Thrift Stores Vs. Resale -is it a war?1
June 15, 2019 by kittynh
Since I have opened my wee ETSY shop I’ve enjoyed joining groups with fellow resellers. ETSY and EBAY have very different sort of philosophies. So do thrift stores.
EBAY is SELL SELL SELL, especially if you have many items or high volume. Many people feel they make more sales and sell more quickly on EBAY.
ETSY is more personal. Your items can sit there for years. You wait until just the right person wants your item. Then the conversations back and forth tend to be more personal. For the person wanting an easy hobby type experience, ETSY seems to be the beginners choice.
I’ve really enjoyed my ETSY shop, but I’ve noticed there seems to be a thrift shop vs. pickers/resellers scrimmage happening. Many of the bigger chain type stores, such as Goodwill, are switching to online selling. There are suggestions they have been ripped off by resellers for years. Now with the ability to Google, prices at many locations have gone up.
The problem seems to be no consistency in the price rises. If you Google an item, and find the item is selling on Ebay for $400, that doesn’t mean it sold for $400. For both the reseller and the thrift store, looking for the SOLD price is very important.
An example from a truly lovely local vintage store are these Vera Bradley bags. I’m not sure how popular they are, but at this store they sell for $15. Larger ones sell for $20. If you are looking for a Vera Bradley bag, this is probably a bargain. If you are looking to resell Vera Bradley bags, this is not worth purchasing. To make a profit you would need to increase the price to much closer to retail, and throw in shipping. The chance at a profit is gone.
Is this a bad thing or good thing? Taking the reseller out of the thrift stores means that if you want a vintage Vera Bradley bag, you can go to this store and have your pick. But I have noticed the Vera Bradley bags have sat there month after month. This thrift store is more of an ETSY style store. Things will stay here until the right person finds them.
This is why the little ornaments and figures on display change little, either than just more crowding. If it doesn’t sell, the price stays the same and they just sit.
These bowls are great. They were hand painted by someone with the initials B.B. in Sweden. Or Finland? They appear to be something a person brought back from holiday. They are really nice, but have been sitting for over 2 months. Part of me wants to purchase them for resale as they are unique. Another part wants me to wait to see if they go down in price. $8 is right on the cusp of what I would pay.
Things do move and sell, but some things also sit a lot. This lovely rolling pin is Pioneer Woman from Walmart. However, online, it is selling for around $25.00, shipping included. Someone at the store is very smart about pricing. This price is enough to tempt someone to list this item, and with shipping, they could make a few dollars. No one is cleaning up, but this is a fair price I think for both thrift store and reseller.
Should thrift shops cater to the online seller or even antique booth owner, and as the American Pickers say “Leave a little meat on the bone.” ,or should thrift shops try to make as much money as possible by selling directly to buyers? Does moving inventory quickly, the EBAY method make more sense, or the ETSY wait for the right buyer method raise more money?
Most online and small booth sellers aren’t making a lot of money. Many do it for a retirement job. Others enjoy being able to stay at home and make a little money, without having to sell Lula Roe. Some are saving up for a vacation, or putting money aside for college fund. Few of the people I know from my FB group are doing this full time. In these tough times this is just one way to put a little aside and work your own hours. Hours are indeed worked.
Responding to questions about an item.
Packing, including finding boxes and bubble wrap. Often this has to be bought.
Getting to the Post Office and waiting in line and getting insurance and tracking and shipping.
Sitting in the parking lot of the post office crying as shipping costs have gone up dramatically, now no longer based just on weight but on size also. Let’s just say, don’t ship pillows and think it will be inexpensive.
Going the rounds of the thrift shops and then hitting up garage sales and estate sales, hoping to find enough items that will sell despite the high cost of shipping.
Washing. Cleaning. The minute things come in the door they go into the sink or into the washing machine. You don’t want bed bugs. Some resellers have reported getting ill from not washing items immediately. A lot of bleach is used. If an item is brass or silver or silver plated, there is cleaning to be done there also.
