Steps To Starting a Successful Online Thrift Store
1. Conduct market research and find your niche
The first step in opening an online thrift store is to undertake market research. This research aims to understand consumers’ desires and then verify that your business model is viable for a particular market.
It will also allow you to evaluate the current state of that market and confirm that it’s not already overwhelmed by similar concepts. Additionally, you will need to analyze existing online thrift stores in the United States and international markets to find what is trending, what works, and what consumers like.
In addition to statistics and industry trends, conducting market research for your thrift store will help you learn more about your target market, including who your customers are, what types of items they like, how often they buy new items, and how much they typically spend.
The information gathered at this point will also be of significant value in developing your financial projections and determining the concept for your thrift store. The following is an overview of the information you will need to gather from the marketplace:
- What is the current state of the thrift store industry? Is it growing or faltering?
- How has the turnover of thrift stores evolved over the last few years?
- How many online thrift stores opened/shut down last year? Why did they fail?
Besides the market data, you will also need to learn a little more about your customers. Here are some questions you may ask yourself:
- When do consumers shop at online thrift stores, and for what purpose?
- How much are they willing to spend on used clothing?
- What is the age of a typical online thrift store customer?
- What is their average income and budget?
- How can you reach the right consumers?
- Which platforms are most visited by these consumers?
Check out some popular online thrift stores, read reviews, talk to typical consumers, and learn more about what customers like and don’t like.
You want your online thrift store to offer a unique experience. To do this, you need to provide a well-curated selection of items. Choose a niche that interests you and that you know something about. Here are some common types of merchandise that thrift store owners sell:
- Sporting goods
2. Create your brand
Once you’ve found the right niche for your business, it’s time to think about your brand. Branding is a story you want to tell about your business. As a general rule, your name, logo, design, and style should align with the brand’s core message. Choosing a name for your brand is very important. Be sure to choose a short, memorable, and unique name.
However, choosing a name has to comply with the rules in your state or county. You can contact your state’s business registration agency to see if businesses with the same name exist in your state. You can also visit the USPTO website for more information on how to trademark your business name to avoid legal troubles down the stretch.
3. Set up your online thrift store
Determine how you want to sell your products before you start buying them. When it comes to starting your online thrift store, there are three different routes you can go:
eCommerce platforms are the most straightforward way for new sellers to sell online. Most eCommerce platforms give sellers the ability to select and customize templates without the need for technical skills.
eCommerce platforms are much more convenient for most sellers, especially smaller operations; custom websites are extremely costly to build and difficult to maintain. In addition, most eCommerce platforms offer a dedicated support team available to help you set up your store. Some of the best eCommerce site builders include Shopify, GoDaddy, WooCommerce, Zyro, Volusion, Wix, and Magento.
You can also choose to create your own website for online thrift selling on platforms like WordPress. The advantage of this direction is that you have full ownership and control of your website. However, you will have to pay for a domain name, web hosting, and security measures.
As we mentioned above, this option is much more advisable if you have more time, money, and technical confidence. Of course, the customization possibilities are endless if you know how to code, but this is not a solution we recommend to beginners. In addition, the implementation process will be much longer.
Sell through marketplaces
Selling on marketplaces, such as Amazon or eBay, is a great way to get seen by more consumers. Doing so is also quite convenient. Millions of people around the world visit these online stores every day to buy products. It’s nearly impossible for small retailers and new businesses to reach such a large audience.
Online marketplaces, instead, offer thrift retailers a platform to build a much larger customer base. In addition, these marketplaces face very few technical problems and are thus more reliable. With that said, the competition is fierce, and fees can add up and significantly eat into your margins.
Those looking to sell without necessarily buying can turn to Flyp, a simplified and hassle-free service to sell your old clothes. For vintage clothing online, Retro and Me is the go-to place for clothing from the 50s to 90s. Plus, they donate 10% of sales to charitable initiatives, an approach that makes the brand more appreciated by most consumers. Other popular online retailers include Tradesy, Refashioner, Urban Renewal, Goodwill, The Real Real, Beyond Retro, Patagonia Worn Wear, and Luxury Garage Sale.
Leveraging online marketplaces is fine, but it’s not a great long-term solution. Typically, it’s best to sell on both these marketplaces as well as your proprietary website. Just be sure to encourage consumers to visit your website.
See Also: Amazon SEO
4. Source products and manage your inventory
Sourcing products in a thrift store business is different from other types of retail. Every item in a thrift store is unique and it’s rarely possible to buy your inventory in bulk.
Start with a small collection. Keep it niche and avoid making large investments into items that you’re not sure will sell well. Visit garage sales, thrift stores, other online thrift hotspots like eBay, clearance stores, consignment stores, and flea markets. Donations from community events, estate sales, yard sales, and moving sales are all ways to source your products. Just keep in mind that the cheaper your collection is, the more time you will have to spend making it.