Online Thrift Store: A Guide to Selling Second Hand Clothes Internationally

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Second hand, Vintage Shopping, slow fashion, Sustainable fashion concept. Stack of blue old denim jeans with the words second hand

The fast fashion industry will face its reckoning. This industry is responsible for 8 to 10% of global emissions – more than the output of all international flights and maritime shipping combined. While clothing from Uniqlo or Zara may come with an affordable price tag, their cost on the environment can no longer be overlooked.

But what if there was a way to buy and sell clothes without hurting the planet? Well, there is. Think pre-loved.

With many online thrift stores around the world, selling second-hand clothes is easy. Plus, it’s a perfect way to kickstart a business that reduces waste and helps the environment. In this blog post, we will discuss how to start a successful online thrift store and sell vintage clothing around the world, right from your home in Malaysia.

Is there a market for second hand clothes?

By 2030, the second hand clothing market is expected to be twice the size of fast fashion, according to a report by thredUP. The resale market is growing at an exponential rate, 11 times faster than traditional and should be worth US$84b in less than a decade. As consumers are becoming more concerned about global warming and its effects on the planet, they are finding ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Such environmental considerations, coupled with other factors, such as pandemic-driven price senstiivty, is fuelling the growth of the global thrift clothing business

How to start a successful online thrift store?

1. Understand the fashion market

By first performing market research, you will be able to obtain valuable insight into what consumers like, their habits and behaviours. Having a deep understanding of the fashion market would mean having knowledge of market demand, saturation and size. You should also gather information about product pricing, target audiences, best marketing channels to reach them and where you stand among your competitors. Some common methods of primary and secondary market research include interviews, surveys, field studies and focus groups. 

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2. Source for clothing

Once you determine your target market, it will be clearer to you the type of clothing to sell, whether they are children’s clothing, designer brands, or the full range. There are several sources from which you can purchase such clothing and these include: 

  • Flea markets 

  • Wholesales & consignments

  • Buy & sell programmes

3. Plan branding and marketing

The process of branding requires you to first decide on a brand personality – what do your target audiences resonate with? With the foundation of your brand in place, visual design and brand voice will come into place. To create a strong brand, ensure consistency across all touchpoints, from your social media to your website. This creates a favourable impression amongst your target audience. 

Determine which social media platform suits your target audiences best. Social media preferences vary across different countries. For example, if you wish to sell to China, instead of Instagram or Pinterest, using Xiaohongshu makes you more likely to reach your target audience. By analysing what other brands have successfully done to market here, such as Perfect Diary’s micro-influencer strategy, you are in a better position to also determine where you can sell second hand clothes. 

Create a social media account for your brand and use hashtags like #vintageclothing #thriftstore and so on. Post photos of the items you're selling, how much they cost (including delivery), how to buy them (e.g., DM), and other necessary information your customers would require. Post ads on Facebook Marketplace or other platforms that allow classified ads. 

Online retail, warehousing and logistics

You might also be wondering, ‘what is the best platform to sell second-hand clothes?’ or ‘where can I sell pre-loved clothes?’ There are several places online from which you can start selling clothes. In order to create brand awareness, first selling with established third-party e-commerce international platforms like Depop, thredUP and Grailed would ensure you have a steady stream of orders. Once you have a more established brand, you can create a website with e-commerce functionality. Consider using Shopify as your platform and connecting it with Instagram shopping features so that people can purchase products directly from your posts. 

When selling pre-loved clothing, understanding how to ship overseas is key. Picking the right logistics partner to ensure your deliveries are made on time, within budget and your customers are satisfied, will ensure your business thrives. 

Start your online thrift store clothing business

Consumers are gravitating towards buying behaviour that is gentler on the planet, which means slow fashion is here to stay. Selling your used clothing will not only aid in saving the environment, but it’ll also help you declutter and earn a tidy profit. Once you have done adequate research on how and where to sell vintage and second hand clothing, you can start right away!