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How To Start An Online Thrift Store

A thrift store is a store that sells used or secondhand clothing, furniture, and other household items. They are typically donation-based stores, which means that community members have donated the items for sale in the store.

Thrift stores are a great way to find cheap, yet stylish, clothing and furniture. They are also a great way to help the community by providing a place for people to donate their unwanted items.

Starting an online thrift store can hold many of these benefits. At the same time, starting a thrift store doesn't mean that you will be running a charity. By setting up an online thrift store, you can make a profit while helping others. In this article, I will show you how to start a profitable online thrift store.

The Benefits Of Having An Online Thrift Store

One of the main benefits of running an online thrift store is that a local business license is not typically needed to operate.

In addition, when running a traditional store, liability insurance is often required to protect the business from potential lawsuits. When running an online store, this type of insurance is typically not needed since you can normally keep your inventory at home and only ship items out as they are sold.

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Image Credit: http://soft-loft.com

Another benefit of having an online store is that there are no overhead costs, such as rent, utilities, and employees. This means that you can keep your prices low and still make a profit. Finally, an online store is open 24/7, which means you can make sales around the clock.

Thrift Store And The Issue Of Non-Profit

Another reason why many consider a thrift store is because they want to help the community and give back. While this is a great reason to start a business, it's curious to note that many physical thrift stores are registered as non-profit organizations.

However, no rule states that it has to be so.

While making your store a non-profit is entirely up to you, it's essential to remember that an online thrift store can still be profitable with or without being a registered non-profit.

With an average of 8%-17% of thrift store revenues going to charities, there is much room for profit, even when running a store to give back.

Typical Costs When Starting An Online Thrift Store

The costs of starting an online thrift store are relatively low. The highest cost will be the inventory you choose to sell. However, since you are selling used goods, you can normally find inventory for cheap or even free.

Many people might also be glad to donate their unwanted items to a thrift store. You can also check garage sales, estate sales, and even online marketplaces such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for cheap or free inventory.

Another cost to consider is shipping. Even if you decide to give away items for free, you will need to charge for shipping. The good news is that there are many ways to keep shipping costs low. For example, you can use recycled boxes and packing materials and ship items through USPS Flat Rate Shipping.

Finally, you will need a way to take payments from customers. Many options are available, such as PayPal, Square, and Stripe. Each option has different fees, so be sure to do your research before choosing one.

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How To Start An Online Thrift Store

Now that we've gone over the benefits and costs of starting an online thrift store, let's get into the nitty-gritty of how to create one.

1. Research And Find Your Niche

Online stores require you to find a niche to be successful - there are many different niches you can choose from when it comes to thrift stores. For example, you could focus on selling vintage clothing or concentrating on selling secondhand furniture. Whatever you decide, it's better to become known for one specific market before moving on to something else.

The key is to find a niche that you are passionate about and confident you can sell in. Once you have found your niche, do some research and ensure there is a market for what you want to sell.

An online thrift store that doesn't have a main niche is likely to fail. If you try to sell everything and anything, you might confuse potential customers and drive them away.

2. Build Up Your Brand

One of the critical aspects of starting your online store is building up your brand. Your brand makes you unique, and it's what will help you stand out from the competition.

When it comes to your thrift store, consider what image you want to project. Do you want to be seen as a high-end store that sells vintage designer clothing? Or do you want to be seen as a more casual store that sells secondhand items for a fraction of the price?

Your branding will be reflected in everything from your website design to how you package and ship your items. Remember, first impressions are essential, so make sure your branding leaves a good one. An online thrift store needs to take the time to establish a brand that the target audience can recognize and trust.

3. Set Up Shop

Now that you've considered what your niche will be and what your brand will look like, it's time to set up shop.

There are many different ways you can do this, but the most common way is to create an online store using a platform such as Shopify, WooCommerce, or Etsy.

My personal favorite is Shopify, as it's the most accessible platform to use, and it has the most features.

