Thrift store reselling is when you purchase items from a thrift store and resell them somewhere else for more than you paid for them. You can resell clothing, shoes, accessories, furniture, home decor, and more. And, it can be an interesting way to make extra money.
When I was younger, I worked in a popular secondhand clothing shop called Plato’s Closet. We mainly sold brand name, young adult clothing. And when I worked there, I met many, many people who would scour our racks looking for items to resell.
I also met many people who purchased items from yard sales and charity shops just to sell to us. Many of these same people also went to garage sales and thrift stores like Goodwill in order to find items for thrift store reselling.
I saw a lot of thrift store reselling going on. Some people did it for a full-time income, and other people did it as a way to make money on the side.
And, some did it because they loved finding treasure and going on a hunt.
Sometimes people would score big, and other times they would make only make just a few dollars.
I worked at Plato’s Closet for many years, starting as a sales associate and eventually becoming a manager, and not a day went by when I didn’t see someone doing thrift store flipping.
One of the things I loved about working in a resale shop is that I love a good deal, and it made me really happy to see so many other people saving money on clothes. We saw lots of high-quality clothing and brand name accessories coming in and being sold for a fraction of the price you would see at a traditional retail store.
After so many years of working in a secondhand shop, it’s still hard for me to pay full price for clothing because I know you can probably find nearly the exact same item somewhere else for much cheaper.
But, buying secondhand doesn’t just save you a ton of money, it prevents waste and reduces the amount of things that pile up in landfills.
I think we are all aware that we are throwing things into landfills at alarming rates, and shopping secondhand can be one of many ways to make a difference. It’s a small step towards reducing the negative impact we have on the environment.
Buying secondhand isn’t just good for your budget, it’s good for the earth.
However, that’s not how some people see shopping at thrift stores, especially if you are purchasing items because you plan on thrift store reselling.
I have been told by people that thrift store reselling is taking items that people with less money could have bought and used.
I’ve also heard that people who shop at thrift stores in order to flip items for a higher profit are “evil.”
Other comments I’ve heard about shopping at thrift stores and thrift store flipping include (these are all direct quotes):
- “Why donate if it’s not going to poor people?”
- “Resellers shouldn’t be allowed in charity stores.”
- “Shopping at thrift stores is for people who can’t afford clothes.”
- “The wealthy shouldn’t be allowed to save money. They should leave it for the less fortunate.”
Personally, I believe that thrift stores and discounts are for anyone to use. Of course, everyone is allowed to have their own opinion, but I would bet that those people don’t really understand the positives of purchasing secondhand or the missions that non-profit secondhand stores have.
For those who disagree with thrift store reselling, I would say this – if it somehow encourages more people to buy used instead of new, we are reducing the amount of stuff that ends up in landfills.
If you want to learn more about thrift store reselling and flipping items for profit, I recommend reading these posts:
- How to Make Extra Money with a Flea Market Booth
- How Melissa Made $40,000 In One Year Flipping Items
- How We’ve Turned A Free Chair Into $103,000
- 7 Items You Should And Shouldn’t Buy Used
- How To Work From Home Selling On Amazon FBA
- How To Sell Your Stuff
Here is why I believe thrift store reselling helps everyone.
Thrift store reselling helps the environment.
When resellers come in and comb through the racks at thrift stores, they are finding new homes for the items.
Thrift stores usually have an overwhelming number of things and are usually bursting at the seams. It’s not like you are going to buy 100% of the items in the store – they usually have TOO MANY items to sell. Sometimes thrift stores have so many items that they can’t take any more donations until they sell more of what they have. Stores like Goodwill go to great lengths to keep things from going to the landfill, like selling items by the pound in outlets or sending clothes to textile recyclers.
Still, there are lots of items that end up in landfills.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there were 16 million tons of textile waste produced in 2015, and 85% of it went to landfills. The main source of this waste is clothing, with 11.9 million tons of clothing and footwear waste in 2015.
And, according to the Huffington Post, Americans, on average, throw away 81 pounds of clothing each year.
