I'm a diehard thrifter and garage sale addict! I love the thrill of the hunt! And I love making CASH from trash so I also resell on eBay and Etsy. I share my successes to inspire you ... and my failures so you learn from my mistakes. Please join me on this wild and crazy ride of making cash from trash!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011: Today We Honor Our Heroes

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Today is the day we honor our heroes.  Let’s remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and for the freedom we enjoy every day. 

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Let’s not forget that there are still tens of thousands of our young men and women who continue to be in harm's way in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Let us pray that they come back home soon.

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DH and I spent Saturday and Sunday in San Diego, just a 2-hour drive from our home.  Yesterday, we visited Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery in Point Loma.  We were there in the morning and not many other folks were around.

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Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery includes those Veterans of WW I, WW II, Korea, VietNam and the Gulf wars. Also here are those who fell in the battle of San Pasqual in 1846, as well as victims of the USS Bennington explosion in 1905.

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And except for the wind, it was a beautiful sunny day.  Because of the strong wind, many of the flags had blown down to the ground.  I could not in good conscience let this go.  So DH and I spent a few minutes going up the rows picking the flags off the ground and reinserting them in the proper sites. 

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The rows of white headstones that mark the gravesites make their way down the 77.5 acres of gentle grassy slopes on both the ocean and San Diego Bay sides, with stunning views. 

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Please enjoy this short video and let us never forget.

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery–Memorial Day 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

eBay Selling: New Communication Manager

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Have you heard about eBay’s new Communication Manager?  eBay is now automatically sending emails to buyers without any input from sellers.  A surprise to me that it was already in effect.

One of the emails eBay sends is a Feedback Reminder.  If a buyer has not left feedback after about 30 days, eBay will contact them. 

I’m not sure this is a good thing as this can work against you.  If an unhappy buyer has not left negative feedback, that is good.  But s/he may decide to do so after receiving a Feedback Reminder from eBay, as I believe was the case in the transaction from my post yesterday, which ended in April.  A buyer has 30 days to leave a rating, and a transaction is not finalized until then.

I am now including the following message with my packages.  I hope this will encourage a buyer to contact me first with a problem before responding to eBay’s email:

I strive to provide great customer service, and your satisfaction is important. I want you to be 100% satisfied.

A 5-star rating is also important to me. Before leaving negative feedback or a 1 or 2 rating, please give me an opportunity to make it right. Contact me if you have any concern with your item and I will do my best for a favorable resolution.

Thank you for your purchase and hope that you shop with us again!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Top Rated Seller – Easy Come, Easy Go!

So I got my Top Rated Seller status back this past Friday.  By Monday, it was gone! When I think about it, all I want to do is laugh! Item as Described  seems particularly subjective for sellers who sell clothing.

The buyer who purchased the pants pictured above is an eBay newby – this was her first transaction.  She didn’t bother to read the listing and didn’t bother to contact me to let me know she was unhappy with the pants. She instead left negative feedback and a low DSR.

This highlights the flaw in eBay’s DSR system.  Right or wrong, a buyer can leave low DSRs even if the seller does everything right to resolve a problem.  Sellers feel discouraged, frustrated, demoralized, and even depressed.  Sellers may even feel blackmailed by buyers.  If you don’t do what I want to make me happy, I will leave you low ratings.  How can these atmosphere be good for anyone?  eBay needs to change their policy!

Everyone knows eBay is struggling to stay competitive in the online marketplace.  Because of the many changes they have put into place over the past couple of years, they have lost many good sellers.  I read this article from AuctionBytes.com about a seller who was selling $70,000-$110,000 on eBay, paying them about $13,000 a month in fees.  After his sales plummeted due to eBay’s Best Match, he closed his eBay account and built up his own website.  He now projects sales of $2-$3 million.  eBay recently contacted him to lure him back.  His answer: NO THANKS!

Due to eBay’s new fee structure which goes into effect in July, no doubt many more sellers will leave before the end of the year. Many sellers, like me, are playing a wait-and-see game. 