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It also provides helpful features like automatic tax calculations, the ability to offer discounts and coupons, and built-in shipping options.

Shopify also offers a 14-day free trial, so you can try it out before committing to anything.

If you don't want to go down the route of having a Shopify store, you can decide to use a solution such as WordPress.

When you compare Shopify to WordPress, there are some key differences. For example, with Shopify, you get the free trial I mentioned before to try before you buy. With WordPress, you will have to pay for hosting, take the time to install commerce plugins, and adjust more settings to get going. 

On the flip side, WordPress does have its benefits. These include the fact that it's a more flexible platform, and you have more control over the design of your website. WordPress is also an open-source platform, so it's free to use and is more of a solution you have control over.

In the end, it comes down to personal preference. If you're not sure which platform to use, my advice would be to try out both Shopify and WordPress and see which one you prefer.

4. Find Suppliers And Products Sources

An online thrift store won't get you very far without reliable suppliers. After all, they will provide you with the products you will sell in your store.

There are a few different options for finding suppliers for an online thrift store.

The first option is to find local thrift stores and garage sales in your area. This can be a great way to get started as you will likely be able to get products for cheap or even free. Just be sure to check the quality of the items before you list them in your store.

Another option is to find online wholesalers who sell secondhand items. These websites usually have a wide selection of products available, and they often offer bulk discounts.

The key is to find reliable suppliers who can provide you with high-quality products at a reasonable price. Once you have found a few potential suppliers, reach out to them and see if they would be interested in providing samples so you can ensure the quality is one that's required. No matter which route you go down, a thrift store online involves building relationships with suppliers to get quality products for cheap.

5. Store Your Products

One factor that some thrift shops owners do not consider until the late stages is where they will store their products. This is especially true for those just starting and who do not have a lot of space.

If this describes your situation, consider using a storage unit or renting a space in a warehouse. This way, you will have plenty of room to store your products without worrying about them taking up too much space in your home.

Another option is to use a fulfillment service such as Shipwire or Fulfillment by Amazon. These services will store your products for you and ship them out to customers when they purchase.

You will need to factor in the cost of storage when setting your prices, but it might be worth it if you plan on offering a wide selection of products without worrying about where you will put them.

6. Take Great Product Photos And Come Up With Descriptions

As with any eCommerce business, the quality of your product photos and descriptions will play a significant role in whether or not customers purchase from your store.

This is especially true for an online thrift store, as people cannot physically see or touch the products before purchasing them - especially if they are secondhand products.

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Image Credit: http://medium.com

An online secondhand store should also focus on various angles that show off the product. If possible, use a professional camera or hire a photographer to take pictures for you - this will cater to the most significant target market possible and answer any questions they might have about the item in question.

In addition to taking great photos, you will also need to write compelling product descriptions that accurately describe the items you are selling.

Be sure to include size, condition, material, and other relevant details. The more information you can provide, the more likely people are to purchase.

7. Price Your Products

The purpose of any business is to make money, and your online thrift store is, to an extent, no different.

When pricing your products, you will need to balance making a profit and ensuring that your prices are competitive.

A good rule of thumb is to price your products at about double what you paid for them. This will allow you to profit while still offering competitive prices.

Of course, you can constantly adjust your prices based on demand and what you think the market will bear.

8. Shipping Costs

Another factor to consider when starting your online thrift store is how you will ship your products.

There are a few different options to choose from, and the one you select will likely depend on the type of products you are selling and your budget.

The most common shipping methods are flat rate, calculated, and free shipping. These work as follows:

  • Flat rate shipping is where you charge a fixed price for shipping, regardless of the weight or size of the product. This is a good option if you sell small items that do not weigh much.
  • Calculated shipping is where you charge a variable shipping price based on the weight and dimensions of the product. This is a good option if you sell large or heavy items.
  • Free shipping is where you do not charge for shipping and absorb the cost yourself. This is a good option if you want to increase sales by offering free shipping, but it will cut into your profits.

