Sell! Sell! Sell! Clean Out Your Closets and Make a Little Cash
For families, sometimes the biggest obstacle to having a beautiful home is all the little ones. You know: the plastic toys all over the floor, the closets overflowing with clothing your kids have outgrown, the Barney videos under the TV — even though your kids are in middle school.
Spring is the optimal time to de-clutter and make a little cash on the side by selling the old clothing, toys and equipment that have been cluttering up your home. The options available include everything from online selling to consignment stores to seasonal clothing exchanges.
eBay is the largest online community of buyers and sellers. To get started, you must be a registered user and establishing a PayPal account is recommended because many buyers use this method of payment.
Before listing a particular item, do your research to determine how well the item will sell and the price range paid for your item or similar items. "Your best bet is to go into search and check off completed auctions," says eBay seller Jody Hoover of Womelsdorf, Pa. "That way you can look them up individually. It's so hit or miss with toys that are only a few years old."
Clothing that is not particularly special can be grouped into "lots." "If you're just looking to unload clothes and clean out your closets, then I would say the fastest way would be to sell the clothes in lots," says eBay seller Cathy Kelenski of Warren, Mich. "Split the clothes up so that you have lots for each size so as to not have a huge lot with tons of mixed sizes."
When you're ready to sell an item, simply click on the Sell link at the top of the page and specify the look of your listing, price and shipping method. You are more likely to stimulate bidding if you start your item at a low price. Consider the lowest price at which you can bear to sell your item. eBay charges both an insertion fee to list your item and a final value fee when the item sells.
When you list your item, you are presented with a menu of options to enhance your listing. Pay close attention to these enhancements because they will increase the listing price for your item. Definitely use a photo of your item. You can include one for free within your listing page. "Whenever I have done lots of my children's clothing, I have always matched up any outfits or coordinating pieces and taken photos of them," Kelenski says. "I made sure to take photos of every piece so that the bidders know exactly what they're getting. Taking photos in natural lighting makes the pictures most clear and easy to see the true items you're listing."
A gallery photo, which is a thumbnail photo of your item next to your listing, is recommended, but costs extra. Reserve prices allow a minimum selling price to be hidden from bidders, but these tend to frustrate interested buyers. End your auction at a time when buyers are most likely to be available to make last-minute bids.
Generally, the buyer pays for shipping. Sellers can either set a flat rate shipping charge or allow the user to calculate shipping based on weight, packaging and distance. In setting a flat rate, be sure your shipping cost is high enough to cover both shipping and delivery confirmation because if you underestimate shipping, you will cut into your profits. Insurance can be added and paid for by the buyer. Some eBay sellers will add an additional handling fee. "I put the eBay fees into the shipping," says local eBay seller Vickie Capes of Jamestown.
A great place to sell books, DVDs, VHS tapes and video or PC games is Amazon.com. Search for the item you would like to sell and then when you get to that item's page, look to the far right for the "Sell Yours Here" button. After clicking the "new and used" link, the site will guide you through the process of pricing your item, describing its condition and registering for online payment through Amazon Payments.
Once your item has been purchased, your money can be transferred directly to your checking account. Amazon.com's commission is 99 cents plus 15 percent of the selling price. Your listing is posted for 60 days, and if it doesn't sell, you don't pay anything. Amazon.com does provide a flat rate shipping credit of $3.49 for books and video/PC games, and $2.49 for videos and DVDs.
A local online site for selling items is Craigslist (http://greensboro.craigslist.org). Craigslist connects people to the goods or services they are seeking and does not charge fees to its users. To place a classified ad to sell items, click on the "Post to Classifieds" link, choose For Sale/Wanted as your posting type, and then the Baby & Kid Stuff category. Your listing will be posted for 45 days. Photos can be uploaded to enhance your listing.
For those who prefer a less high-tech approach to selling, the Triad is home to many consignment stores that specialize in children's clothing and sometimes offer toys and equipment, too. Some, like Once Upon a Child in Winston-Salem and Greensboro, will buy your items for resell. Others will give you a certain percentage of the sales price, generally 40 to 50 percent, once the item has sold. Store credit, which is offered by Hand Me Down Kids in Greensboro, is another payment option.
To increase the likelihood of re-sell, the consignor should make the items as presentable as possible, according to Dana Rowe, owner of Second Avenue Consignments in Thomasville. "The biggest key to consignment for kids' stuff is to bring it clean."
