Pad Your Pockets: How to Make Thousands from Second-Hand Clothing

Isaiah McCall

Thales of Miletus — if you want to make money, remember that name.

He’s universally recognized as the first philosopher, but not only that, he’s the first businessman to start a monopoly.

Ol’ Thales wanted to show the citizens of Greece how to make money. According to him, all you needed was to be savvy enough to look for the right opportunities.

So he decided to invest in olive oil due to its high potential demand, and in doing so, bought all the olive oil presses in his area. A few months later and Thales was filthy rich. And the funny part — he only did it to prove a point that knowledge is the key to great wealth.

So in 2020, and nearing a post-pandemic, what’s our version of Greek olive presses?

I’ll give you a hint: it’s not cryptocurrency, automation, or Tesla.

Many economists are predicting it might be vintage bomber jackets, pink gummy sandals, classic saddlebags, and bandanas. Or more specifically, reselling all those things.

How Big is The Resell Game?

Today the resale market is valued at $28 billion and is predicted to double to $64 billion by 2024, according to a CNBC report.

The resale market grew 25 times faster than the overall retail market last year, with an estimated 64 million people buying secondhand products in 2019. And instead of the resale industry taking a hit from the pandemic — it grew even faster.

This accelerated growth of the resale industry has caused economists and news publications to freak out.

“Americans could begin to change their spending habits in the fallout from this pandemic…More people are embracing frugality or thrift.” —

Secondhand sales are expected to outpace fast fashion (H&M, Forever 21, and Zara) within the next decade and reach $64 billion by 2028 or $20 billion more than the estimated fast fashion sales, according to ThredUp.

That would mean that the resale market could represent as much as 10 percent of the retail industry’s sales in the next few years.

Still not convinced? This is what the Business of Fashion: BoF had to say about resale:

“Before the pandemic hit, the resale market was on track to double. Now this growth may very well accelerate, said Tech Correspondent Chavie Lieber. “Analysts predict consumers will turn to sites like thredUP and Rebag to clean out their closets for extra cash…and stuck at home and worried about their finances, they’re hunting for bargains online.”

Lessons From a Reseller, a.k.a. My Sister Ariella McCall

My sis, Ariella McCall, dropped out during her sophomore year of college. But without missing a beat she launched her own business reselling her used clothes.

After she ran out of threads in her own closet, she turned to her favorite place in the world, thrift stores. Today reselling clothes has become McCall’s primary source of income.

“I make $1200 a month and have around 5500 followers on Depop (a site for users to buy and sell unique fashion). The turning point was when selling allowed me to save up for a trip to Europe,” said McCall. “Once I started seeing that I could travel the world from selling secondhand clothing, that’s when it became a full-time job for me.

All that being said, McCall tells me reselling isn’t as easy as people make it out to be. Perfect clothes aren’t hung up on racks just begging to be resold.

Instead, she often has to get down on her hands and knees to search through piles of used clothing. Or she’ll often look through men’s and children's sections for hidden gems.

“When I go to the thrift store, I’ve become fast with my eyes,” said McCall. I always look for very colorful, vibrant fabrics. It takes anywhere from an hour to two hours to search an entire store and sometimes I search through piles just to find one shirt. But I love it, it’s like a sport to me.”

Right now the “Y2K” style is in season. It’s a fashion that emulates the early 2000’s apparel. Think Britney Spears-type crop-tops, huge platform shoes, or anything the Spice Girls wear in their “Wannabe” music video.

Young people are most attracted to buying secondhand clothing. 37 percent of Gen Z shop resale, compared to 27 percent of millennials and 19 percent of baby boomers according to Forbes.

Difficulties of Being a Reseller

Customers are very particular when purchasing secondhand clothing.

It can look unique but it can’t look tacky; it can have holes, but it better not be cheap; it can be cute, but no gross stains. There’s a perfect balance to secondhand style, and McCall says she feels like the personal stylist for her customers much of the time.

“I’m doing the hard labor for other people to buy it — I’m kind
of like their stylist in a way,” says McCall. “Friends always ask me to come thrifting and they always say the same thing: ‘oh I can’t find anything.’ They don’t get that you have to dig through the racks to find that perfect item that fits your style.”

After she finds a piece for reselling, she has to model clothes for her customers and take photos.

Her primary site for selling, Depop only allows four images for upload. So she takes hundreds of photos for each piece in hopes of finding the perfect picture to post. Clothing has to look flattering, unique, edgy, or cool enough to, and sometimes a combination of all three to draw interest.

What elevates her business to the next level is prioritizing good customer service. McCall writes personal notes sometimes saying:

“Thank you for supporting my shop, I know you’re gonna look good.”

She says it isn’t about building a fragmented group of followers, it’s about building a community and brightening someone’s day. Customers take notice too because they often send her messages back on Instagram or Depop.

“I love getting those long messages from people where you can see they recognize the work you put in,” says McCall. “It’s just treating people the way you want to be treated; we’re all a reflection of each other at the end of the day.”

The resale industry does have its problems, however. Many critics say it's exploitative to find clothing for $2 and flip it for hundreds online. There’s also the problem of authenticity and quality; shoes specifically are counterfeited in countries all over the world and often resold in thrift shops.

Air Jordans, Yeezys, Gucci, Versace, Chanel, all are easy to find cheaper replicas of in thrift stores and perhaps pass them off online. McCall sees these cheap knocks offs and specious criticism as a way to take away from the hard work of resellers.

“What we’re doing is recycling clothes, which is the total opposite of fast fashion which just creates and creates, and pays their workers barely any money,” says McCall. “I can find something for 50 cents and flip it for $50, but they don’t see the process behind this. I have to dig through piles, clean the clothes, sew them, fix it up, take pictures…my customers are paying for much more than just a shirt.”

Reselling might not be for everyone, as McCall points out, it only seems like an easy side hustle from the outside. That said, reselling is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world right now — it’s our world’s olive presses.

For McCall, she’s riding the wave of secondhand resale. She started off selling her old clothes and now reselling is her primary source of income. McCall looks to expand her business in hopes of reaching more followers and eventually open up her own thrift store.

“As long as people keep creating clothes there will always be something to buy at thrift stores, says McCall. “And as long as there are clothes at thrift stores, I’ll have my business.”

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USA Today Reporter and Ultramarathoner. I write about Cryptocurrency, Fitness Hacks, and Greek Philosophy. Also a diehard Trekkie |

Jersey City, NJ

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