Have you ever wandered the aisles of your local thrift store and wondered if you could make money flipping some of the unique items you find? With a little know-how, thrift store flipping can become a fun and lucrative side hustle or even a full-time business. This comprehensive guide will teach you how to source, evaluate and resell thrift store finds for big profits.
Thrift store flipping involves purchasing items from thrift stores, garage sales or estate sales and reselling them for a profit. With some hunting skills, knowledge of what sells, creative marketing and use of online selling platforms like eBay and Etsy, thrifters can turn dusty discarded items into cash cows.
The key is finding goods to flip that are valuable, in demand and priced low enough to allow for a sizable profit margin. It takes some experience, but the payoff can be huge – it’s not uncommon for seasoned flippers to regularly source items for $5 and below that sell for $50, $100 or even higher.
This guide will walk you through:
- How to Find Valuable Thrift Store Items
- Pricing and Profit Margins
- Where to Resell for Big Profits
- Tips from Expert Flippers
- Essential Tools and Supplies
- How to Photograph and List Items
- Shipping and Managing Inventory
- Accounting and Taxes
Follow these steps to start or refine your own thrifting flipping side hustle. With some diligent hunting and selling, you can start pocketing serious cash on a regular basis.
How to Find Valuable Thrift Store Items
Knowing what to look for when sourcing inventory is critical. While thrift stores have plenty of junk, they also contain overlooked treasures. Here are tips for finding flippable items:
Search Every Aisle – Don’t just focus on the clothing racks. Valuable finds can be found in any department. Search electronics, books, housewares, decor, lamps, artwork, collectibles, etc.
Look for Vintage and Retro Items – Vintage clothing, furniture, decor and kitschy items from previous eras are hot sellers. Mid century furniture and decor is especially popular. Search for quality vintage items in good condition.
Spot Brand Names – Scan for high end brand name clothing, shoes, bags and accessories. Coach, Louis Vuitton, Tory Burch and Nike are brands that sell well. Also look for specialty brands popular with collectors.
Check Glassware and Dishes – Crystal, silver and vintage dish sets by brands like Fire King and Pyrex are in demand. Unique glassware and barware sells great.
Evaluate Condition – Well-made furniture and decor in great shape commands higher prices. Clothing should be spotless and not out of style. Signs of damage or excessive wear will tank value.
Search Smalls – Don’t ignore baskets of loose items. Here you’ll find vintage jewelry, figurines, cameras and other items overlooked by most.
Hit Various Locations – Compare different thrift stores in your area. Some have higher quality items than others. Also try consignment stores, estate sales and garage sales.
Go Often – New inventory comes out daily at thrift stores. You need to hunt frequently to find the best stuff.
Trust Your Instincts – Follow up if you have a hunch an item could be valuable. Do some quick searches on your phone to verify.
Pricing and Profit Margins
Determining how much to pay for an item versus how much you can realistically sell it for is a balancing act. Follow these guidelines to set yourself up for success:
Set Minimum Price Thresholds – For clothing, only buy pieces you can sell for at least $20. For housewares, aim for $45+, and furniture $100+. Focus on higher profit items.
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Calculate Your Profit Goal – Decide the minimum profit you want to earn on an item after expenses. Many flippers shoot for 100% ROI or higher. If you buy a decorative object for $5, aim to sell it for at least $10.
Factor in Fees – Online selling sites charge listing/transaction fees plus payment processing fees. Make sure your price allows you to still meet profit goals after fees.
Compare Online Prices – Do a quick search for sold/completed listings on eBay and Etsy for similar items. Compare to what you might list for.
Consider Cleaning/Repair Costs – If an item needs repairs or significant cleaning, make sure you can cover costs and still earn a decent profit.
Negotiate Deals – Don’t be afraid to politely ask for a lower price at checkout, especially if making a bulk purchase. Most thrift stores will work with you.
Where to Resell for Big Profits
Once you’ve sourced great flippable products, you need outlets to resell them. Here are top online and offline options:
eBay – This massive online auction marketplace gives access to millions of buyers globally. Great for rare and niche items. Requires excellent listings.
Etsy – Perfect for vintage and handmade goods. Etsy buyers appreciate unique, quality finds like those found thrifting. Low listing fees.
Facebook Marketplace – List locally for free. Meet buyers in your area to exchange items for cash. Very convenient for furniture flipping.
Craigslist – Another option to connect with local buyers. Best for furniture and bulky items you don’t want to ship.
Amazon (FBA) – Send inventory to Amazon’s warehouses and tap into their Prime member network. Great way to scale up.
Poshmark – Popular resale app for clothing, shoes, accessories and home goods. Uses a social shopping model. Easy photographing with app.
Mercari – User-friendly app with low selling fees. fast payouts. Focused on clothing, electronics, collectibles and home.
Tradesy – Upscale online consignment store focused on designer fashion including luxury handbags, shoes and accessories.
Chairish – Upscale vintage furniture and decor reseller with a web site and retail showrooms. Higher end pieces.
Local Antique Stores – For truly rare finds, consider taking to local antiques dealers. They may buy outright or sell on consignment.
Tips from Expert Flippers
We asked experienced thrift store flippers to share their top tips for success:
Focus on Smalls – “I look for smaller vintage and collectible items that are easier to photograph, ship and store versus bulky furniture.” – Jessica D.
Wait for Sales – “To maximize profits, I source most of my inventory from 50% off color tag sales. There’s less competition too.” – Mark K.
Learn Trends – “I spend 15 minutes a day browsing Poshmark’s party posts to learn what styles and brands are hot right now.” – Leanne C.
