What is a Thrift Store & How to Start One?

Thrift stores can be a gold mine for finding incredible treasures at a fraction of the cost.


Thrift stores can be a gold mine for finding incredible treasures at a fraction of the cost.

The trend of online thrift stores is increasing day by day. Want proof?

We searched #thriftstore on Instagram, and found that there were 3 million posts with this hashtag (as of Feb 2, 2022).

This is how popular thrift stores have become.

So, naturally, we wrote this guide on how to start an online thrift store, and also added a list of the top 20 thrift stores for you!

Thrift meaning

Thrift means shopping for products that have been bought and used by someone else, for a cheaper price than a new product.

This is mostly done for clothing and accessories, as these are mostly reusable, even if used previously.

Even though these products are bought secondhand, they are still in a decent enough condition to use.

I know this concept of secondhand shopping comes as a shock to some people. They find it unacceptable to buy anything that’s not new,

People are slowly opening up to the idea of buying products that are not new, as this concept is gaining more and more popularity everyday.

With people getting more conscious about the environment and sustainability, the idea of upcycling is a super cool concept they want to get behind.

So, for half the crowd, this is the new way to shop.

If you’re one of those people who love to find thrift shopping, we have everything that you are looking for, right here in this article!

What is Thrift Store?

For the people who are new to the concept of thrift stores, let me tell you what a thrift store exactly is.

A thrift store is a place where everything is old. They carry used products, which can be used again by others, for a cheaper price than new items.

They are widely used by people on a budget, people looking for vintage clothes or even designers who are looking for inspiration.

Thrift stores have a range of products that consists of everything from clothes to books to makeup, and everything in between.

How to Start an Online Thrift Store?

If you are here, I am sure it is because you are feeling highly motivated and excited about starting your own thrift store.

It is the kind of business that needs you to go shopping just so that you can stock up your store with products. Who wouldn’t love shopping for a living?

However, running a successful online thrift store business is a lot more than just shopping for pre-loved products.

So, let me guide you through the process of starting an online thrift store through 5 simple steps.

1. Research and choose a niche

Thrift shop in itself is a narrower version of the much bigger category, which is retail business. While retail stores sell brand new products, thrift stores are focused to selling used or pre-loved products.

However, within the thrifting world too, there are multiple categories involved like clothing, shoes, bags, accessories, books, home decor, kitchenware, etc.

If you are going to be starting a thrift store, it is smart to research and find out which one of these categories interest you the most. You should also research if the category has a demand in the market that you can profit from.

You can also choose a profitable niche based on your target location. For example: if you are targeting a cold region, thrifted winter wear or shoes could be a really profitable niche!

You should also be clear about your target audience or target customer base. Thrifting is currently very famous among the millennials and the Gen Z. However, people from other age groups also like to shop thrifted products at times.

2. Sourcing the products and managing inventory

If you have locked in on your niche and decided your target market, the next thing to do is source your products. Here comes the fun, shopping part of the thrift store business.

However, you should know where to source your products from if you want to ensure that it is authentically thrifted and to make a profit out of the business.

As people say, ‘All good things start at Home!’ Similarly, you can start with products from your own wardrobe that are in good condition. You can also ask your friends and family to donate their unused clothes, wearables, books, etc.

This will free up some space in the wardrobe as well as help you get started on the business without investing on products initially.

However, as your business grows, you will need to add new products to your store on a regular basis and you cannot stay dependent on donations from your inner circle all the time.

Here are some spots where you can source thrifted products for your online thrift store.

Flea Markets -Especially if you are selling kitchenware and home decor, flea markets will be the best spot to source these products. You can find products that are very unique and interesting at low prices in flea markets.

Garage sales – This is a narrower version of flea market where you can find preloved items from a single family or a neighborhood. People hold garage sales for products ranging from clothing and footwear to utensils and home decor.

Consignment shops – These are the shops where people come to sell their preloved items. You can find interesting antique products, collectibles, vintage items, etc. at these shops.

Clearance sales – The products you will find here are not exactly preloved or pre-used. However, at clearance sales you can find wearables that are considered ‘last season’ and sold at really low prices.

Export rejects – There are these covert marketplaces in every city where they sell clothing and other wearables from well-known brands but at a third of their original price.

These products are export rejects, or in other words, are victims of high level QA by the brands. They usually have a minor defect or damage, which very often are completely unnoticeable!

So those are some of the spots that you can hit to source products for your online thrift store.

Managing the thrifted products and keeping them organized until they are sold, is also a very important part of running a thrift store business.

3. Choose an eCommerce platform and setup store

The very first step to creating your own online store is to choose the right eCommerce platform.

You can choose a quicker and easier platform like Dukaan, where setting up your store does not need any technical skills or design skills. If you have a phone number and a name for your store, you are good to go!

When you have chosen the eCommerce platform, the next step is to set up your online store and here are a few useful tips for you.

  • Choose a store name that represents your business as well as resonates with your target audience.
  • Design a logo that goes with your brand colors.
  • Design your store front and make it look aesthetically pleasing.
  • Add your products. Name the products with a good description.
  • Use the ‘About Us’ page on your store to give more information about your brand to your customers.
  • Get your store policies straight like the terms and conditions, return and refund policies, etc.

You can use these steps as a checklist to create an online store that will function smoothly and efficiently.

4. Manage orders, payments and shipping

Choosing the right eCommerce platform for your online thrift store will make this step a lot easier.

Once you start driving traffic to your online store, it is an inevitable next step to convert them into your customers. You can enable a ‘Live chat’ feature for your online store so that you can interact with the people browsing your store.

This will give you an advantage over your competitors, as customers want to feel a human connection when they are shopping online. Someone who can answer their queries and give them recommendations.

A secured payment gateway and multiple payment options is another important feature that makes online shopping easier for customers. It also makes your store a lot more trustworthy.

Once the orders start coming in, make sure to ship them out quickly and accurately. That means you keep your inventory managed and have tied up with a skilled and trustworthy shipping partner.

Keep a lookout for the orders until your customer receives them. Keep your customers informed by allowing them to track their orders.

5. Branding and marketing

When you are running a business, you should always look for every way possible to grow it into a brand that people recognize immediately, a brand that has a loyal following!

Branding is a pretty huge and perpetual task. Digital marketing helps a lot in gaining awareness for your business and for building it into a brand.

Here are some things you can do –

Use content marketing

Have a strong content marketing strategy in place. Interact on every social media platform possible with information about thrifting and its importance.

You can write blogs, answer questions on platforms like Quora, join communities on Reddit etc.

Be active on social media

Apart from just content, you should also piggyback on some trends so that you can gain exposure on social media platforms.

Posting regularly about your thrifting adventures, behind the scenes, styling tips, updates about your store, etc. helps you connect with people and create a following for your brand.

Run some paid ads

When you are starting out on your business, try to set aside a budget to run paid advertisements on Google, Facebook and other social media platforms.

This will create quick awareness for your business and bring in traffic to your online store. However, before doing this, ensure that your online store looks professional and is stocked with products.


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