By Susan Tompor
Detroit Free Press
Kathy Adams, 52, has created her own consignment boutique of sorts out of her closet.
That L.A.M.B. bag that always seemed too heavy and its matching brown-leather-with-suede-trim accessories? She sold it all for $675. Yes, she paid about $1,000 for those items at Nordstrom. But it’s gone, out of her life, and she’s freed up some cash to buy something else.
“Once you start selling things, it’s pretty addicting,” said Adams, who lives in Sterling Heights, Mich., and sells online via the Poshmark marketplace where sellers and buyers go online or via mobile phone for women’s clothing, shoes and accessories.
It’s 2014 and time to de-clutter. It’s also time to consider whether there’s actually a way to make money unloading skirts that were marked down 70 percent but never did fit, trophy purses or all those blazers that you’ll never work enough hours to actually wear.
For some women, selling stuff is a creative hobby to find money to buy more cool stuff. For others, who are struggling financially, selling stuff is a far less thrilling way to make ends meet.
I met one retired woman in mid-December who was carrying what some might consider “investment” clothing into a resale shop in Clawson, Mich.
She had a smartly tailored Banana Republic suit and a Lafayette 148 executive-style dress in her arms. Rita, who lives in Oakland County but didn’t want her full name used because she’s embarrassed by her financial situation, said she thought her clothes were worth more than $500 new. She sheepishly admitted she had received the items at a clothing bank, but they didn’t really fit her.
She was offered less than $15 on the spot. She declined the money and decided to see whether she could get more money by going to a consignment shop.
Some consignment shops can give you 40 percent to 45 percent of the price the merchandise sells for at the consignment shop. You also must wait for an item to sell before you get any cash. But Rita later told me the consignment shop didn’t want her items because the shop wasn’t buying winter items right now. She plans to donate the clothes now to someone else.
Sellers online can run into snags, too. One seller complained to the Better Business Bureau that she sold a flawless bag via Poshmark, but the buyer said it was stained and did not want to pay after receiving the item.
The complaint eventually was resolved when $28, after a 20 percent commission to Poshmark, was directly deposited to her account.
Another woman complained to the BBB that she sold size 8 Ugg boots in good condition, but then the Poshmark buyer didn’t want to pay and argued the boots were stained. The seller had paid $135 for the boots and sold them for $50. Later, $40 in earnings, again after the 20 percent commission, was released to her.
Yet sellers who are prepared for some hassle say unloading some of their own stockpile can turn into a way to raise extra cash.
Think of this one like recycling metal at the scrapyard but with slightly more panache.
Amber Gauthier, 34, said she has been able to make about $50 a month selling size 8 to size 10 clothes that are too big for her after she lost 15 pounds. She has sold shoes, including polka dot flats that cost her $15 that she never wore. She got about $8 for those flats.
“But it was better than zero dollars,” she said.
To make things work for her, Gauthier said she has taken time to learn the culture of where she sells items online.
A Poshmark seller needs to build a following in that social network and show enthusiasm for items being posted by other sellers, too.
Prices, while negotiable, need to be realistic, based on what’s selling at a particular store or site. A cashmere sweater bought on sale for $100 might sell for $30.
Some items turn into super bargains. Someone sold $450 Prada boots for $50 on Poshmark, and Adams is thrilled to own those boots now: “They look brand-new.”