According to Down To Earth Materials, the estimated decomposition time for clothing and other items are:
- Leather shoes: 25-40 years
- Nylon clothes: 30-40 years
- Cotton: 1-5 months
- Tin cans: around 50 years
- Plastic bottles: 70-450 years
As you can see, the clothing we wear and other household items we use can have a big environmental impact. By purchasing secondhand clothing, even if you are reselling thrift store items, you are helping to reduce the amount of waste we put in to landfills and help the environment well into the future.
With more people shopping at thrift stores and purchasing secondhand clothing from resellers, there are even more items that are getting a second “life” and even fewer items ending up in landfills.
Can you just imagine how crazy landfills would be if resellers weren’t allowed to shop at thrift stores? There would be so much more waste that existed!
There’s just SO MUCH STUFF.
For the most part, buying a t-shirt at Goodwill or Salvation Army to resell it isn’t going to negatively impact anyone – thrift stores have plenty of everything. In some places, they are actually turning away donations because they have TOO MUCH STUFF.
When we donated about 99% of our belongings to move into the RV, we took a lot of our things to thrift stores. Surprisingly, a lot of our belongings were rejected because they had too much stuff or too many of a specific item. We actually had to hunt for places that would take some of our stuff.
Most of the things that are sold for thrift store reselling aren’t going to be life or death for anyone – it’s just stuff and there is a lot of it. There are always going to be more shoes, clothes, and household items.
If you go to thrift stores enough, especially the same ones over and over again, you’ll find that there is always new stuff on the racks. Most Americans love buying new things, they do it every season, and that means thrift stores are constantly getting gently used items.
There is plenty for everyone and thrift stores won’t be running out of basic household items and clothing anytime soon.
So, the belief that “resellers are taking away items from the less fortunate” is not realistic – there’s plenty of stuff for everyone. Like I said, thrift stores are bursting with so much stuff that they are turning donations away!
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It’s all about the thrift store’s mission.
Thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army exist so that they can make money and put that money towards the charities they support.
So, having more people shopping at these thrift stores can help further their mission of helping the community.
For example, with the money Goodwill makes through selling items at its stores and through donations they were able to help more than 242,000 people receive valuable job training in 2018. Goodwill also helped them with transportation, child care, and English language learning.
It’s possible that if you took away some of their customer base, they may not have been able to help as many people. They even state on their website:
“When you donate your new and gently used items to Goodwill®, we sell them in our stores or on our online auction site and use the revenue generated to fund valuable employment training and job placement services for people in your community.”
For many non-profit thrift stores, their mission isn’t to solely sell clothes at low prices. Instead, their mission is to further improve the community and the people in it. To do that, they need funds, and they raise funds by selling donated items.
So, the more people who shop at these stores (including people who are thrift store reselling), the more money they have to further their mission.
How to start thrift store reselling.
If you think you’d like to start reselling thrift store items as a way to earn more money, here are some tips to help you get started.
Pay attention to trends and brands.
You can follow fashion blogs or influencers to learn what trends and brands are currently popular. Right now, vintage finds and clothes from the 90’s are pretty popular. Also, high-quality outdoor clothing brands always seem to sell well.
Carefully look over each item before purchasing.
When I worked at Plato’s Closet, I learned how to carefully inspect clothing before we bought it from sellers. We looked for rips, torn seams, stains, frayed edges, worn spots, etc. While I mainly did that for clothing and shoes, paying attention to the wear and tear of furniture or other resale items is just as important.
Even though people know they are buying used, they still want it to look decent. Examining your finds is important whether you are Goodwill reselling, finding things at other secondhand shops, purchasing from garage sales, etc.
Here are some tips for looking over items to resell:
- Shirts and tops: Check for armpit and collar stains, missing buttons, and frayed or stained cuffs.
- Jeans and pants: Look for worn spots near the back pockets and near the crotch, check to see that pockets don’t have holes, and look for frayed cuffs.
- Shoes: Examine the soles, laces, and inside of the shoe.
- Furniture: Look at the legs of chairs and tables for scratches, see if things wobble, check wood items for water stains and knicks, and look over cloth items for stains or odors.
Be honest when listing your items.
Items in excellent condition will usually sell the best, but as long as you are honest in your listings you may be able to sell things that look a little more used. And, being honest can help your ratings on apps and other online seller platforms.
For example, if you are selling thrift store items on eBay, you should mention any issues and show a photo of each of them. A potential buyer can decide if the price is worth buying the item, potentially fixing the issue or just living with it.
