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Sourcing Inventory Sustainably for your Reseller Business

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Anna is a sustainable fashion enthusiast with a Certificate of Sustainable Design and wrote her Master's Thesis on Sustainability Reporting.

As a New Yorker living near Manhattan’s fashion district, I’m fortunate to have endless access to amazing inventory for my fashion reselling business that range from weekly designer sample sales to Buy Sell Trade (BST) stores easily at my fingertip. Having studied sustainable fashion at the Fashion Institute of Technology, I am acutely aware of the apparel industry’s detrimental impact on the environment and the people who make our clothes. Now that I’m taking my fashion reseller business more seriously, I increasingly find myself wondering – how sustainable is my reselling business? Am I sourcing sustainably? Are you? Am I the first to explore this topic?

A large chunk of a fashion reseller’s time is dedicated to sourcing items to resell. Sourcing trips typically involve travel that creates CO2 emissions, not to mention those emissions involved when shipping clothing once they're sold, as well as cleaning them. I’ve prided myself in being on the side of the solution for curbing apparel’s waste crisis by curating a reseller closet mostly full of secondhand sustainable fashion brands and those that preserve artisan craftsmanship with those items that I source at secondhand shops in Manhattan that I walk to. Now that I’m trying to grow my business, I increasingly question my souring ways. Many sourcing trips to local shops leave me emptyhanded or with just a handful of clothes, yet they use so much of my time. Each sourcing trip takes me an average of three hours per shop. I’m a mommy to two young boys in nurseries and that’s essentially all my free time for the day while they’re in school. That’s precious limited time and time is a valuable resource (and not to mention the time it takes to individually clean each item, photograph, and ship - when we refer to the cycle of reselling). And when I purchase a piece of clothes to resell, it costs money – another resource. Hence, I’ve been contemplating whether there’s a way to circumvent this and I think I stumbled onto a solution to my sourcing conundrum – supplement sourcing with wholesale mystery boxes from secondhand wholesalers.

Secondhand clothing wholesalers including companies such as Helpsy Source and NWOT Outlet. These are online wholesale portals that support resellers by providing inventory in bulk, with no wholesale license required. They sell clothes, shoes, and accessories you can buy in quantities ranging from 5 pre-loved luxury brands to pallets including 200 pieces from big box retailers such as Nordstrom. They sell clothing that were produced but never sold and store returns – essentially keeping clothing out of landfills. Their boxes include themed one like Jomar’s “Sarah Baker’s Parisian Picks” that include 10 Parisian-inspired pieces, which is my favorite and I buy a pack each time it’s available. Each piece ends up costing me about $10 and in just the past few months, I’ve sold multiple pieces from these boxes for over $85 each. Not a bad return with over $50 profit per piece. Of course the peril of these boxes is that you may despise the inventory that was picked out for you – I say keep the ones you love which are in line with your reseller niche and take those that you don’t to a consignment shop and/or send them to The Real Real. Another downside of wholesalers is that it can take weeks to receive your box but what’s the rush?

Have you tried sourcing inventory from secondhand wholesalers? I hope it’s something you’re also considering when contemplating sources of inventory. Keeping clothing out of landfills whilst adding inventory to resell is a win-win for you as a reseller and for the environment.

© 2022 Anna

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