Consignments shops will not accept outdated products. "I check the items to see if they have been recalled," says Lynn Cole of Carousel Kids in Graham. "If there are stress marks on a car seat, I don't accept it."
If a store maintains a customer wish list, a quick phone call to an interested buyer can help move your consignment items faster. For Lori Baxter of Hand Me Down Kids in Greensboro, this method works well. "When I get something in, I have three to four people to call," she says. "Chances are it will be gone the next day."
Seasonal Children's Exchanges
Preschools and churches often hold seasonal clothing and toy exchanges to raise money. In addition, there are for-profit clothing exchanges throughout the Triad. For example, WeeRuns (www.weeruns.com) is a semi-annual consignment sale of kids' clothing, toys, furniture, equipment and maternity clothing in High Point. And Winston-Salem is the home of the A2Z Children's Exchange http://a2zchildrensexchange.tripod.com/, as well as The Winston-Salem Children's Clothing Exchange. The benefit to selling items in these consignment sales is that consignors are able to set the price of their items and are often invited to a special preview of items before the sale is open to the public.
"I consider the sales to be a form of long-term borrowing," Capes says. "I buy clothes for my kids and sell them back after they have outgrown them."
In March, Sue Scalf of Jamestown placed some items in a seasonal clothing exchange hosted by Sedgefield Presbyterian Church. "I had about 70 things, sold about one-half of them and made $78," she says.
In seasonal clothing exchanges, the percentage consignors receive is generally 50 percent. Consignors are often allowed to decide whether they want to reduce their sales price near the end of the sale.
To find a list of seasonal clothing sales near you, visit: http://kidsconsignmentguide.com/KidsConsignmentGuide/index.html or http://home.comcast.net/~sbreaden/outsideGAsales.htm.
With multiple options for selling, it should be easy to find a new home for your used kids' clothes and toys and make a little money on the side to buy more!
What Sells Well?
For online auctions, smaller and lighter items will definitely be better sellers because the buyer will not have to pay high shipping charges. "Many [items are] probably not even worth selling online because the shipping would cost the buyer more than they'd be willing to pay," says Jody Hoover of Womelsdorf, Pa. "Some you're probably better off selling at a yard sale."
Toys can do well on eBay. "Name brands like Fisher-Price and Little Tikes usually have potential to do well — and most any Transformers," Hoover says.
eBay seller Bonnie Solomon of Denton, Texas, agrees. "Any Fisher-Price does well, as do action figures (Batman, Power Rangers, etc.)," she says. "Some stuffed animals of TV characters do well if they aren't overly mass-produced."
"I have done well with some LeapFrog products that were several years old but gently used," says eBay seller Lelia-Anne Lawless of Charlottesville, Va.
Regarding clothing, that Lily print dress your daughter wore once last summer will sell much better than her favorite princess T-shirt from the local discount store. "I have found that on eBay, name brands will sell," says Sue Scalf of Jamestown. "Non-name brand clothing is not worth it. You can do better in a consignment sale."
"Don't expect bidders for [individual] items that can be purchased at Wal-Mart or Target," counsels Cathy Kelenski of Warren, Mich. "Save those for the lots."
Specific clothing items can be hot sellers during particular times of the year. "Halloween costumes and Christmas clothing fly off the shelf on eBay," says Vickie Capes of Jamestown. "I paid $35 for a Thomas the Tank Engine costume one year and sold it back for $35 the next year."
Because it is not an auction atmosphere, less special things often do well at consignment stores. "We find that most people just want nice, clean clothes that are good quality and priced low," says Audrey McHugh of Mrs. Tiggywinkle's in Graham. Brands like Gymboree, Gap, Limited Too and Fast Friends are popular with her customers. "But even clothes from Wal-Mart are desirable if they still look new," she says.
It's important to note that you can sell all sizes of kids' clothing at many consignment shops. "I think the biggest misconception about kids' consignment is that it's not just for babies," says Lori Baxter of Hand Me Down Kids in Greensboro. "We go up to a size 16. I moved the baby clothes to the back of the store, and now I sell more big kid stuff than baby stuff."
Little Tikes toys sell well in consignment shops. "Little Tikes in good shape will sell right away," says Lynn Cole of Carousel Kids in Graham. "We had a Little Tikes climber and it sold right away. We got another one, and it sold. We can't keep them 24 hours." Kelli Burns is an assistant professor in the School of Communications at Elon University.