In the meantime, I have my booths with Bonanza and Etsy; and I’m looking into eBid and eCrater.  While neither of these have the number of buyers as eBay, I suspect (hope) this will change in the not too distant future, especially because consumers are now using Google to search for product and finding it on other sites. 

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I recently sold this retro Rubbermaid canister set from my Etsy booth.  The buyer had never heard of Etsy, but found it after doing a Google search.  Many of my Bonanza sales are also from first time buyers.  Hmmm, I see, I see … I see the writing on the wall! 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Top Rated Seller Status and Excellent Customer Service

Happy dance!  A few days ago, I checked my Seller Dashboard and knew I’d once again qualified for TRS status.  I also knew that eBay would evaluate my seller performance today, so I was glad to log on and see the TRS icon back on my listings.

EBay’s Top Rated Seller Program went into effect in December 2009.  I kept my TRS status for about a year.  Then one day it was gone.  I’d received one too many low DSR ratings. 

Truthfully, I didn’t have a good grasp on these programs.  My focus was on avoiding negative feedback, although I did know losing TRS status meant higher fees.  It was not, however, the end-all for me.  Like many, I’d been cruising along as I’d always done.  But I’ve worked hard to improve my customer service and get my TRS status back.

I’m still not out of the woods.  My TRS status is at risk for next month because I have 2 low ratings in 2 categories so I know I have to keep on top of things and continue to provide excellent customer service.  I like having TRS status because of the 20% discount, especially now that eBay will be charging a final value fee on shipping.  It’s also more important now because eBay is eliminating the Power Seller Program with its 5%-15% discount.

I will continue to do my best, but I will not stress over it … well, okay, at least I’ll try not to stress out too much!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Detailed Seller Ratings: What Are They?

DSRs were introduced in 2008 but many sellers failed to see their true impact on their eBay business.  Sellers continued selling on eBay as they always had – until one day they woke up and found their eBay store had been shut down.  Whoa!  Turns out they were paying more attention to their Feedback and ignoring their DSRs.  I, too, had read the announcements from eBay but never fully understood their importance – until now!

So what are Detailed Seller Ratings (DSRs) and why are they so important?  In addition to leaving general feedback, buyers can rate a transaction with detailed seller ratings (DSRs).  The detailed rating consists of a 1- through 5-star score, with 5 stars being the best rating.  Low DSRs are 1s and 2s – the worst rating.  Sellers are rated in each of several categories:

  • Accuracy of the item description
  • Seller communication
  • Shipping speed
  • Shipping and handling charges

For a seller, the importance of DSRs cannot be overstated.  Because eBay uses DSRs to evaluate a seller’s performance, a rating of less than 5-stars will affect your seller status, your fee discount, your search ranking – and even your ability to sell on eBay.  Receive too many 1- and 2-star ratings and you can be permanently banned from selling on eBay. 

I truly believe there are buyers who don’t fully understand how harmful their less than 5-star rating is to a seller.  Before leaving a detailed rating, buyers should keep in mind that anything other than five stars actually penalizes the seller. Therefore, it's best that buyers give full marks (5 stars) to any seller with whom they are generally satisfied.  Buyers should reserve less-than-five-star ratings for sellers they are truly upset with and would like to see restricted on eBay.

Now eBay is preventing sellers from making certain statements about feedback in their listings or encouraging buyers to leave 5-star ratings. Pop-up messages began appearing last month when some sellers tried to relist items.  Read the entire post by AuctionBytes.com here.

The impact of low DSRs has been so prevalent that, last December, several sellers filed an antitrust lawsuit against eBay over its Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR) policy.  According to the lawsuit, "Defendant eBay's DSR Policy is destroying the business and livelihood of many well established, small eBay auction sellers.”  I couldn’t find any current information on the status of the lawsuit, but you can read more about the lawsuit in AuctionBytes.com.

To make matters worse, a year ago eBay instituted a new policy on Open Cases.  eBay counts the number of customer claims that are opened against a seller, no matter how the case is ultimately resolved. It doesn't matter whose fault it is or how the seller responds, any time a buyer opens a claim, it goes on the seller's record as a black mark.   Read the entire post by AuctionBytes.com here.

Is eBay’s message to its sellers this: you can't win?

