How to Successfully Sell Women's Clothing on eBay

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Introduction

I have been selling women's vintage, high street and designer clothing on eBay for a few years now, and when I began I wrote a guide to help others do the same.  Now that I have a little more experience, I thought I would put together a more up-to-date version including a few tips and tricks that I've learnt along the way, and methods that make buying to sell a profitable and enjoyable way to boost your income. I hope you find it useful and if so please take a moment to give it a 'vote', and have a look at my current listings which can be found here: http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/minervaswardrobe/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_ipg=&_from=

Acquiring Stock

The first place I would advise looking for clothing to sell is your own wardrobe; you very likely have, for example, a dress that you used to love and feel great in, but have worn a few too many times and thus it's lost it's magic and no longer feels special. It may well be in pristine condition and it's likely someone else seeing it for the first time will fall in love with it just as you did.  So rather than hoarding clothes you haven't worn for ages, and probably won't again, cash in!  This frees up space in your wardrobe and is a great starting point for your eBay business, involving no initial financial outlay.  It's also worth asking friends and family to do the same and agree on a fee for selling their unwanted items for them.

Car-boot sales, jumble sales, vintage fairs, yard sales etc are always worth a look- items of clothing can be picked up for next to nothing, and if you get there early you can get some very worth-while buys.

My favourite place to buy stock is charity shops and although it can be a foray of over-zealous bargain hunters and ominous smells, I have made my most successful purchases in the ten that are all very conveniently located in my local town.  

Things to bear in mind when rail-rummaging in charity shops:
  • Don't pay too much- 'you make your money when you buy'. A very true statement in my experience.
  • Look out for sale-rails. You can pick up items for as little as 50p, a risk even the most cautious can allow themselves! 
  • It's worth asking when new stock is put out. Some charity shops restock rails on an as-and-when basis, others have set days where they get rid of items that haven't sold and put out the latest donations. If you go at the right time, you're much more likely to get the best of what's to offer before others cherry-pick the good stuff.
  • I usually go with my gut instinct when choosing things that I think I can sell for a profit,  but sometimes I just can't decide. In this situation I often leave the shop and look on eBay at the sale prices of similar items to see whether or not it's worth going back for!
  • Don't buy things for the sake of it. Some weeks I come home with bags full of wonderful things to sell, other times I come home empty handed. It's not worth selling a load of tat; it doesn't reflect well on your business image and you will likely make no profit. 
  • Thoroughly check the condition of anything you buy to sell on- it's very disappointing to buy something you think will make you a tidy profit, only to get it home and find a tear or missing button etc. Again, selling items that are very worn or damaged doesn't reflect well on your business. Consistency in quality is important.
  • Look out for popular labels: ASOS, TopShop, Laura Ashley, Fat Face, Boden, White Stuff, ZARA, Jack Wills, EAST and H&M are all very sought after, but if the item is in poor condition or the style very out of fashion, it's unlikely the label alone will compensate for that. 
After charity shops, eBay itself is where I buy much of my stock, especially designer garments and accessories- Vivienne Westwood, Isabel Marant, Balmain. Look for listings that are poorly composed with unclear photos, uninformative descriptions and titles lacking in keywords. These types of listings are likely to get fewer views and less interest, meaning you are more likely to pick the item up for a bargain price due to lack of bidding competition. 

Other places online worth checking out include 'items-for-sale' groups on Facebook, and places like Craigslist and Gumtree, as well as wholesale websites. If you are prepared to invest a bit more and are particularly interested in selling vintage, there are numerous websites that sell vintage clothing 'by the kilo' for very reasonable prices, though the postage costs can be extortionate so it may be worth checking that out first, or finding a venue nearby so as to avoid delivery charges altogether. 

Listing Items

The first thing to consider before listing an item is seasonality. Listing a thick, cosy woolly jumper during the UK's one-week-long summer heatwave isn't a great idea. Nor is auctioning a bikini in January. 

The title should include as many keywords as possible, words that buyers are likely to search for. It doesn't particularly matter if the title doesn't make sense grammatically, just that it's as searchable as possible! I always include the brand name (unless it's one no-one will have heard of that people aren't going to be looking for), the size, what the item is, in a few variations that buyers might use instead if relevant (e.g for a jumper I might include synonyms such as 'sweater' and 'pullover'), a few style terms such as 'blogger', 'hipster', 'retro', 'vintage', 'grunge' etc and 'VGC' (very good condition) or BNWT (brand new with tags) when applicable. Don't waste valuable characters with words and phrases like 'gorgeous', 'must see', 'look' and 'great for all occasions' ... how often when it's YOU buying do you enter search terms like that?! Imagine if you were looking for the item you were selling, what keywords would you use? 