Apps that make it even easier to resell thrift store items.
There are lots of apps that make thrift store reselling easy, so here are some popular apps to sell on:
- Facebook Marketplace
- Charish (furniture and home decor only)
- Instagram (people with large following often sell in IG Stories)
What do you think? Do you think that thrift stores shouldn’t be used for thrift store reselling?
This is an interesting topic. For a long time I believed thrift stores were for lower income people and that to shop there (being middle-class) we might be affecting those who may need something I afford to pay a premium for. But, I’ve since changed that stance and agree with you – they are for any / everyone. There’s plenty of stuff coming through these places and they are making decent $ too. There is plenty of stuff to go around and I wish more folks would choose to reuse vs buy new.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
They all just have so much stuff. It is crazy!
I love this article! I just recently started reselling online and have made over 20 sales in 2 months as a side hustle. Goodwill Outlets are fantastic to find stuff at. I paid 64 cents for 2 Lululemon tops and within a week sold them for $50!
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
Wow, great job!
I have been thrifting since a teenager as my single mother on welfare couldn’t afford a lot of stuff teenage trends were wanting. In the 90’s like Tommy & Lucky jeans. Gap tops etc etc etc. I could take my tiny check as a teenager and still get some name brand stuff and then just ask a grandparent for other stuff for Christmas.
Now that thrift store digging for gold love I developed lasted into 20’s. I fell out of doing it routinely and fell into the trend of buying new and cheap. Three years ago I got back into thriftinf. Two years ago we started selling on Let Go, Offer Up and FB Market place. Now, considering a Poshmark store. All things sold are either from our house or thrifting. I go thrifting for us but may resell once done. I do resell things we fix up from free finds.
Anyways that was my long way Of saying been Thrifting as a neccessary thing and then just because it is cheaper and less wasteful as I try to live sustainable. People need to chill and like you said customers buying helps move stock, lower waste AND help with their missions. Win win win!
Jess @ The Exceptionally Ordinary Life says
I couldn’t agree with your more. Shopping second hand saves my family tons of money, plus I hate to be wasteful with anything. My older kids love Plato’s Closet, and I shop for my youngest at Denim & Frills (local to me), which has the same quality/brand names concept as PC. I love thrift store shopping!
Not sure if this is the case everywhere, but my local Target store donates their leftover, new stuff to Goodwill, so I have found crazy cheap deals on all kinds of things like wall decor items, clothes, and even an inflatable raft! I am an eBay seller, and on occasion I will buy grab bags from the Goodwill (bags that have tons of random items like socks, underwear, dresses, etc. usually new with tags) for $6.99 and re-sell whatever doesn’t fit anyone in my family. I have actually made the $6.99 investment from just one item from the bag.
As for our donations, I take all the gently used, or good condition to a local place called The Giving Closet, where people can shop for what they need for free. It’s an amazing mission and run by volunteers, so nobody is getting rich. The only reason I don’t donate to Goodwill is that their CEO makes a killer salary, and I to me that it’s slightly off putting for a charity-oriented company.
The only issue I have is with people who go to places where they get stuff for free, pretending to be in need, and then turning around and reselling it. I know people who do this and I think it’s lousy.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
The last one is definitely wrong!
I agree! I don’t donate there when see how much the get with their bins everywhere and the junk they leave outside of it and then found out that salary and thought…”non profit my tush!” Haha.
I love donating to women’s shelters. These women leave 95% of their stuff behind and need everything. Also, Veteran programs in my city help reestablish homes and they need everything too.
I wish I kept so many on my clothes from the 90’s, I’m seeing now that they sell well yet I donated them back when. Who knew as you lived that era that anyone would be interested in the fashion you wore.
Thank you for this very informative article. I never thought of selling my stuff. As I was reading I was envisioning my closet and wondering what could I possibly sell. There’s a few things I could possibly sell – some really nice purses I received as gifts yet I’m not a purse girl, some furniture from my divorce and some clothes I bought after said divorce when I was, well, lighter. LOL. I’m sure there’s more.
I’m looking to move and downsize more in the next month and this post was super helpful!
