If you start searching for #thriftindia on Instagram, you will see 475k posts (as of December 18, 2021), and the number is increasing by the day. This only goes to show the rise of thrift culture in India that is leading to consumers making more sustainable choices.
What started out as a result of the pandemic to raise awareness around sustainability, has now become a huge phenomenon in the country as per Femina. Purchasing and owning upcycled or seconds is no longer being looked down upon.
Now if you have a knack for curating unique products, we’d call that an opportunity to finally start that online business you’ve been dreaming about. In this article, we’re going to tell you all that you need to know to run a successful thrifting business online.
- The current state of thrifting in India and how it works
- Status quo current challenges for thrifting stores
- How to set up a successful thrift store business in India
- Leading thrift stores in India to take inspiration from
- Frequently asked questions about thrifting in India
The current state of thrifting in India and how it works
Even though thrifting is fast picking up in India, the way thrift stores are being run is still fairly inefficient.
Most thrifting businesses are running their stores on Instagram, managing the posting of products, descriptions, pricing and handling queries as they come.
Here’s what the typical process looks like:
- Thrifting stores curate a collection of a handful of products
- They post product pictures, videos and other formats to promote them
- Consumers interested in a product comment ‘BOOK’ or DM the store
- The first one to the above is reached out to for order confirmation
- The payment mode is then chosen and information is shared over DMs
- Once an order gets confirmed, the shipping details are sent out 24-48 hours after
- If the first person does not respond within a few hours to confirm the order, the product gets rolled to the next person or auctioned
We have also noticed some thrifting stores follow the same process above on chat apps like WhatsApp and Telegram.
Seeing the number of thrifting stores coming up every week and the number of consumers interested in their products, the future looks promising for this business model in India.
But like every new opportunity, there are some challenges when it comes to running and growing the business.
Status quo: Current challenges for thrifting stores
Thrifting might come naturally to you. But if you’re thinking about running a thrift store as a business, there are some possible challenges you should be aware of. Here are a few areas we see most thrift stores struggling with:
1. Managing orders
Most thrifting stores follow the traditional way of taking orders. They post the products available, asking consumers to drop a comment to book them; the first one then gets contacted through messages to confirm the order. If the order is not confirmed, the second person to book the product in comments gets contacted.
But imagine having to sift through all the comments that get posted within close seconds or minutes, then reaching out to people one by one to get the order confirmed - it gets overwhelming all too soon and sometimes it takes these store owners 24-48 hours to get in touch with customers.
Managing orders this way is not just inefficient, but also compromises the shopping experience you offer to customers because they keep waiting for your message right from the moment of wanting to book a product to paying for it. The entire process is too time consuming.
2. Collecting payments
Once an order is confirmed with a consumer, the store owner is required to reach out to them and let them know of the available payment modes. This typically includes Google Pay, UPI, PayTM or bank transfer in most cases.
But either way, there is a back and forth, asking the customers which payment method they’d like to place the order with, sending them the details and then asking them to send a screenshot to confirm the order has been paid for.
While this may seem easy to do when you receive 1-2 orders a day, doing this at scale is going to result in losing track of orders and eventually, the money.
3. Managing packaging and shipping
Packaging and shipping thrifted products is a whole new level of overwhelming tasks. You need to deliver an experience and that means packing the orders well with small things like thank you notes, etc.
Doing this at scale and then walking to the nearest post office or getting a delivery partner to come pick up orders once ready, can be time consuming. That’s why so many of these thrifting stores are often dealing with disgruntled customers reaching out to them for order status, refunds and cancellations.
4. Communicating with customers
Once an order does get placed, thrift stores have to manually reach out to the customers with information like tracking numbers. Post which, there is a lack of communication between the store and the customer, leading to a low brand recall.
The lack of consistent communication results in post-purchase anxiety for most customers until they receive their orders, and forgetting where they made a purchase from just 30 days down the line!
5. Launching the drop
Every time a store has thrifted a new collection, they need to build up an excitement and then gradually launch it by posting them one by one. Imagine posting about 100 products, each with descriptions and the inflow of comments to book them as the posts go live.
