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How to Start an Online Thrift Store: Market Overview and Trends

November 30, 2020 12 MIN READ
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Guides & Advice
How to Start an Online Thrift Store: Market Overview and Trends
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Thinking about starting an online business? Why don’t you resell already used products, at the same time helping charities and saving the planet? This is possible if you start a thrift store online. All over the world thrift stores are becoming more welcomed by consumers. First, resale is a big trend as we care about ecology and reducing waste. Second, fashion faces retromania, and the best place to find 60s sunglasses is a local thrift store. 

Ready to conquer the world of thrift? Here is the full guide on how to start an online thrift store business.

Online Thrift Market Overview

High demand for resale items has been caused by many factors. Resell fashion has a good impact on ecology and reduce waste. Consumers buy products that were already used, influencing a reasonable consumption behavior. Thrift stores often sell vintage items, which is a big trend among youngsters.

Pandemic time has caused disastrous damages to most of the industries, but not ecommerce. Many businesses adapted and went online, and retail undoubtedly will focus on online sales in the nearest future. If you want to open your online store, a niche of resale is very attractive. There is a crucial advantage of resale – you don’t need to produce goods and have your own production. You also can choose different business models – partner with a consigner or sell your own thrift products.

According to NARTS (Association of Resale Professionals), only the US’s used-merchandise industry is estimated at about $17 billion a year.  In five years, the secondhand market will hit $64B.

Especially in the new era of economic crisis, but at the same time high demand in online shopping, consumers seeking bargains from home, and online secondhand is set to grow 69% between 2019 and 2021. The retail sector is projected to decrease by 15%.

Source:thredup.com

Statistics also show that resale grew 24 times faster than retail between 2017 and 2018, and the overall resale market is about to reach $41 billion by 2022.

Thrift Market Trends

There are some significant reasons why consumers choose thrift stores:

Green activism, sustainability, and zero waste!

Resale is about green activism. If you buy used products, you give them a second life and decrease consumerism, which according to green activism is killing the planet. 

Vintage is a new black!

Vintage is such a big trend, and vintage shops create competition to mass-market moguls like Zara or H&M. If you come to any thrift store, online or offline, you will feel the retro vibe. The latest trends in vintage are fashion clothing or accessories of the 60s – 90s, bags, and sunglasses. Especially in the US, UK, or Europe, where during the 60s-90s the culture has flourished. In London, 60s fashion is still a big part of modern times. 

Source: beyondretro.com

See Great Examples of Online Thrift Stores

The number of thrift stores is countless, but here are some best examples of the biggest thrift stores and how they represent products on their websites.

East End Thrift Store, London

This is one of the most popular online thrift stores in London, UK. They represent their brand on social media and UK marketplace Asos. The East End Thrift Store adds its products almost unfiltered, so you can see possible damages. While adding used, second-hand items, it’s crucial to show the real picture of the product, so don’t overload with the filters.


Source: Asos.com

thredUP

thredUP is an online shop that believes in a sustainable fashion future. They say: “We give new life to millions of used clothes, offsetting the environmental and financial cost of fashion.” The design is minimalistic, the store just shows items on the white background, using a colored call to actions like ‘special prices’, or so.

Source: thredup.com

Vestiaire Collective

Vestiaire Collective is an online thrifting shop for vintage and high-end clothing and accessories. This store also has a minimalist design and places products on a white background.


Source: vestiairecollective.com

Poshmark

Poshmark is a peer-to-peer thrifting website with an even more popular iPhone/Android app that makes buying and selling used clothes online as simple as raiding from your older sister’s closet. This store doesn’t use much filters or photoshop to add products, in most cases, sellers just add unprofessional pictures made at home or so.


Source: poshmark.com

How Does an Online Thrift Store Operate?

An online thrift store sells used, second-hand items like clothing, furniture, souvenirs, or books at attractive prices. Thrift stores usually play the role of marketplaces, where consignors offer their used items and sell on these marketplaces. Many online thrift stores also sell vintage items.

 Also, thrift stores can sell their own products bought from consignors and are usually involved in charities or ecological movements (as they are selling resale products). 

There are different types of thrift stores:

  • Charity thrift stores. Such stores partner with charity organizations. One of the most famous charity thrift stores is the Red Cross. These stores accept different products from consumers (usually clothing, accessories, furniture), and donate a percentage from sales to charity organizations.
  • Vintage or ‘antiques’ thrift stores. Such stores carry older clothing from decades past, usually 1940s-1990s, and sell unique vintage items. For such stores, buyers select unique, vintage items of good quality, and the price range usually higher than in other thrift stores.
  • Consignment stores. People (or consigners) sell their products to the store owner. A consignee (store owner) resale these items.The product owners are interested in selling, so they are cleaned, washed, and dry-cleaned. Accordingly, they are in good condition here.
  • Second-hand and resale. There is a wide selection of clothing and products in such stores. Offline stores often sell products by weight. The quality of the products might be not good enough as they used. But the price is affordable.

 Why do You Need a Thrift Store Website?

There are different options to launch a thrift store online, but launching your website brings customers an enhanced personalized experience and more opportunities for a store owner.

Such platforms as Etsy, eBay, and Amazon are famous for selling used or vintage products. It is convenient to sell on these marketplaces as you get good traffic and the trust of your consumers. But, don’t forget about commissions and strict rules and restrictions for selling. Amazon can block your shop for a couple of weeks or even forever just because of a few negative feedbacks. If you get negative feedback, especially at the beginning, you will get a low rating and it’s going to be hard to sell in the future. Social media is good to promote your store but to provide your customers with a full product description and unique shopping experience, you need to set up your website.