To be continued …

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Don’t Get Banned from Selling on eBay ~ Check Your DSRs Before It’s Too Late!

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Just a little over 3 months ago, I took the plunge into reselling clothes on eBay after reading Laura’s and Kelly’s blog My Dear Trash.  I learned so much, and their blog became my go-to source for selling clothes.

About 2 weeks ago, I found out Laura was permanently banned from selling on eBay.  Without notice, eBay closed her store forever.  Read about her experience here, here and here.  I could not believe it and was very upset because I realized this could happen to any one of us. 

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Laura hit the nail on the head when she said selling on eBay used to be a casual experience, fun and full of opportunities.  Those of us who have been selling on eBay for years remember those “good ole days”.  But times have changed.

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Twelve years ago when I started, selling on eBay was like having a virtual garage sale.  There were no eBay stores and no fixed prices. Buying and selling online was still in its infancy and people were still skeptical about online commerce. 

As wonderful as eBay was at that time, there were many problems, such as unscrupulous sellers and feedback abuse.  I stopped buying on eBay because of bad experiences.  At the time, eBay had a hands-off approach.  Over the past 2-3 years, eBay has made many changes.  Most were necessary and some were good.

Fast forward to the present, e-commerce has grown by leaps and bounds, and folks are more comfortable shopping online.  The competition is fierce and that means those of us who have been selling on eBay for years have to change how we do business on eBay.  It is no longer that “casual, fun experience”.   Laura said: It was how I'd worked eBay for over 6 years.  She didn’t see the writing on the wall and is now banned from selling on eBay FOREVER.

UPDATE:  Laura is working on an appeal with eBay and will keep us posted.  I’m rooting for her!

Photo courtesy of AuctionBytes.com

In 2008, eBay introduced Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR), which are feedback ratings left for sellers anonymously by buyers, to influence search results. What I didn’t realized until recently was how important these ratings are.  I assumed they were only for search results – the higher your score, the more prominent your listings.  NOT SO MUCH!  Pay close attention, now …

DSR ratings are used to evaluate seller performance.    Not only does eBay use DSRs to determine where to place your listings in search results but it also uses them to evaluate your status as a seller.  More importantly, if your performance as a seller falls below a certain level – as determined by your DSRs – you will be banned from ever selling on eBay!  This is what happened to Laura.  Read more about Detailed Seller Ratings at AuctionBytes.com.

What about Feedback?  Feedback is basically a forum for buyers to leave comments and reviews of their experience with a seller.  It’s impact on seller evaluation seems to be minimal (if non-existent).  A seller can have 100% positive Feedback, but may have low DSRs.  I assume that negative feedback will be reflected in your DSR ratings; and low DSRs will get you booted.

I don’t necessarily see seller performance evaluations as a bad thing. What I have a problem with is who is doing the evaluating.  Seller performance evaluations are not done by eBay staff; they are done by your buyers.  Upset enough of them and you will no longer have a business – at least not on eBay.  And there is no appeal process.  Right or wrong, doesn’t matter.  Enough low ratings (1s and 2s) and you’re out the eBay door faster than you can blink!

I see the writing on the wall.  I understand that competition in the e-commerce world is fierce and we must provide the best customer service.  I get it.  But I think there has got to be a better way than shutting someone’s store without fair warning and at least an opportunity to improve!

Since I don’t see that happening, we need to be proactive to protect our seller performance and status.  How do we do that?  Laura provided some recommendations in her post, but I would like to add to that in my next post.

To be continued …

Rag to Riches Challenge Times 2: Weeks #15 and #16

Weeks #15 and #16 began the next 3-month period of my Rag to Riches Challenge.  The first 3 months of my challenge grossed almost $4,500 in sales!  The summer months tend to be slow for eBay sales, with folks going on vacation and spending more time outdoors, but I hope to do as well if not better during this next 3-month period.