There is also the issue of which shipping carriers to use. The most popular ones are UPS, FedEx, DHL, and USPS.

These reliable companies will get your products safely and on time to your customers.

One more thing to keep in mind when it comes to shipping is how you'll package your products. The benefit of great packaging is twofold: it will protect your products during shipping and leave a great impression on your customers when they receive their order.

Some tips to consider when packaging your products include using protective materials such as bubble wrap or packing peanuts, using strong shipping boxes, and clearly labeling your packages.

9. Creating A Long-Term Marketing Plan

How people will get to know about your thrift store is half the battle to success. To this extent, your marketing plan should include a mix of online and offline marketing strategies to reach the most significant number of potential customers.

Let's look in more detail at some of these marketing ideas and methods:

  • Google Adwords: This might be one of the quickest ways to get traffic to your online store. Google Adwords is an advertising service offered by Google that allows you to place ads on Google.com and its partner websites. Ads about your store will show up when someone types in specific keywords into the Google search engine.
  • Instagram Shopping: This is a (relatively) newer feature that allows businesses to tag products in their Instagram posts. When users click on the labeled product, they are taken to the business's website's product page.
  • Organic Instagram Advertising: Advertising on Instagram can also happen organically as you post photos of your products and include a link to your website in the caption. This is similar to other social media platforms. However, it will take some time to reach organic traffic levels, especially if you are starting out.
  • Facebook Advertising: Facebook Ads are another popular way to advertise online. With Facebook Ads, you can target users based on interests, demographics, and even behaviors. Facebook Ads for small businesses can be very effective if used correctly.
  • Email Marketing: Email marketing involves sending promotional emails to potential and current customers. This is a great way to keep your business top of mind and encourage customers to make a purchase. You can also easily let your email list know of any discounts or upcoming promotions.
  • Search Engine Optimization: An online thrift store business will not be successful as it can be without organic traffic from Google. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of optimizing your website to rank higher in Google search results. You can do a few simple things to get started, such as using relevant keywords on your website and in your product descriptions.
  • Local Advertising: Local advertising is a great option to reach customers in a specific geographic area. You can do local advertising through print, radio, television, etc. You can even set up a stand in local fairs to spread the word about your store.

When creating your marketing plan, keep a few things in mind. First, you need to set a budget. Marketing can be expensive, so you need to make sure you have enough money to do it right.

Second, you need to focus on your target market. Who are the people most likely to buy your products? What are their needs and wants? Once you know your target market, you can create marketing messages that speak directly to them.

10. Keep Track Of Your Progress And Adjust As Needed

Finally, you need to track your results. Keep track of how many sales each marketing campaign generates to see what's working and what's not. While a marketing plan for your business is essential to its success, knowing what results your efforts are generating is key.

The best way is to set up goals and KPIs (key performance indicators).

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Image Credit: http://blog.contactpigeon.com

Some goals you might want to set for your online thrift store include increasing sales by X percent, increasing traffic to your website by X percent, or reaching X number of followers on social media - all over a set period.

Your KPIs might also include conversion rate (the percentage of visitors who make a purchase), average order value, or customer lifetime value.

By tracking your progress and making adjustments as needed, you can ensure that your online thrift shop business is always moving in the right direction.

Conclusion

The online thrift store business is a great way to make extra money on the side or even as your primary business. With a bit of planning and effort, you can create a successful online store that generates sales and brings in new customers.

In addition, online thrift stores are a great way to reduce waste and help the environment. By selling secondhand items, you are keeping them out of landfills and helping to reduce the demand for new products.

Setting up an online thrift store can also be a fun and rewarding experience. With a little bit of planning, you can have your store up and running much quicker than previously possible. Use the tips in this article to get started, and be sure to track your progress so you can make adjustments as needed.

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About the author 

Mike Vestil

Mike Vestil is an author, investor, and speaker known for building a business from zero to $1.5 million in 12 months while traveling the world.

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