When you have your own store, you are the owner, not the platform. And, you have the freedom of creativity to customize your own storage building your brand’s story. The practical benefit is that in your store, you can include full descriptions and visuals of your products, and implement top-notch tools like 3D virtual fitting, for example. An online store is the best way to increase your customer’s engagement and sales. In your own store, suggest more related products, make recommendations and provide excellent customer service.

Steps to Start an Online Thrift Store

What is needed to launch an online thrift store?

Choose the products you are willing to sell

The most common products in online thrift stores are clothes, books, souvenirs, and furniture. Thrift stores are not selective while choosing products, but it’s still crucial to know what products are more desirable among consumers. Thrift stores differ from ordinary clothes or furniture stores, as you are reselling second-hand items. Consumers usually choose specific products, so it’s crucial to be aware of the customers’ preferences. For example, avoid selling lingerie or swimming clothes, as consumers are not going to purchase such items if they are used already (some stores sell them, but it’s more an exception). In some countries, you can’t sell used items for children, it’s a violation of the law. 

If you visit an offline or online thrift store, you may notice that there is a significant number of accessories offered by store owners. Sunglasses, bags, shoes, accessories, or souvenirs are the most welcomed in the market of vintage, thrift, and consignment. These items are in high demand as consumers are more likely to buy used sunglasses than jeans. 

Customization of your store 

The main goal of customization of your online store is to represent the store’s identity and add some vibes, whether it’s vintage/retro or an ecology-oriented atmosphere.

Just imagine, you show the video of how waste negatively influences our ecology, this will motivate your visitors to rethink their consumer behavior. And, every time buying resale products, consumers will feel their involvement in sustainable fashion and ecology protection.

Source: thredup.com

Here are some pieces of advice for thrift store customization:

– Thrifts stores have their own vibe. If you already been to offline stores, you probably noticed how different from other stores they are. The design of your online thrift store can reflect retro/vintage spirit, but also send social messages. Thrifts online stores usually support charities and ‘green’ movements, so include these messages in your design.

– Layout should be functional, neat, and creative. A functional website includes a detailed description of the products, privacy policies, contact page, etc. Thrift stores are a big trend, and popular among young, creative people, so make sure your design reaches out to this audience.

– Images should be original or ‘No Filters’, to show all the scratches or damages, which is common for used items.

– Include a very convenient checkout and shopping page. As in any online store, your customer should buy products in a few clicks. The steps are: Add to cart=>proceed to checkout=>fill in the form=>payment=>confirmation. This layout should be neat and with a clear call to action, like colored Buy or Order buttons.

The tone of voice in your content

Content is crucial in online shopping, and tone of voice reflects your attitude about the brand and message you want to deliver.

The latest trend in ecommerce is enhanced content (which Amazon refers to as A+ Enhanced Marketing Content or simply A+ Content). Enhanced content includes more diverse images of the item, as street style, Instagram pictures, or videos, showing the products in different ways and angles. 

With enhanced content, a product description, but a story behind the product. Thanks to content, you also use keywords to increase traffic to your website. In the case of thrift stores, you can explain where items came from if it’s vintage – from what era. Or, use a social message to push the sales. It’s more joyful to buy products believing your help to save the planet or supporting charities. 

Legal issues

The same as in other online stores you need to clarify the laws and regulations of your country, choose the business structure, and register your shop. Sellers should be aware of what items are forbidden to sell. For example, in many countries, second-hand clothing for kids is illegal to sell. 

Payment system

The easier your customers pay, the more conversions you have. Provide your customers with different options to pay, via bank card and online transfers like PayPal/Payoneer, etc. Note, that if you are selling online, not all countries have PayPal or in some countries, there is no opportunity to get the payment through PayPal. And, marketplaces usually offer only several or one payment option. 

Only if you sell via your own store, you can set up diverse payments for your customers. The modern consumer is picky, and even a few more seconds spent on purchasing the product may lead to the loss of the client. 

Shipping

Shipping and packaging is another important issue for selling online in thrift stores. You need to ship items within 3 days preferably.

Pay attention to packaging as used items like sunglasses or furniture can easily damage on the road and you will need to refund the customer. Clarify on the post office how to package your items you are going to ship, and always send a tracking number to your customer. 

Customer support and its pitfalls

Thrift stores are selling used items, and some items can be damaged. Consumers may often return products or give negative feedback/complaints. If you send sunglasses to a customer, images on your online store may not reflect the scratches, as a result, the customer may complain. That’s why it’s crucial to provide ‘realistic’ images and deal with customer’s complaints. 

Promotion and marketing for online thrift stores

Choose a marketing plan for your online thrift store. Start with a crucial part – SEO optimization of your website. Use relevant keywords, install SEO tools to your site that are very important to rank your products in Google, and sell. Add a blog and share with your readers’ expertise, interesting content to attract more readers, and what important recommendations on items, how to use them, how to wear thrift clothing, fashion trends, etc.

Don’t forget that social media is essential for the promotion of your online store, and you can represent your products on different sides, and engage with your customers on a daily basis. 

Conclusion

Launching an online thrifts store is a great idea, as there is no need to produce the products and care about fashion trends. Thrift stores are always in demand because people enjoy buying not expensive and unique items. There are many options to sell online in thrift stores, but the most effective is to launch your own website, where you can customize your online thrift store, and provide customers with outstanding customer service.

How to set up a website for a thrift store?

If you want to create an outstanding shopping experience for your customers – implement your online thrift store top-notch Magento solutions. We, at Elogic, know how to set up a website for the thrift store and become a leader in your market. Contact us and we will help you to transform your brand into an ecommerce leader.

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