alternative careers / Online thrift stores / Thrift business

Looking for a side hustle? Here's how to start an online thrift store

. 3 min read . Written by Muskan Miglani
Looking for a side hustle? Here's how to start an online thrift store

Are you tired of hoarding old clothes that you don't wear anymore? Do you believe in promoting sustainable fashion? Are you always on the lookout for a side hustle that pays? Do you think you’re good at logistical management? Good! We have just the right alternative career idea for you.

Online thrift stores are the social media versions of second-hand marketplaces. And while thrifting and flea market shopping has been around for a long time, since the 1800s to be precise, it’s only now that it’s getting picked up as an online business in India.

Thrifting is a concept that came into existence in the west to deal with the waste crisis at the onset of 19th-century industrialization.

But circling back to the career idea, online thrift business owners sell second-hand clothes and wearables at slashed prices to people who do not want to contribute to consumerism and the burgeoning fast-fashion industry. This business model is two things– sustainable and profitable

So if you’re someone who’s looking to start a side hustle from the back of your yard and to grow it with time, here’s how you can do it.

Step 1: Charity begins at home, so start with selling your own and your friends’ clothes. For that, you’ll need to collect clothes, mark defects, and make a note of them along with the items’ measurements. Segregate them into different categories to keep the process organised. You might want to wash certain pieces and iron them for better presentability, or just work out some defects for better value on each of your garments.

Step 2: Photograph the clothes you wish to sell against a clean background. You can also try them on if you’re not wary of being present in front of the camera. This allows people to gauge the fit of the item they’re planning on buying. Once you scale your business, you can always ask your friends and family members to be your models too.

Step 3: Set up the payment methods. Whether you want both online and offline payments or just online ones, establish the methods of payment. In case of setting up an online method, it’s always better to have multiple payment gateways for your customers than just the one. Remember, the process should be simple and smooth.

Step 4: Now comes the creative part. Think of a store name and create a page on Instagram. This is also the most important step of your online business. A lot of thrift stores are booming in the social media space, and there’s scope for a lot more. Remember to establish a unique identity of your brand; something that stands out to your followers.

Step 5: Post pictures with captions carrying the price, size, and details of each clothing. You can also mention the condition of each item, and defects if any, to keep a transparent process. You can mention the booking process in the comments section or on a story, and give each customer a limited amount of time to make the payment after booking their product. This will ensure that your products don’t get stuck because of customers backing out at the last minute.

Step 6: Start packing orders as you get order requests, preferably with recycled or upcycled packaging paper, to keep it sustainable throughout. You can add handwritten notes for a personal touch in each package.

Step 7: Partner with a courier service and ship clothes as and when you receive payments. Once a parcel is shipped, make sure to share the tracking number and other updates with your customers so they don’t keep bugging you about their order.

PRO TIP: You can also organise garage sales, but with safety measures. And once you’re done selling all your old clothes,  in second-hand stuff and scale it up further.

While this business doesn’t require a lot of seed money to begin with, you need a basic amount for sourcing products at the beginning.

For that, you’ll need to invest in:

  1. Laundry and dry cleaning service at a discounted price
  2. Packaging and branding material
  3. Some budget to promote your profile on social media
  4. A professional photographer on an assignment basis
  5. A graphic designer on an assignment basis

And if you’re good at taking aesthetic pictures and design graphics too, then please do it yourself and avoid extra costing.

How much can one make in this business?

You can decide on the profit margins after calculating the thorough cost from sourcing and cleaning to shipping. A good 15-20% mark-up as a net profit (after deducting all your costs) is a good place to start and can give you Rs. 10,000 (OWN CLOTHES) - 1,00,000 (FULL-SCALED BUSINESS) per month.

Go on, start your very own thrift shop business now and scale it up to become one of the bestselling outlets online. But remember to keep it sustainable first. With the high profits coming in, one can lose track of the larger goal and get carried away.

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