Yes, launching new products gets tougher with bigger drops, especially as your audience (and catalogue) grows.
The above challenges have led to many thrift stores eventually shutting down, not being able to keep up with customer expectations. But there’s a way out of it all - Set up an online store for your thrifting store.
Let’s walk you through step-by-step to launch a successful thrifting business online.
How to set up a successful thrift store business in India
If you’ve decided to start thrifting as a business, let’s walk you through a series of steps we have seen the successful ones follow.
- Before starting your thrift store
- Set up an online store for your thrifting business
- Market your thrift store
Before starting your thrift store
1. Pick your niche
Similar to dropshipping, you have the option to thrift different types of products. But we recommend starting with a niche to keep your efforts streamlined. One of the most popular thrifting niche is fashion and apparel, and accessories.
Identify a category you’re truly passionate about. You can always add more categories of products to your store as you start to understand consumers, their interests, where you can find them and what really sells.
2. Find pre-loved or factory reject items to sell
The next step is to start looking for markets you can source products from. It’s a good idea to visit factory reject stores or local markets in the city - some that are frequented by your target audience and some that they’re not able to reach.
For example, Sarojini Market in Delhi is an awesome place to find clothing and accessories. And then there is Banjara Market in Gurgaon that you can source home decor as well as furniture from.
Another smart way to find items to sell, is to look at the things you, your family and friends own. You can start with items that are no longer used by you or your network, but may be of use to others.
Depending on the products you sell, you can also explore liquidation sales/ auctions to find branded items, or work with consignment stores near you.
3. Get your product visuals ready for marketing
The one thing that’s going to be important for selling your thrifted items, are visuals. Spend some time thinking about the aesthetic you’d like to create and how you’d like to photograph your products.
Here are some resources to help you get started:
- The Beginner's Guide to Smartphone Product Photography for Shopify Stores
- The Ultimate DIY Guide to Beautiful Product Photography
- 25 Best Online Photo Editor Softwares & Apps (Free and Paid)
Set up an online store for your thrifting business
1. Set up an online store
Now comes the step that can get you closer to success - making it easy for people to shop from your thrifting business. You can set up an online store without having to code using Shopify.
A few links to help you get started here:
- Sign up for a free trial on Shopify
- Store Essential Store Launch Checklist
- How to Start an Online Store With Minimal Cash Investment
- What Should I Name My Online Store?
- How to start an online store in India for your Fashion and Apparel business
- Simple Ways to Write Product Descriptions That Sell
If you need help setting up an online store for your thrifting business, you can also reach out to one of our Shopify experts.
2. Set up your payment modes
Another challenge that thrifting businesses without an online store face, is offering a preferred payment mode to shoppers. But now that you have a store set up, you can offer them payments via credit or debit cards, digital wallets, bank transfer, UPI or even cash on delivery.
Here are some resources on setting up payment modes:
- Different Payment Methods on Shopify and How to Set Them Up
- The Importance of Offering Cash on Delivery on Your Shopify Store in India
3. Partner with delivery service providers
Once you have all the products up on your storefront, it’s time to look into how you will be fulfilling the orders you receive. So before you start taking orders, find a delivery partner to work with you.
Here are some resources to help you get started:
Market your thrifting store
1. Set up your social media accounts
Once your store is live, it’s time to introduce your audience to it and the best way to do it is social media. Based on the audience you’re targeting, set up separate social media accounts for your thrifting business.
Some of the popular channels to cover include Facebook and Instagram. Since these are easier to get started with and the majority of your target audience is active on them, you’ll be able to reach them faster.
2. Create a marketing plan to promote your products
The next step is for you to take the plunge. It’s time to get your product noticed and for that, you need a marketing plan in place. This will help you keep things streamlined from day one, both in terms of time and the resources available to you.
To help you get started with a robust marketing plan, here are some resources:
- How to Build a Marketing Plan That Actually Works
- How to Get Your First Sale in 30 Days: A Marketing Checklist for New Entrepreneurs
3. Optimize for the search engine
Even when it comes to thrifting, about 60% of the buying journeys start from the search engine. So if you want to get your store noticed, it’s time to target the right keywords and optimize your store pages, product descriptions and images to rank for the high intent searches.