Here are my top sellers for the past 2 weeks.  I paid $1.00 for the pants and between $2-$3 for the other items:

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MOTHERHOOD Maternity Brown with Dots Sheer Dress Sz S – sold $16.00

3178

MOTHERHOOD Maternity Red White Sleeveless Dress Sz M – sold $18.50

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EDELWEISS Women's Black Wool Blend Ski Pants WITH Stirrups – sold $19.99

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BRAND NEW CASUAL CORNER Women's Blue Silk LS Blouse Sz 14 – SOLD $20.00

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Tommy Hilfiger Men's Cream Linen Drawstring Pants 44x30 – SOLD $31.00

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BRAND NEW GAP White Lined Gore Flare Linen Skirt Sz 8 – sold $37.02

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BRAND NEW QUACKER FACTORY Jacket Pink Butterfly Wreath Sz 3X – SOLD $41.00

In my last post, I showed you a couple of Reyn Spooner shirts I had up for auction.  I shared the link for the listings and some of you already know how much these sold for.  Here they are with Final Bid amount … Drum roll, pleeeze!!

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REYN SPOONER DISNEY PIXAR CARS Men's Shirt Sz M – sold $66.72

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REYN SPOONER DISNEY PIXAR RATATOUILLE Men's Shirt Sz M – sold $155.50!!

Holy smokes!  I had no idea how collectible these shirts are.  I was at my fave SA store and was already in line to pay when I spotted these shirts in the rack next to me.  I paid $2.50 each, hoping to get $14-$20 each on eBay.  Within hours of listing them, I knew I had a hot item. 

My first clue was an email from someone who was willing to pay $50 for the Ratatouille shirt if I would end the auction early with Buy It Now.  My policy is not to end auctions early, but $50 for a used shirt was tempting.  My next clue was the shirt already had 3 bids within a few hours of listing it.

I discovered that Reyn Spooner no longer makes the Disney Pixar shirts, and there is a whole group of folks who are avid Disney Pixar fans willing to pay big bucks for these shirts!  Definitely grab these if you find them!


Here’s the bottom line:

Auction Sales #15 #16 $935.89 Total: $5483.09
Cost of Goods: $106.58 Total: $989.30
eBay & PP Fees: $217.90 Total: $996.82
Total Net Profits: $3496.97  

I’ll continue my recap in future posts by discussing shipping, returns, feedback, customer service plus more.  Hope you come back!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rags to Riches Challenge: 3-Month Recap Part II

In yesterday’s Challenge Recap-Part I, I shared how selling pre-owned clothing has boosted my sales and finances.  In Part II, I’ll share my experiences and what I’ve learned about reselling clothes during these past 3 months.

Before I go on, I want to share a couple of current auction listings that end today.  Check these out!

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REYN SPOONER DISNEY PIXAR RATATOUILLE Men's Shirt Sz M - click here to see listing

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REYN SPOONER DISNEY PIXAR CARS Men's Shirt Sz M – CLICK HERE TO SEE LISTING

I bought each of these shirts for $2.50.  The Ratatouille shirt received a $79 bid within 24 hours! The Cars shirt also has several bids and is at $64+.  Wouldn’t it be nice if all my sales were this profitable?!

1. Brands: After reading the My Dear Trash blog, I made a list of the brands they mentioned.  I also went to eBay’s list of Popular Brands.  Some were familiar; but many were unfamiliar to me such as Anthropologie brands, which are highly popular and high sellers.  Top sellers for me have been:

  • St. John Couture & Collection
  • Tommy Bahama men’s shirts (larger sizes are best)
  • Reyn Spooner
  • CAbi
  • Chico’s (all)
  • Jam’s World
  • Fresh Produce
  • J. Jill
  • Eileen Fisher
  • Coldwater Creek
  • Ralph Lauren
  • Motherhood dresses
  • Anthropologie brands
  • Ski pants

Other brands that may not be high sellers but are consistent sellers.  These are my bread-and-butter:

  • Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft
  • Avenue
  • Lane Bryant
  • Hot Cotton
  • Studio I dresses (this is a surprise)
  • Motherhood blouses
  • Banana Republic
  • J. Crew
  • Talbots
  • White House Black Market
  • Izod
  • Bill Blass
  • Gloria Vanderbilt
  • Gap

This list is not all-inclusive; there are many other brands not on this list that I’ve sold 1 or 2.  But these are the ones that have been consistent sellers for me.

