How to Sell: The Things We Wear

Clothing, Shoes & Accessories is one of the top-selling categories on eBay.

by staff writer
- Apr 14, 2010

This is one in an occasional series of EDU articles exploring the nuances of selling in specific categories.

If you're like most people, you have clothes in your closet you no longer wear. And it's a good bet there's at least one item lurking in there that still has the tags on it. There's nothing wrong with that. We've all made purchases that we've later had second thoughts about, or bought a garment, stored it away and forgotten about it.

But these pieces don't need to be forgotten forever—especially with millions of potential buyers online who would be happy to give them a new home. So why not try selling them on eBay? We'll help by giving you the background necessary should you decide to try your hand at Clothing, Shoes & Accessories.

Brenda Hoover, owner of ByTheBox4U, got her start online by selling Clothing, Shoes & Accessories. The mother of two found a great source of inventory in the items her children had outgrown. Her kids were growing at the pace of "two sizes a season," and her mother-in-law bought them plenty of new gear, so Hoover had an abundance of items to sell. And most people probably do, too, she adds.

"Everyone has clothing they don't wear," Hoover notes. "It's normally readily on hand in everybody's closet. Grab your camera and just create some excitement about your once-loved article [of clothing]."

You may even venture into your own children's closet, your spouse's or your roommate's—with their permission, of course—to beef up your inventory. As long as you ask them first, you'll have little to lose and plenty to gain.

Hot sellers

Over the years, eBay has become a magnet for bargain seekers of name-brand merchandise, both new and used. So it seems natural that Clothing, Shoes & Accessories has emerged as one of the site's most popular categories.

In recognition of this, eBay recently launched the Fashion microsite, giving all listings in the category a catalog-style interface.

Almost any type of clothing and accessories will sell on eBay but—as with any category—there are those that will sell better than others. In Hoover's experience, infant girls' clothing sells very well, as does boys' apparel.

eBay can be a gold mine for those wanting to look fashionable without paying department-store prices

"Brand names sell the best, I think that is a given, but some better than others. Larger lots were the best, especially when you included complete sets and shoes to match," she adds. "My son had quite a few of what I classified as 'common brands' that were used as play clothes, but as long as I mixed them in lots with the nicer brands names, they did very well."

Plus-size items and petites are also popular online because they can quickly sell out at brick-and-mortar shops, writes Michelle Angell, an eBay seller of more than 10 years and a writer for And if you have designer threads you no longer use, definitely put these up on eBay.

"Buyers are looking for bargains, and eBay can be a gold mine for those wanting to look fashionable without paying department-store prices," Angell notes.

However, be sure the brand-name items you are offering are genuine. You don't want eBay's Verified Rights Owner program calling. It could result in your listings being pulled down.

Regardless of the item you sell, though, condition is a major factor.

Conditional love

"Clean is the key," Hoover notes.

Just like with a brick-and-mortar shop, buyers are going to pick the pieces that look the best. That means your description and photos are very important. Shoppers don't have the option of grabbing items off the shelf to inspect them or try them on, so you need to be their eyes and hands to keep buyers happy and ensure smooth transactions.

It's important to tell buyers if an item is new (with or without tags), or gently used, and give them plenty of photos so they know the exact condition and details of the piece. Photograph both the front and back of an item, and zoom in on any intricate detailing to ensure buyers see items in their truest form.

Natural light can also help you achieve this. Fluorescent lights can wash out colors, causing potential buyers to move on to another listing. Once you have your images ready, put yourself in the buyer's shoes. If you didn't have the item in your possession, would you get the right picture about what you are offering? If not, keep working at it. And be sure to include shots of any imperfections an item may have.

Dazzling descriptions

Titles are prime real estate in the online selling world. You want to use accurate keywords that will tell buyers what you're offering at a glance. That means you not only need to tell them what you're selling, but also the size and material items are made of, right away. And if you can fit it, include the condition as well so buyers know the important details at a glance.

Once you get them to click on your listing, it's time to tell shoppers everything you can about your piece. Again, size is very important to mention. But remember that sizes aren't universal. One brand's size 8 may be another brand's size 10, so grab the measuring tape. It's time to tell buyers the exact measurements. For tops you'll want to note the sleeve length, chest measurement and the full length of the piece. For bottoms, be sure to measure the waist and the inseam. You'll want to provide measurements for accessories as well. How big is that handbag, belt buckle, shoe charm or hair clip?

If you have a lot of the same items in different sizes or colors, you could try creating multi-variation listings

Shoppers will thank you for this information, because they'll know if an item is likely to fit or not, and you'll do yourself a favor by reducing the likelihood of a return.

Also be sure to note if garments have fading, frayed seams from multiple washes and wears, if shoes have scuffs, or if are any tags are missing. And be sure to tell buyers if the item comes with extra buttons or clasps.


If you have a lot of the same items in different sizes or colors, you could try creating multi-variation listings. This can be a big money and time saver since you only create one listing for these items instead of multiple. Currently you can create these listings on eBay when you sell in the fixed-price format in Clothing, Shoes & Accessories and Home & Garden categories, as well as certain subcategories within Baby, Crafts, Health & Beauty, Jewelry & Watches, Pet Supplies and Sporting Goods.

Auctiva recently began supporting multi-variation listings. Developers added the option to include variations to a listing in the One-Page Lister, keeping the process very similar to the current listing procedure. Users have the option of adding variations manually, or using Auctiva's Variation Generator to easily create up to 120 variations at once.

Know your market

As with any category, it pays to do some advance legwork before jumping in with both feet. Subscribing to research services such as HammerTap and Terapeak can give you valuable insight into keywords, average selling prices and optimum days and times for ending listings, as well as clue you in to the most profitable niches.

However, much of this knowledge can be gleaned for free—with only the investment of time—by studying closed and active listings on eBay.

Hoover of ByTheBox4U shares this tidbit about her venture into Clothing, Shoes & Accessories:

"I am a research-aholic," she notes. "I was not comfortable about putting myself out in front of the world with no online auction experience for the first time. I found others selling similar items and looked at how they were representing their items, what facts they thought to be important to give the buyer, and I took the time to read their feedbacks to see what customers were saying about the representations of the items that they had sold."

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

Other Entries by this Author

Follow Us