Check Sold Listings – “I always search sold eBay listings so I know how much items have sold for recently, not just listed prices.” – James F.
Don’t Overpay – “I never pay more than 20% of the estimated resale price. There’s too much risk otherwise.” – Chris W.
Start Part Time – “I recommend starting slow and small to learn the ropes first. Don’t try to go full-time right away.” – Monica S.
Essential Tools and Supplies
Succeeding at thrift store flipping requires having the right gear to source, prep, photograph, ship and manage inventory. Here are the must-haves:
Phone or Camera – Critical for snapping photos of items to research or document for listings.
Tape Measure – Measure clothing and furnishings to accurately list dimensions and confirm if pieces will fit to ship.
Jewelry Loupe – Magnifying lens to inspect jewelry for markings and check condition.
Poly Mailers – Essential for safely shipping clothing orders. Stock a range of sizes.
Bubble Wrap/Packing Materials – Cushion fragile items so they arrive undamaged to buyers.
Shipping Scale – Weigh packages to calculate accurate shipping costs and print labels.
Printer – Print shipping labels and invoices at home to avoid trips to the post office.
Inventory Management App – Apps like Google Sheets help you catalog and track all items.
Tip: Buy mailing supplies like poly mailers in bulk online to save. Storage bins keep inventory organized.
How to Photograph and List Items
Great listings are the key to sales. Follow these tips to make your items shine:
Take Lots of Photos – Use 8-12 clear, well-lit photos showing all angles, close-ups, branding, flaws, etc.
Clean and Press Items – Wipe off dust and lint. Steam or iron clothing. Staged photos earn more.
Be Descriptive – Note colors, materials, dimensions, flaws, vintage dates and any unique details of items.
Highlight Brands and Keywords – Include brand names, specifics like “mid century”, “retro” etc. to optimize for search.
Write Engaging Titles – Make titles keyword-rich but compelling. “Vintage 1960s Mod Wool Mini Dress” not “Old Dress”.
Craft Copy to Sell – Don’t just describe, persuade! Help buyers visualize wearing or displaying the item.
Tip: Measure flat lay clothing shots against plain backgrounds. Use props and mannequins to showcase pieces.
Shipping and Managing Inventory
Master these fulfillment fundamentals to complete sales smoothly:
Package Well – Use bubble wrap, tissue and mailers in sufficient size for the item. Seal securely.
Ship Quickly – Get orders out within 24-48 hours. Quick shipping gets positive reviews.
Weigh Everything – Double check weights and dimensions to avoid cost overages. Print shipping labels from home.
Provide Tracking – Share tracking numbers so buyers can follow deliveries.
Refresh and Rotate – Edit listings with new photos and details to generate renewed interest.
Track Inventory – Use a simple spreadsheet or app to log what items you have listed or sold.
Tip: Reuse packaging materials from inbound orders to save money. Offer combined shipping discounts when reasonable.
Accounting and Taxes
Handling the financials is crucial. Follow best practices to maximize profits:
Get a Separate Credit Card – Open a business credit card and use exclusively for flipping expenses to simplify accounting.
Save Receipts – Keep all purchase receipts to document your inventory cost basis. Digitize receipts by scanning or photographing.
Track Mileage – Log mileage for sourcing trips using an app to capture tolls. Mileage is a deductible expense.
Manage Bookkeeping – Use accounting software or spreadsheets to manage income, expenses, profit and loss.
Pay Quarterly Estimated Taxes – Pay estimated income taxes quarterly to avoid penalties. An accountant can advise rates.
Document Everything – Keep meticulous records covering every transaction in case of audit.
Tip: Set aside 30% of profits to cover taxes. Deduct exempt sales tax amounts from cost basis when calculating profit.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have questions about getting started reselling thrift store products? Here are answers to the most common questions:
How much money can I make flipping thrift store items?
Your earning potential depends on your sourcing and selling skills. Many flippers net $20-$50 profit per item after fees. Selling 2-5 items per day at average $30 profit can generate $1,000+ in extra monthly income working just a few hours a week. Full-time flippers often make $4,000-$6,000 monthly.
What sells best?
Vintage clothing, jewelry, designer goods, trendy styles and brands, electronics, antiques, and collectibles have the highest flipping potential. Valuable finds can be found in any category though when sourced smartly.
Do I need to register as a business?
If doing retail arbitrage casually or part time, you can simply report profits on Schedule C of your personal tax return. Registering an LLC offers liability protection and may provide tax benefits for full-time flippers.
How do I price items?
Check completed eBay listings for sold prices of similar items. Price on the higher side but below highest historical examples. Research item details and brands. Consider all fees deducted from the sale price too.
Where do I find wholesale supplies?
Look for mailbox stores and packaging suppliers in your area that sell mailers, boxes and bubble wrap in bulk. Online options include Uline, Paper Mart and Bulk Office Supply. Compare pricing to find the best deals.
Can I negotiate at thrift stores?
It never hurts to politely ask! Most thrift stores will offer 10-25% off, especially on bulk purchases or higher priced items. The worst they can say is no. Ask to speak to a manager if needed.
With some skilled hunting, you can uncover diamonds in the rough at your local thrift stores. Use this guide’s tips to begin sourcing overlooked items, preparing compelling listings, and tapping into marketplaces to maximize resale profits.
Not only can you declutter homes by giving old items new life, but also earn substantial extra cash flows in the process. Start small and learn as you grow your thrift flipping side hustle into a revenue-generating enterprise. Just don’t forget to check those half off color tag days – that’s where the real treasures are found!
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