I like to make descriptions concise (unlike this guide!) but informative, and usually include the following:
  • Accurate measurements;  sizing varies greatly from brand to brand so this can be useful to buyers, and if you don't include measurements you will likely be asked for them anyway at some point!
  • An honest and detailed assessment of the condition.
  • A list of detailing the garment has that makes it desirable, for example a pretty Broderie Anglaise trim or  decorative embellishments.
  • eBay searches can be set to pick out keywords from listing descriptions as well as the titles, so I try and include as many relevant search terms as possible by describing the styles/genres of fashion the item is pertinent to, e.g hipster, Gothic, preppy, grunge, hippie, indie, rockabilly, vintage, bohemian.
  • The colour, materials and size should all be detailed in the 'item specifics' section, but if the fabric is particularly luxurious or the colour especially lovely, it's worth mentioning again in the description. 
  • Any other information that may make the item more appealing to potential buyers, for example mentioning if the designer or brand is a celebrity favourite or if the garment/a very similar style has been seen on someone famous, what it might look nice with, e.g 'would look fab with a pencil skirt and stilettos',  reasons it's a worthwhile investment and must have item, and anything that makes it special, unique and desirable. 
Photographs are probably the most important part of the listing in my opinion and the biggest deciding factor for potential customers. 
  • Make sure the background is free of clutter or anything distracting. I take my photos against a bright, crisp white wall which I think makes them look more professional and stand out more when scrolling through search results.
  • Using a mannequin makes a huge difference as it helps show the form and fit of an item of clothing. Hanging mannequins can be bought for as little as £5 and are really very effective.
  • I find good, natural lighting works best and shows  colours well. If photos do come out too dark/shadowy/over-exposed/dull, they can be adjusted to better reflect the shade.
  • I use a full-body mannequin (Vivienne!) and like to accessorise to show the creative styling potential of an item. For example I may accessorise a 1920s Gatsby/flapper style dress with a cloche hat or headband, string of pearls  and flower applique, or style a grungy, 90s  vintage sweater or jacket with a fedora and choker.
  • Try and show the item from various angles- as  a potential buyer can't see or feel the item, they will want to see it in as much detail as possible. Photos of the front, back and side-on are a good idea, as well as close ups of any defects or focal points such as embroidery, pockets, patterns or bead work. 
Fixed price vs auction is something I still don't think I've figured out! It's tricky.

With a fixed price listing, you don't run the risk of an item selling for less than you are happy with, can accept 'best offers', and also have the option of the item being available for up to 30 days, whereas an auction can be set to run for a maximum of just ten days. Fees are generally noticeably higher for fixed price listings.  I find auctioned items get a LOT more views, especially when the starting price is very low as many buyers set search results to display items in order of 'lowest to highest' price. Auction listings that start at 99p cost very little in insertion fees, and those that end in a 'bidding war' can reward you a sale price that far exceeds what you would have set as a fixed price for the item. That said, there is still a risk of an item selling for just 99p, a very discouraging outcome. As a general rule, I list items that I know are highly sought after as an auction to avoid high insertion fees, and because I'm confident it will achieve an amount I am happy with. Anything I know is valuable, but to a smaller audience, I list as a buy it now to avoid a disappointing auction result and achieve a fair price. It's also worth looking at past sales of similar items to see in which format they were listed and which was more successful, and keeping an eye out for eBay promotions, which offer a certain amount of fixed price listings free of insertion fees. 

When to list items is another crucial factor. Having a listing end on a Sunday night when people are more likely to be at home and relaxing, on their phones/laptops and readily available to respond to 'item ending soon' reminders from eBay is much better than having them end on a Monday morning when most people are at work/uni etc. Therefore, I schedule my items to start anywhere between 18:30 and 20:30 on a Thursday evening to run for ten days so they end at the same time on a Sunday evening.

Finally, I sell a LOT of clothes abroad and therefore think that opting for international visibility at a charge of 5p per item is 100% worth it. 

Postage

I like to keep things simple with postage and have always used Royal Mail, who I find very reliable. Anything that sells below £20 I send via 2nd class delivery (this is the maximum amount Royal Mail will compensate for without signed for postage should the parcel be lost or damaged), and anything above £20 in value I send via signed for delivery. I always retain proof of postage in case an item goes missing. When setting postage costs remember to consider the cost of packaging materials, time, travel to the post office if applicable, and the fact that eBay somehow deem it justifiable to take a 10% cut of your postage and packaging fee! Anything being sent abroad I strongly recommend is sent via tracked and signed for delivery. 

Building a Customer Base

  • Include a small  free gift such as a lollipop, mini bath-bomb or art card. It will make you stand out and show your appreciation for the business.
  • Post items as soon as possible after payment.
  • Reply to messages and answer queries promptly.
  • Set up a Facebook or other social media page to share relevant content, offers, information, details about items for sale and a link to the items you're selling. Minerva's Wardrobe is on Facebook- /minervaswardrobe - please do take a moment to like the page- the support would be greatly appreciated, but if you're looking for inspiration you won't find it there- I am a bit slack with the updates and the page certainly needs some work!
  • If you plan on selling a lot of items, it might be a good idea to organise them into collections so other eBay users can locate items they're interested in all in one place. 
  • Take the time to leave positive feedback for your buyers.
  • Don't send items that are unclean or don't smell great! Most charity shops do steam clean items, but it's a good idea to wash anything that's a little mucky before posting it.

Finally...

I hope this has been of some use. Selling on eBay is great but it does have its pitfalls, and getting it right can be very tedious and time-consuming. If you want the money without the work, Minerva's Wardrobe is now offering a comprehensive 'selling service' where we will do all the hard work and you get the cash! If you live in the Norfolk area there is NO initial financial outlay for you, as you can simply drop your clothes off at our Beetley, Dereham home. If you live further afield you are welcome to pop 2kg of your items in a 45cm x 35cm x 16cm box and post them to us- this will cost you as little as £2.80! Our service fee is only deducted if and when your items sell, so you have nothing to lose! To find out more about our service, please  get in touch.

http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/minervaswardrobe/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_ipg=&_from=
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