Monday, June 20, 2011

Shop with Shopping

Promoting the reuse market via personal journey seems to be my passion. It’d be a dream to run into a municipal or state Office of Economic Development and fire up programs to grow the American reuse market. Most politicians shy away from this because – we can assume - of corporate campaign funding. I know for certain, at least one of my pleas has landed on the desk of one significant elected official.

For years many friends, relations and readers have hinted an online resale shop is in my future, but managing a retail operation doesn’t make me want to fist pump and scream, “Yes!” That’s why I admire and respect friend Apron Thrift Girl’s sage teachings of resale on her blog. We’d make a good team, Apron Thrift Girl in the field, and me on the policies. We talk. We dream.

As with many Americans, the Golightlys have serious economic woes. For some time, I searched for Mr. Golightly’s Father’s Day gift. Just in the nick of time, I found an expanding magazine file rack for his office. He loved it. He Googled it to learn its history. He saw how much it’s selling for online. Though he loves the item, he’d rather have the $ for our family (Mr. Golightly has been a proponent of an online resale shop for a while). I started to give this some serious thought because it was Father's Day.

To learn more about the resale market, it would be wise to know it from more sides. Soon, The Thrifty Chicks will be opening an online store [Exhale]. I have anxieties. When friends tell me to be an interior designer, I morph into Gertrude Stein and note “My taste, is my taste, is my taste“. Plus, I don’t know a damn thing about color theory, another excuse for feeling intimidated. When our house was to be painted and I was handed the paint color options (over a thousand variations on a giant wheel) and gave it directly to Modern Mommie (a trained artist). I knew the colors: green house, plum trim with a café au lait accent. Modern Mommie’s fingers flew over those colors had the perfect palate in five minutes. This would have taken me 72 hours to come close to anything satisfying. I don’t mind sharing my taste, but feel a bit weird feeling about selling it. We all fear rejection.

Unlike the conventional retail market, shoppers of resale have direct, easy access to the main product suppliers of reuse: thrift stores, yard and estate sales – the places for the lowest price point. The online resale markets like EBay and Etsy determine the highest.

My dilemma? I don’t wish to price gouge. Yet, I need to earn enough to justify my time, it’d be foolish of me to invest my time into something that hardly clears minimum wage.

Basically, I need to determine a good finder’s fee strategy.

Most items I will sell will be finds that come around maybe once a year. That’s a lot of time in thrift stores. And, my inventory will start with items I value. Let’s just say I’d make a terrible snake oil salesman – how people do that is beyond my scope of understanding.

The store will start with several years of inventory I’m willing to part with because the Golightly's are purging. However, when out shopping for items we do need (like clothing for my growing daughters) and I see a beautiful antique Graniteware muffin tin for a few dollars and while I do bake muffins, this tin is very rare find, and it would be profitable to sell (I looked it up). This would be like passing up on an extravagant meal for pennies when you haven’t yet had dinner. [Sigh.] Having a kitchen wholly outfitted with fine antique French cookware sounds wonderful. The reality? We need money and I could use some experience in selling reuse. And, when you thrift, you learn that what goes around comes around. It’s just is a matter of timing and luck.

I’d like public input on what reasonable finder’s fees might be. I want to entice people into my market, but I don’t want to either drive potential customers away with the price, or shortchange my family. Any thoughts?

While you think about this, here are a few photos of items found this week. Some will go up for sale online.

Petite Poe fell for this antique French crystal atomizer...


and these vintage Norman Kaplan designer shoes that must of come from the closet of Imelda Marcos for I cannot understand how a shoe could be so old and in such pristine condition. Who buys shoes and then doesn't wear them? Why?


Then she found this Anthropologie skirt...


to which I found this full skirt with tags still dangling from an import store.



It's critical to note that, as an advocate of shopping thrift, it's important I send my daughters out into the world with an enviable style so that when asked where this skirt or those shoes were purchased and say they declare, "thrift" they are honored, not humiliated.

This is the antique Graniteware muffin tin I wrote about in the above.


The expanding magazine/file rack and...


a few office supplies.


Now off to inventory; photograph; design and set up a little online store. This is no small project and I need to get over it and myself. Sheesh!

20 comments:

Beth said...

This is very cool! I love to see your finds and I always think, "Wow, she has way cooler thrift stores near her than I do." I never find anything close to what you find.

So good for you for undertaking this new venture! But yep, I can see where pricing would be tricky. Can you do a set markup based on price ranges? Like if something costs up to $1.00, you mark it up X times?

If it costs between $1.01 and $5.00, you mark it up X times? Etc.?

I'm thinking of a particular tumbler that my mom really likes. She found a set of four in an antique store a few years ago, but one is really cloudy and she'd like more, besides. She found another one in another antique store and paid $5 for it. I found one at Goodwill a few months ago and paid $.25. She was fine with spending $5 on her glass because it was something she sought.

So, maybe you mark $.25 items up x20, for instance? But $5 items, only x4?

