I love thrifting, but I don’t want my house to look like a thrift store! Two years ago, I decided to start re-selling my thrift finds in order to still be able to shop and also make a little money off of this hobby. Last year, I actually made more of a profit off of my Etsy shop than I did off of this blog, so it seems to be going pretty well. I get a lot of questions about how to resell vintage decor, so I thought that this would be a great blog topic!
How to Resell Vintage Decor
Where do you get inventory?
The majority of my vintage inventory I get at my local thrift store. I shop once a week and find something decent about every other time. I used to buy some bulk lots of items (like brass candlesticks) on eBay and break them up to sell in smaller sets in my shop. This is a great, easy way to build up your inventory, but you have to be very smart with your shopping and pay very close attention to your margins and the price that you pay. I’ll talk about that under pricing below, but it has to be a really good deal (and usually a really large lot) to make it worth your time.
Where do you resell vintage decor?
Etsy: Etsy is a huge site for selling handmade and vintage items. That is great because it means that there are tons of eyeballs to grab, but it also means that there is a ton of competition. It can be very easy for your shop to get lost on Etsy. It is very important to use SEO keywords in your Etsy item titles and tags to try to grab search traffic.
Fees: 20 cents per listing (at time of listing) + 3.5% of transaction pre-shipping
Chairish: Chairish is a smaller, more curated shop for vintage home decor. A lot of the items on Chairish are very high end and very expensive. Each listing must be hand approved by a Chairish representative and they photoshop your photo backgrounds white. You can charge a lot more on Chairish than you can on Etsy, things go for 10-50% higher than they do on Etsy. You can use their pinkbook to see actual sales. Chairish allows you to set an asking price, but every purchase is an offer on that, so you might get low ball offers or even slightly lower offers to consider. The minimum selling price on Chairish is $25. Chairish covers all shipping and provides you with a pre-paid printable shipping label.
Fees: 20% on items up to $2,500, a little less over that, only paid at time of sale
How do you price vintage decor?
Pricing is definitely the hardest part of being in resale. There are a lot of nuances, but the number one rule is that it doesn’t matter what you paid for it. I know, I know, people HATE hearing that. You paid only $5 for this? How can you sell it for $40! Because that is what it is worth. So, you have to know what things are worth.
Before I buy anything, I look it up on Etsy. I search for my item and sort by price lowest to highest. I scroll through and note how many similar items are for sale. If there are tons and tons, no matter the price I won’t buy it. Too much competition makes inventory sit. I note the lowest price and the average price. Somewhere between those two numbers is where I can list my item.
My personal rule is that I never pay more than half of the final selling price (pre-shipping) of an item. So, if I can sell a brass bell for $12, I would never pay more than $6 for it. This allows me the room for selling fees and profit. Double profit might sound huge but honestly most of my items sell for under $20 so the actual profits are not that high dollar wise and go towards the cost of my time.
Now, you don’t necessarily want to be the lowest priced seller on Etsy. Depending on what you are selling, that may not be the angle that you want. If you position yourself as a curated boutique, do really nice packaging, and promote yourself, you can ask more. But, in the end, a lot of people are going to search their keyword + sort by price + select the cheapest one. You don’t want to be that far off.
How do you handle shipping?
Shipping is a bit of a hot button issue. In the world of Amazon Prime free 2 day shipping, a lot of people refuse to pay for shipping. But, shipping is really expensive. Especially if you have large, heavy items, it can really add up. I personally do not offer free shipping any more. I used to up my price and make shipping free, but I have decided instead to pass the actual shipping cost along to buyers, which I think is more fair. Plus, Etsy’s fee is calculated off of the pre-shipping cost, so if you offer free shipping, you’re getting charged essentially 3.5% of your shipping cost extra in fees.
I ship via USPS. I have a whole shipping department in my closet where I have tons of boxes, envelopes, and packing material. I measure and weigh each item when I sit down to process it (about once a month). I use Etsy’s shipping calculator at the bottom of a new listing to determine the average shipping cost using that weight and size and then always compare that to the closest compatible flat rate shipping box. Sometimes (like with heavy brass) flat rate is less but sometimes paying by weight is less. I have a column in my inventory spreadsheet where I track the shipping choice and I also note it in the Etsy listing.
I always charge $1 for handling to cover the cost of packing materials which includes: box or envelope, bubble wrap or packing peanuts, tissue paper that I wrap each item in, packing tape, cost of printing for label and packing slip, one business card which I put in each package. I try to reuse as much as possible, but these items can really add up over time!
It is worth noting that Chairish calculates shipping for me and provides me with a shipping label so that it really easy!
What else do I need to know?
Reselling takes a lot of time. It’s not easy money. You spend time shopping, cleaning or repairing items, photographing items, creating listings, measuring and tracking weights for shipping, waiting for items to sell, packaging items, and then shipping them. If you divide out my profit by the amount of time I spend on it, it’s definitely a very very low hourly wage. But, I enjoy the shopping and honestly have plenty of free time in my life right now!
The more inventory that you have, the more that you will sell. As you add new stuff, you will make more sales. But, conversely, you end up with a closet or shelf full of inventory, and a list of expenses that you have to just hold onto and “float” until you get paid back by the sale.
Do you love to thrift? Would you ever consider becoming a reseller?