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Selling Clothes Online

I wanted to talk today about selling clothes online.  There are a lot of good things about choosing clothes:

  • They’re always in demand, even in a weak economy
  • There’s a huge variety, so people are willing to buy clothes even if none of their existing clothes have worn out
  • There’s a large number of manufacturers, so even if one manufacturer won’t sell to you (as an online retailer), there will be others that will
  • They’re relatively high-priced, so you can earn a good income per hour of your time invested

Unfortunately, there are also a number of drawbacks:

  • The return rate on clothing tends to be much higher than for other products
  • It can be hard to judge demand for a specific style / size / color of clothing (e.g., you know there’s good demand for a particular jacket, so you buy it in ‘large red’, but the demand is heavily concentrated in ‘medium blue’)

To touch on the return rate problem a little more, unlike a store where people can try on different sizes to see which fits best, there’s no way to do this when shopping online.  So buyers will try it and just return it if it doesn’t fit right.  One of the most frustrating things as a clothing retailer is to see someone order a particular item in two or three sizes, you know with near certainty that all but one of those will be returned.

Amazon is a good marketplace to sell clothing.  One specific downside to selling clothing on Amazon, though, is that Amazon sells a lot in this category themselves.  If you see Amazon selling a particular item, it’s going to be hard to compete.  They’re getting lower wholesale prices than you will, and they price very aggressively.  That’s great if you’re a buyer, not so great if you’re a seller.  They sell most of the well-known brands, and are particularly aggressive about selling women’s clothing.

If you’re just starting out and don’t have a lot of capital for inventory, one strategy you could try is to buy clothing in outlet stores and re-sell it online.  You’ll need to do your homework to make this pay off, of course.  You need to check what’s available in the store, then go see how it’s selling online (eBay, Amazon, Sears Marketplace, etc.), then go back to the store and buy it if it’s a good match.  If you focus on a small number of brands and go to the outlet stores every day, after a while you’ll know what sells online without having to double check, so it will get more efficient.  But when you’re just starting it will take a lot of your time.

You could even create a listing for clothes you haven’t bought yet, knowing they’re available in the outlet stores.  Then when someone buys from you online, you go to the outlet store and buy it.  You’ll get some extra negative reviews from people if you’re not able to fill the order because the store sold out before you get there, though.  You’d want to at least check the store every day and remove listings for items no longer available.



  1. TraceyAnn
    May 10, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Great article. I am a major reseller online and it does work if you do your research. Selling on your own website might prove beneficial as well.

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