Brands that I do not buy are those sold at Wal-mart, K-mart, Target, etc.  I have had a little luck selling certain brands from JC Penney and Kohl’s, usually brand new with tags.  The BEST brands are those sold at Anthropologie. 

*** FOR A COPY OF THIS LIST, CLICK ON PICTURE AT TOP OF SIDE BAR **

2. Style:  I have found that spring/summer dresses sell well.  Long sleeveless shifts have sold as well as maternity dresses.  Pants have been hit-or-miss.  Cargo pants and capris/crop pants are selling, but not all.  Corduroy pants are not selling right now.  A lot has to do with brand name.  When I buy pants, I look for quality and good condition.  At fifty cents a piece, I will take a chance on a brand I’m not familiar with.

4. Condition: I always try to find clothing in good to excellent condition.  Since I buy most of my clothes at thrift stores, I have to be REALLY careful about condition.  Although most clothes end up at the thrift store because someone got tired of it, many more end up because there is something wrong with it.  Many times I have come home with what I think is a great item, just to discover it has a hole or rip that I didn’t notice.  Sometimes I’ve missed a light stain because of the poor lighting in the store.  Hopefully, I’ll notice this damage before listing it and definitely before mailing.  These items end up in the “discard” pile and go right back to the thrift store.

3. Pricing: When I first started, I listed most items between $6.99 and $7.99, depending on brand and condition.  Certain brands would be listed at $9-$10.  Now I start most items at $7.50 and will go as high as $14.99. 

4. Auctions vs. Fixed Price: Listing clothes at auction is a good way to see which items would sell for more.  Good thing for me, too.  One of my first listings was for a Basil & Maude skirt, a brand I was totally unfamiliar with but now know sold at Anthropologie.  It was a “wild card” purchase that paid off.  The skirt sold for $46.00!

5. Listing Process: When I started, I followed Kelly’s listing process.  I have since changed my strategy.  First 2 weeks, items are full price and listed as auctions.  Week #3 I list as fixed price in my store for 30-days, still at full price.  I have sold many items from my store.  If an item hasn’t sold after 30 days in my store, then I relist as auction item, first at $5.99 then at $3.99.  A few times, these last-chance items will sell for full price when they are relisted at auction.  Go figure!  I sell about 75%-80% of my inventory this way.

My listing process for non-clothing items is different since I keep those items in my store for at least 6 months.  Clothing is not something I want to hang on to for more than 6 weeks.

6. Store Inventory: Auctions cost 25 cents to list vs. 5 cents for store listings.  Listing 400 items a month as auctions costs $100.  Take those same 400 listings, and it costs only $20 to list for 30 days plus $50 for the store … that’s only $70.  So why not just list clothes in your store?  Because sometimes I just don’t know what an item will sell for.  But another good reason is that I do get more sales with auctions than I do with fixed price.  We’ll see over the next 3 months how using both types of listings works.

 7. When to List:  The MOST important thing to know about listing is LIST, LIST, LIST.  Listing something at any time or day is better than not.  Having said that, eBay data shows that certain days and times are better than others to end an auction:

Monday Good Many folks surf eBay at work
Tuesday Worst Receives the lowest # of bids
Wednesday Fair Not as bad as Tuesday. I’ve had better sales than on Thursday
Thursday Poor Better during spring or summer.  Folks may bid before going away on weekend.  Has not worked for me.
Friday Fair Ending before 6 pm may work, but most folks go out Fri evenings
Saturday Good Weekend days are best. 
Sunday Excellent

Sunday evening is the period of highest bidding.  Ending your listing between 8-11 p.m. eastern time (5-8 p.m. pacific) is best.

I prefer – and do my best – to start/end my auctions on Sunday evenings between 6-8 p.m. (PST).  That means it is 9-11:00 p.m. on the East coast; folks can still bid before ending their day.  My next best day is Monday evenings, followed by Saturday evenings.  I’ve also ended listings on Wednesdays with some luck.  I’ve never tried Tuesday, but Thursday did not work out at all for me.


