I'll admit it: I don't bring my clothes to resell shops because I'm afraid of rejection. I don't want to walk out of the shops dragging a garbage bag of unwanted garments, defeated and penniless. But sometimes I wonder if I'm shortchanging myself. Would that studded vest I set out on the curb have fetched a few bucks? Could I have traded that boring pink shift for store credit? I suspect there are other thrifty, self-conscious fashionistas out there, so here are tips from buyers at Buffalo Exchange, Funky Monkey and The Revival Outpost for maximizing what you're offered for your garments at a resale shop.
First, don't take anything personally. The selling process isn't a critique of your personal style. "Just because we don't buy something doesn't mean it's not cool," says Tiffani Harris, a buyer at Funky Monkey. "Some people might bring in conservative items and look fantastic in them, but people don't shop at Funky Monkey for conservative styles. Sometimes, it's just not our customer. We're still a business."
It helps to have an idea of the kind of clothes the buyers want. Visiting the store or its website helps, and the buyers I interviewed were unanimous in wanting one-of-a-kind vintage items, '90s pieces and costumes all year around. "The '90s stuff definitely sells really well," says Ashley Talbot, a buyer and manager at The Revival Outpost. "Cut-off, high-waisted shorts, crop tops... People are really liking overalls."
As far as labels go, The Revival Outpost has a list of preferred brands ranging from Anthropologie to Zara, while Buffalo Exchange buyers care more about the clothing's style than its label. "We buy based on the shape and pattern, and the label comes in to assist us with pricing," store manager Denise Lyons says.
Funky Monkey and The Revival Outpost buy only seasonally appropriate clothes; Buffalo Exchange buys for all seasons at any time.
"We buy summer in winter and winter in summer, because you get the best out-of-season clothes in the opposite season," Lyons says. "We do get selective with out-of-season clothes — we want to see the very best of the passing season."
You have a better chance of a selling your clothes if they're clean, unwrinkled and in good condition. "No holes, no stains, no missing buttons, but as far as steaming and hangers, that's not necessary," Harris says. "For shoes, it's helpful if they're polished at least at the toe, and if the inside is cleaned with no existing toe marks," Lyons says. "The better items look, the better the chance of selling them."
Buffalo Exchange, Funky Monkey and The Revival Outpost keep at least one buyer on staff at all times, so you can sell your clothes any time during business hours. Appointments aren't necessary, and the process takes less than 10 minutes if you bring in a Whole Foods Market-sized bag of goods, says Lyons.
Though the time of day or day of the week won't influence your selling success, certain times of the year are better than others, Lyons says.
"The best time for people to sell are the times the store is busiest: before, during and after Mardi Gras and Halloween," Lyons says. "Both are at the change of the season, so we're more open (to styles), and the sales floor has higher traffic, so we're turning more merchandise over and need the items more."
The stores offer sellers a choice of cash or store credit: Buffalo Exchange offers 30 percent cash and 50 percent store credit; Funky Monkey offers 40 percent cash and 50 percent store credit; and The Revival Outpost offers 30 percent cash and 40 percent store credit. Most customers prefer to take their profits in cash, and the income can be substantial.
"It depends on how much they bring in, but the average amount (sellers) get is between $20 and $40," Lyons says. "There was this one woman in Phoenix who came in with 17 contractor-size trash bags. She'd come in once a month with that quantity. We'd write her checks for over $500. I think she was a professional picker."
Lyons and Talbot encourage people to donate their unsold clothes to charity, because their stores will not accept these pieces. Lyons says she's actively seeking red dresses for the Red Dress Run in August.
"Currently, we have about 600 red dresses," she says. "If people have large and extra-large red dresses, we want them. And anything else outlandish, because we're in New Orleans."