It can be really frustrating—you clean out your closet, drag your haul across town to some trendy resale shop, plop your bag down on the counter in front of a glaze-eyed hipster with a seemingly permanent scowl and stand there watching helplessly as they pass on everything you brought in.
I used to be one of those glaze-eyed hipsters. Well, if you take a look at me you could argue I’m still one of those glaze-eyed hipsters… it’s just that I don’t work at a trendy buy-sell-trade store anymore. However, I did work at such a shop once upon a time, and I was damn good at it. I have the Employee of the Year plaque to prove it.
While my buyer days are behind me, I still love going into my old shop, bringing in clothes I haven’t worn enough and trading them in for one special item that I will actually wear. I’m good at it because I know the system—I know what to bring in, what just might make it and what to just leave at home.
The fact is, though, that you never really know what a buyer is going to take or pass. But, if you want to cut down on the rejection factor, avoid bringing in items that fit into these categories:
1. Stuff they already have on the floor
See how this silk has lost its luster and you can’t make out the grain of the fibers? That’s because I put this dress in the washing machine like a lazy idiot.
This tip calls for a little research. If you go into your favorite buy-sell-trade regularly, take note of the styles you already see on the floor. Sure that low-back bodysuit you brought in is still on-trend, but if they already have five in each size on the floor, chances are they’re going to pass. It’s supply and demand, sister, and it rules even in the resale world.
If your buy-sell-trade chain also carries “new merch” (products that were brought in by corporate, not used items from individual sellers), don’t expect them to buy in those same styles. Any chain that has new merch is going to want to get their ROI (return on investment) on these items before they turn over their cash/credit to you.
2. Anything with pilling, stains, snags, etc… no matter how minuscule
Even pilling this fine would be considered a pass. You can still see the cotton is damaged.
Yes, that Elizabeth & James top is beautiful, flattering and still on-trend, but you washed it in the machine and then went ahead and dried it as well. Yes, that cut down on your laundry time, but it also cut the value of that garment significantly. Why? Those little balls of fabric—also known as pills—show that the garment has been worn past its prime and is no longer valuable on the floor. The same goes for stains and snags. Even if you think it’s a struggle to see it, shoppers will spot it immediately and walk away from a garment without a second thought.
The fact is nobody wants to buy an item of clothing that looks like it’s been worn—even if it’s a great label, beautiful style and marked down to an unbelievable price. Buyers have tried and tried to find the exception to this rule, but, eventually, these well-loved garments get marked down and shipped off to the charity shop when their floor life is over.
3. Big box brands from years past
This tag on this Gap tee tells me it was on the shelves 2 years ago… still buy-worthy.
Have you ever noticed when you bring in an item from a store like Gap or J. Crew the first thing the buyer does is look for the laundry tag? There’s a reason for that. Big box stores have an incredible amount of inventory to keep track of, and one of the ways they do that is by labeling items by season. Take a look at the left-hand side seam of your favorite Gap shirt. There behind the laundry tag is an even smaller paper tag that may say something like HOL13 or SUM15; these translate to “Holiday 2013” and “Summer 2015,” the season and year the item was released.
Buyers will look at these tags before they even scope the style and condition of the garment. If a store has a high buy-in volume, they will often place an informal rule for buyers not to accept anything older than 2-3 years. These brands are the most commonly seen across the counter. If you bring in a Henley tee from 2011, a buyer is going to pass on it because they know that someone else is going to come in that day with the more current version from 2014. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with your item, per say, but the buyer’s job is to curate the highest quality inventory for their floor for a quick turnaround—and newer sells quicker.
One thing I like to tell my friends about buy-sell-trade shops is that no matter how personal it feels when your stuff is rejected, it really isn’t. Buyers spend hours training, studying and observing the floor of their stores to try and bring in the best merchandise for a high turnover. When they pass on your favorite sweater from 2012, they’re not passing on you. They are simply doing their job the best they can—even if they look kinda bitchy doing it.