Storage in the house, where. your spouse won’t get angry at you, and you remind your spouse again you could have signed up for Lula Roe.
Then, education. The FB pages I am on are not just for fun and friendship. These are heavy duty educational lessons. Also youtube has several series up that teach you what to look for when buying. Dr.Lori is one that will help you stay one step ahead of the thrift shops that think you are ripping them off.
So are resellers ripping off thrift shops?
We all read about people that found a priceless painting at Goodwill. Or the person that found a box of real Luis Vuitton bags for $1 at the Salvation Army. These are the rarities. They make the news because they are not common. Pickers and thrifters often help find new homes for items that might never have sold, and I don’t know what happens to items that don’t sell.
I recently sold a beautiful piece of string art. You read that right, string art. It wouldn’t fit in my home but I could tell this string art was professionally framed and someone had done a careful job with it. You could hang it on your wall and people would think “That is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.” This was made with care and as a gift to someone that had been kind and nice to the artist, only known as Jodie. She wrote a beautiful message on the back.
I sold the string art to someone on the West Coast and ended up losing money as I packed it in double boxes to make sure it arrived safely. I went way over the size limit for cheap packaging. Since this is a hobby for me, I was thrilled at the very personal story from the person purchasing this object. Her thank you, was what made it worth while to me to find this a good home.
Would someone locally have been so into Mid Century Modern that they also would have loved this item? Maybe? But if this thrift store ever decided to sell online, would they choose objects like this handcrafted item, and would they have paid the $33.00 shipping?
Where thrift stores that are going online will find the going tough is that while they get the item for nothing, they still have those shipping costs. They also have to pay people to investigate and list each item. I know of few online sellers that make even minimum wage. They do it as it is extra money and working their own hours. Goodwill may find they can’t pay minimum wage and make money listing items. Please list the designer gowns and the antique Picasso statues, but leave the little stuff for the pickers!
But know also that no one in need is purchasing the wooden bowls from Sweden for everyday use. No one is making a mint selling Pioneer woman rolling pins. People are getting a little bit extra to get by. They can’t work at McDonalds or Burger King as they have little children at home still, or they are old and the work is too hard. I would hate to see these people, be done out a way to make just a little bit of money.
I suppose they could get jobs at Goodwill helping to price items online, and actually be paid minimum wage!
Since my shop is mainly because I would love to purchase a piece of art by a local artist I love, and her work is over $1,000, I’ve tried to stop saving items and losing money on shipping. Instead I now look for size. Is that small enough that the shipping costs will be reasonable? Is it lightweight enough for low shipping? Also is the item unique enough, and different enough, that the person that wants it doesn’t want to go to 10 different thrift shops to try to find one just like it. They want me to do that job for them.
So, are you a reseller? Are you just a hobby shopper? I also shop for presents at the thrift stores, sometimes to the consternation of my friends and family. Do you feel resellers are taking advantage of thrift stores, and that prices should go up to reflect what an item would sell for online? Or do you enjoy shopping online and having a plethora of choices without having to visit the thrift shops yourself?
I will end by saying if you think selling online is easy money, think again. While just a hobby for a small goal of a painting for myself, this is very hard work serious work for most sellers.
I’m still learning but one day I’ll have my Mary Iselin painting! ( check out her work, the computer doesn’t show her play with light and to me it just is New Hampshire where I live. We have a lot of sheep and mountains and WINTER and Falls to die for….so I’ll keep working on the ETSY store)
Please feel free to share your thoughts about thrift stores, the new higher prices for shipping, and do resellers help by moving stuff out of the shops and by recycling items, or are they greedy?
This is really a great article. 🙂
I feel if a reseller buys from Goodwill and then sells online, everyone is lucky. The shop made money as did the reseller. This is more money in the economy for all.
Oftentimes there are items on the West Coast that may be hard to get on the East Coast or visa versa. The person on Etsy gets more exposure, I assume.
Goodwill’s job is not to support me, I know that. It is nice though when they price things at my sweet spot. I am more of a collector. (Okay hoarder.)