For example, if you sell thrifted branded bags, you can target ‘Prada second hand bags’ and similar keywords.
To help you get started with SEO, here are some useful resources:
- Improve Your On-Page SEO with our Checklist for New Websites
- 7 Free and Simple SEO Tools for Bootstrapped Business Owners
4. Start using social media to promote products
With all the basics in place, you’re all set to drive traffic to your thrifting store. Make use of social media to grab attention, posting content consistently across all the channels you’re active on.
Start small by posting product images and describing them best in the captions below. You can then experiment with other content formats depending on the channel to engage your audience better. For example, using Reels to show how a product looks while wearing it on Instagram.
Remember, the idea is to remain consistent with your content - even when you don’t have a drop on your thrift store. Consumers today are quick to move on to the next store!
5. Start advertising on social and search
Ranking on the search engine may take some time. Getting noticed on social media platforms may take a while too. But the products you’ve thrifted may or may not appeal to an audience segment in just a week.
Imagine your posts about branded winter jackets getting noticed when winter is almost over. They’re not going to sell no matter how good the collection and the price is!
This is where using advertising on social media and search comes into play to get in front of the right consumers, faster. Here are some resources to help you with the same if you haven’t run ads before:
6. Ask for customers to share their purchases (user generated content)
Request customers who buy from you to share their purchases on their social accounts, and tag you. It could be a picture of them wearing the product they bought from you, how they felt about the packaging or simply the overall experience you delivered.
User generated content is one of the fastest ways to reach more consumers. The good part is that you also get to reach an audience that is more likely to convert as well!
Then there’s also the factor of social proof. Such content also vouches for the quality of the products you deliver; which is of utmost importance when it comes to thrifting.
7. Keep your customers engaged in a consistent manner
Use the data you get during an order placement to keep customers engaged going forward. With so many thrifting stores coming up, it is important to stay on top of your customer’s mind to get your next drop sold.
A few ways to do this include:
- Sending out an email to announce your new thrift collection with Shopify Email
- Announcing the collection or availability with SMS marketing
- Creating a Telegram or WhatsApp group to announce or drop sneak peeks into your thrift
Leading thrifting stores in India to take inspiration from
To inspire you to turn thrifting into a successful business, we are listing down some of the popular thrifting stores in India. These aren’t all of them; but just enough to maybe give you the inspiration to start your thrifting business!
- Aimee Loved
- Lulu Thrifts
- Vintage Laundry
- Thrift Banana
- Thrift & Thrive
- Bombay Closet Cleanse
- Badass Babes Club
- Kiki Kloset
- Collections Reloved
1. Aimee Loved
A store that focuses on thrifting vintage treasures and wearable art, Aimee Loved has a unique collection of fashion and apparel.
2. Lulu Thrifts
A Manipur-based thrift store that caters to different styles, Lulu Thrifts focuses on selling stylish printed camisoles and summer dresses.
3. Vintage Laundry
Another store that is known for its unique collection, Vintage Laundry sells clothes with patterns, vibrant colors and artistic work on them.
4. Thrift Banana
Founded by fashion students as a response to the environmental damage caused by the industry, the store sells clothing items like denim jackets.
A clothing and accessories thrifting store, Rerunn curates products as per the season or ongoing trends, in different styles.
6. Thrift & Thrive
Thrift & Thrive has turned their thrifting into a business by selling preloved branded apparel from names like The North Face and many others, alongside items that match seasonal trends.
7. Bombay Closet Cleanse
A woman-run thrift and consignment store, Bombay Closet Cleanse sifts through clothing items from resellers and donors across the globe. They’re promoting circular fashion as a way of life.
8. Badass Babes Club
Finding a niche within the fashion industry, Badass Babes Club thrifts and sells cool (and badass) corsets and bralettes made out of different materials like leather, satin and others.
9. Kiki Kloset
Kiki Kloset is a thrifting store that sells upcycled jewelry, crop tops and a few other items. They also create and sell jewelry made out of repurposed materials such as hardware.