Carol said...

I agree with Beth. I enjoy seeing what your snake eyes have found! Way cooler than the stuff I find. I wish you all the best in your new venture.

Beth said...

Absolutely go for it. Why share fees with EBay or others? You've built your own following and now you're increasing your value to your readership while attracting even more folks. Etsy and decorator blogs (where many have begun to sell "antique" and re-done home goods) should help you refine your ideas on pricing. Congrats!

Marcia said...

Your shop is a great idea, and I will check it frequently! Your blog is exceptional, and I have long felt that if you wrote daily (maybe?) you would eventually score a book deal as many other blogger have done. I realize this may not be feasible for you, so please don't construe my comments as criticism as I wish you much success.

Make-up your mind said...

In England will dont have thrift markets/shops/ yard sales or goodwill. it sucks :(

A fellow thrifter said...

You go girl. Seel it to the highest bidder.

Anonymous said...

There's a huge difference between capitalism and conspicuous consumption. Go for it, SG!

There's absolutely nothing wrong with allowing the highest bidder to win something the second (or third, or fourth) time around. It's still potentially diverting something from the waste stream, and/or preventing a newer, possibly cheaper knockoff from being made (along with the footprint that goes along with it).

Ease your conscience. Etsy is a good audience. Check out Ebay's historical winning bids to see some data points, but sell at the place where you'll get the most for having your Snake Eyes!

alian said...

Thanks for the post, This was exactly what I needed to see.Good list, keep up the good work
Geschenkideen

Serena said...

As an eBay seller myself, I wish you all the best in your endeavors. You are keeping things out of the landfill by giving them another life in other people's hands. Plus, you are being responsible to the financial needs of your family, so no need to feel guilty. We all have bills to pay and need to make an honest living somehow.

Joy said...

Well, well! Diving into being a seller vs a great Thrifty-thrifter is BIG! And remember that the highest prices are determinded not by Etsy or eBay...it's the big auction houses,and private collectors that can really raise the roof! Meanwhile, back on planet earth, and in the beginning, I agree with Apron Thrift Girl & her experiences. She's been evaluating all her hard work maintaining several online shops recently...from time shopping, photographing, & listing to customer communications & shipping. I'd learn from her. It's, afterall, a bold, new world to resell & stay centered, balanced & stay in love with the work! Good luck!

Rebekah @ reclaimed riches said...

I love your things! I know you'll do great! Can't wait to see...

Sherrie said...

How great, a new venture for you! I wish you all the best. :-) I'm no good at pricing/selling - no experience. But you are a smart lady, and I'm sure you will find your way with this, as long as you are following your passion. We love looking at your finds. I believe that you will pull together a great look for your online store, and it is that sense of cohesion of character that appeals visually. You have a good eye - you know you do - so trust it and your God given talents. ;-) Best to you and yours! ♥

Anonymous said...

What a great idea! I hope you'll sell some of your Anthropologie. I live in WV and do not get to visit this store often and even when I do, I can't afford it :]

Anonymous said...

Like other commenters, I am in awe of the things you find (and I do live in Denver)! I also wait anxiously for new posts and think you have a magnetic voice and high ethical standards. Cheers to your new & profitable business!

erin said...

best of luck to you. we dove into the resale business a year ago next month. it is exhilarating and frustrating, all at once.

my best advise would be to keep prices reasonable. it's often tempting to mark things as high as you see them going for in other places, if not higher. the reality is that people like to shop around for the best deal, and inventory turnover is a good thing, even if it means you're taking slightly less than an item is worth.

cheers! that second skirt has my name written all over it!

sraikh said...

I started reselling on Ebay a year ago and I love it. You already have the eye and you know what sells.

I wish you the best of luck

Nostalgic in Maine said...

I am also very excited to see what you will be offering for sale - you have the best snake eyes around ;-)

1 Buddha's Mom said...

This is an awesome idea and opportunity for you! Never feel guilty about making money! Set a % mark up that seems fair and it will still be a major bargain for your shoppers. In my ebay sales, I generally aim for a 100% selling price over my original cost. So if I buy something for $25.00 I want to sell it for $50.00. This works for me but you may need to play around with your numbers to find the right 'fit' for your store. Good Luck:)

Daisy said...

I love looking through thrift and second hand shops. I buy much more mundane things, though - jeans, baskets (I love thrift baskets for gift-giving), jackets, etc.

Mavis & Harriet said...

"Carry on girl", I think you will be surprised at how much fun this will be! I started my own online selling much the same way, my passion is the same thrifting and I just hated to pass up all the great finds just because I did not need them. I would say, "this is great! surely someone could use it". Finally it clicked, someone could use it and pay me a finders fee. Here is my blog where I sell vintage finds www.mavisharriet.blogspot.com , I have been selling for a couple of years now and make enough mad money to decorate our entire home and clothe all of us!!! Love your blog and can't wait to shop, you will ship won't you, oh PLEASE!
Mavis & Harriet