Store Business | Mother Earth News

How to Sell Used Clothes Online | Niche Pursuits

Retail Store FIxtures and Racks

Retail Supplies, Store Fixtures Displays | Store Supply

Clothing Racks, Store Fixtures, and Retail Supplies | Discount Shelving.com

Clothing Racks | Retail Racks | Retail Store Fixtures | Allen Display

Display Cases, Fixtures, Retail Supplies | Display Warehouse

Stock Fixtures and Custom Designed Retail Displays & Environments | Grand + Benedicts Store Fixtures

Wholesale Retail Store Fixtures | Specialty Store Services.com

Established Businesses

Plato’s Closet

Gently Used Kids’ Clothing | Once Upon A Child

Buy & Sell Gently Used Clothing, Shoes & More | Clothes Mentor

Used Clothing Franchises

Used Clothing Franchise | Clothes Mentor

Supplies

Used Clothing Wholesalers

Best Used Clothing

Used Clothing Wholesale

Books:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting and Running a Retail Store (Complete Idiot’s Guides (Lifestyle Paperback))

The Everything Guide to Starting and Running a Retail Store: All you need to get started and succeed in your own retail adventure

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting and Running a Thrift Store

So You Want To Own The Store: Secrets to Running a Successful Retail Operation

Associations:

The National Retail Federation