This was such an interesting read. I’ve always tried to be more environmentally conscious and shop secondhand whenever I can. It’s definitely interesting to see how prices differ from online resell sites like depop and poshmark compared to brick and mortar thrift stores, but it’s a smart way to get more people into shopping secondhand.
I think it’s good.
Fru-gal Lisa says
Several years ago, someone wrote to Dear Abby complaining that her neighbor went to the Salvation Army thrift store, bought cute children’s clothing and resold them online, making a bunch of money. Abby asked the head official at the Salvation Army his opinion. He said he thought it was OK. He said they sold items to make money for their mission and anyone could buy the items. So if the head of Salv. Army says it’s OK, I guess we shouldn’t feel guilty. BTW, it would be a really good thing to support Salv. Army right now, as they are no doubt gearing up for hurricane season and helping those affected by the big storms.
Dorcas Wood says
Thrift shopping has been such a huge God send to me during different points in my life. During college I’d shop at our local Goodwill for clothes and no one knew my brand new clothes were from there. As a an IT professional working from my Florida home for the past 9 years, I’d drop into our local Goodwill and buy sweaters or coats if I was traveling to a colder climate for work- never needing to pay full price for clothes I’d only wear 1x per year.
I’ve definitely thought about thrift flipping but due to the labor intensive nature of it, still keep gravitating towards passive income. Don’t get me wrong, my whole house is full of beautiful thrift home decor treasure and I’ve very happy the pretty pennies I’ve saved. 🙂
Jason Butler says
Only weirdo’s would think reselling items from a thrift store is wrong or bad. They are probably the same folks that are easily outraged, but seriously there’s nothing wrong with it. I love going to the thrift stores every Saturday looking for items to flip.
Thrifty Tribe says
You’re right on the money! And, it’s not enough to be on top of popular brands and trends – you really have to know what specific styles are selling to get the most bang for your buck, and your time. Madewell is a really popular brand, but that doesn’t mean all of their jean styles are going to resell well! Thrift flipping is hard work but DEFINITELY rewarding.
I buy and resell. Several points to be made, some reiterating what you’ve said.
1) There is NO shortage of clothing in thrift stores. It would literally take me all day to go through all clothes in a Savers and in some Goodwills.
2) If you’ve been to a Goodwill Outlet…. that’s all the clothes they pull from Goodwill racks and give them one last chance before going wherever the go then.. trash heap, Mexico, I don’t know. People stay in these places ALL DAY because new bins are constantly coming out. Where I am, they load up their vehicles and take them to Mexico to sell.
3) Some of the clothing in Goodwill Outlet never even made it to a Goodwill store because they have so much stuff. The staff told me that personally.
4) The sales from clothing at Goodwill help people get jobs. They don’t say “shop here if you’re poor”, they say the profits help them help others.
5) Goodwill is doing the same model… they are RESELLING items they got for … FREE!
6) Poor people CANNOT afford clothing at many Goodwills I’ve been to, and more and more, Savers, too. My goodness, a Tommy Bahama or Ralph Lauren shirt is usually $10!! You can get cheaper clothing, new, at WalMart, etc. (The smaller thrift stores aren’t always like this… usually around here $1 or $2 for most clothing items.)
7) When a store or a person sells you something, or even gives you something, it is now YOURS to do what you want with.
8) Without resellers, Goodwill and Savers would make a lot less money (and if they lowered their dang prices, they’d make even more! I pass up so much stuff now because they are overpricing).
9) I’ve sold big lots of stuff I decided not to sell… too much trouble, moving, etc …. and in my listing it in bulk on Craigslist, I state that it’s good for resale, so they know they don’t have to tell me some kind of story about how they’d just LOVE to have 15 banker boxes of craft books, lol.
More power to those who shop and resell. They are working for a living! The are entrepreneurs, not caught up in the rat race! And you know what, “poor people” who can’t afford new clothing, they can buy cheap and resell for their own income, too!
I won’t donate anymore, after finding out that people are putting clothing on postmark for more money. The idea was that people who could not afford expensive prices could cloth their family. Now it’s become a business to make money. I’ll throw my old clothes in the garbage now. It’s certainly making a profit off of f people that thought we were helping out others. Not the same now. Money off poor peoples backs. Not getting my donations anymore.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
Did you read the blog post?