10. Collections Reloved
Collections Reloved has a range of items from the best of brands in clothing, handbags and accessories. They are known for handpicking and curating fashion items that are as good as new.
A niche store that picks out fashion items that have a distinct style from the 1970s and 1980s disco era. Their collection looks straight out from the bygone era.
Found your inspiration and ready to turn your skills of thrifting into a business? Take the first step with Shopify.
It’s the right time to start thrifting and do it right!
If you have an eye for aesthetics and fashion sense that is admirable, and a zeal to find products at the best of prices, let this be your sign.
Don’t let thrifting be a passing fad. Turn your passion into a business by getting it right from the start!
If you’re someone who has started thrifting recently and are seeing success by selling on Instagram, your next step to turning it into a business is going online and setting up a storefront that doesn’t need your customers to DM you for placing an order.
With Shopify, setting up a store and managing your inventory is easy.
Get started with a free trial today and be the one thrifting business that lasts!
Frequently asked questions about thrifting in India
What is thrifting?
Thrifting refers to the process of putting back pre-owned and upcycled products back into use. These products typically include clothing, accessories, home decor and similar items. From a business perspective, thrifting stores sell these thrifted products online, wherein they are the ones to pick out the items in a particular niche for a target market.
How do I start a thrifting business?
To start a thrifting business, decide whether you’d like to sell a variety of items or focus on selling a specific range of products. For example, vintage furniture, clothing, home decor and other products. Post which, you need to find a supplier or a location that you can thrift items from. In India, some popular markets for thrifting include Sarojini Market, Lajpat and similar. You can also partner with people who’d like to give away their collection of unused items.
Why do people shop at thrift stores in India?
Since the ban of websites like Shein, finding affordable yet fashionable clothes at affordable costs is nearly impossible. Thrifting stores offer an ethical alternative to the need for staying up-to-date with fashion, on a budget. Apart from getting access to a unique wardrobe, consumers have also become more conscious during the pandemic, choosing to recycle products more often, wasting fewer resources.
What makes a thrift store successful?
To run a thrift store, you need to have an eye for picking out products that resonate with online shoppers. You need to also have an understanding of the potential retail value of those items so that you price the thrifted products with some profit margin. One way to do this is by keeping the overall cost lesser than market value, but competitive enough to compensate for the effort you made in picking out or sourcing the product.
Is thrifting available in India?
Yes. In India, thrifting is available and is most prominent on Instagram as of today but is slowly entering ecommerce as well. The buyer segment for these businesses typically include students and those starting out their careers.
Is thrifting a trend right now?
The pandemic has turned consumers towards more sustainable measures for maintaining a lifestyle. It has made second hand shopping, also known as thrifting, a common practice. Studies show that thrifting has turned into a $28 billion industry that is expected to eclipse trends like fast fashion by 2029.
Is thrifting really cheaper?
From a consumer perspective, yes, thrifting is cheaper as compared to the retail price of most products - especially the ones that are branded items. You can get a branded product for a couple of hundred, but it may run into thousands as well depending on the quality the thrift store is selling.
From a business perspective, thrifting is time consuming, but it is cheaper when you’re sourcing for products to sell online. It’s more fun because you’re on the lookout for one-of-a-kind items and don’t have to worry about stocking up the same inventory. If you’re a hard negotiator, the ball is totally in your court!
How much money can you make owning a thrift store?
This may vary from store to store depending on who their target audience is, what products they are selling and how well they’re marketing the items. It was found that used merchandise retailers make a profit of 3.3% and upwards on selling thrifted items online. With the right marketing plan and a good collection, your monthly revenue can run in lakhs as well.
Where do thrift stores get inventory in India?
Most thrift store inventory comes from donations. Many people own products like clothes, furniture, home decor, etc that they have never used or do not make use of anymore or have too many of. To make space, they tend to give away these items. Another way to source products is through factory outlets, local markets and consignment stores. Thrift stores also upcycle products to create new items; for example, patching up scarfs to create a unique design for one.
Are there any thrift shops in India?
The number of thrift stores in India are increasing by the day. Some of the popular names being Vintage Laundry, Rerunn, KikiKloset and others. Thrift stores are running their business at different scales.