I know this is a long post with lots of info, and I’m sure I didn’t cover everything.  But in sharing this information, I hope I have helped you if you are thinking about reselling clothes or are just starting out.  If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.  And don’t forget to get your copy of Popular Clothing Brands at the top of the side bar.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rags to Riches Challenge: Week #14 Update & 3-Month Recap

Week #14 marks the end of the first 3 months of my Rags to Riches Challenge.  Total gross sales of auctions (only) to date is $4,491.65!  Best sellers for Week #14:

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CALVIN KLEIN Women's Navy Blue Stripe Slacks Pants Sz 12- sold $10.50

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POLO RALPH LAUREN Men's Buttercream SS Shirt Sz L – sold $10.50

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POLO RALPH LAUREN Women's Denim Cotton Jeans Overalls S – sold $11.50

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COLDWATER CREEK Women's Long Sleeveless Shift Dress 1X – sold $20.36

Sales have been lukewarm, and I haven’t had any real big sellers; but of the 90+ auctions, 30% sold. Could be worse, although I didn’t reach my $3,000 goal … or did I?  See my recap below.

Here’s how we did for Week #14:

Auction Sales #14 $283.90 Total: $4577.65
Cost of Goods: $77.52 Total: $882.72
eBay & PP Fees: $48.92 Total: $885.50
Total Net Profits: $2809.43  


Since I retired, eBay has become a way to supplement my income.  But selling online has sometimes been frustrating and disappointing; and at times I would take a break … sometimes for weeks. Then I added clothing to my inventory, and it has been a big boost.

I am going to share my numbers to compare how selling pre-owned clothing has become my bread & butter.  Here are my sales for 2009 & 2010 for a 3-month period (no clothing sales):

2009

Total Sales

# Sold

FEBRUARY $639.38 60
MARCH $1007.74 88
APRIL $757.57 71
TOTAL: $2404.69  

2010

Total Sales

# Sold

FEBRUARY

$223.23

23

MARCH

$420.28

74

APRIL

$693.44

94

TOTAL:

$1336.95

 

Total online sales for 2011 for the same 3-month period:

2011

Total Sales

# Sold

JANUARY $721.26 68

FEBRUARY

$1699.91

125

MARCH

$2273.67

182

APRIL

$1947.36

147

TOTAL:

$6642.20

 

These numbers are for all online sales, not just clothing, which I started selling in February; but you can see the difference it has made.  Selling used clothing is like collecting change: a penny here, a nickel there … it all adds up and before you know it, you have a nice chunk of change.  With the exception of high sellers, average sale per clothing item is $7-$9, but it all adds up. 

Here’s a different breakdown, only includes eBay auctions:

2011

Gross Monthly Sales

Gross Margin (after fees)

eBay & PP Fees

JAN

$118.27

$98.44

$19.83

FEB

$975.34

$819.07

$156.27

MAR

$2133.56

$1777.80

$355.76

APR

$1264.48

$1123.05

$141.43

TOTAL:

$4491.65

$3818.36

$673.29

The Gross Monthly Sales includes final price plus handling fee.  Gross Margin is what I receive after eBay deducts its fees.  The difference between GMS and Gross Margin is what I paid in eBay & Paypal fees.  I do charge a handling fee, which helps defray some of my expenses, not only fees but also gasoline and office costs. 

Taking my Gross Margin of $3,818.36 and deducting the Cost of Goods of $593.48, leaves me a net of $3,224.88.  I still have inventory that hasn’t sold, so I’ll round this off to $3,000 … that’s what I call Rags to Riches!

Who can’t use an extra $3,000?  I’ve used this money to pay an unexpected $400 dental bill and $550 in unexpected auto repairs.  The rest has gone into paying the mortgage and credit card.  This was gained in only 3 months … what a blessing!

The work is not complicated or difficult, but it is very tedious and time consuming, sometimes even boring.  There are days when I think I just can’t measure another pair of pants or dress.  But the pros far outweigh the cons … and what’s better than working from home?  Not much.

In my next update, I will continue with my 3-month recap and discuss my experience with name brands, my listing process, when to list, etc.  … plus my chagrin at having one of my favorite ladies getting suspended from eBay!