How to Start an Online Thrift Store – The Ultimate Guide

(Last Updated On: 11/15/2022)

Written by Software Expert Hamza Shahid

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Wondering how to start an online thrift store? Selling older stuff has never been easier, or more popular, and doing so online has made it more accessible to consumers as well. When you educate yourself on how to start an online thrift store, it can be rewarding and tedious at the same time. Our experts at Wise Small Business have created this helpful guide to learn more about how to get started.

You may interested in our related thrift store guides: How to Start a Thrift Store for a Non Profit: A Quick Guide and How to Price Thrift Store Items.

Don’t have time to read this whole review? Skip ahead to: 

Is Starting a Thrift Store Online a Good Idea?

With the advancement of the internet and the penetration of social media channels, every business now needs to have an online presence as a matter of necessity. 

Also, the internet offers an exciting opportunity to make sales without having a physical space, which comes with its own cost of setting up and managing. As such, every business person and entrepreneur looking to expand their business’s scope and reach must have an online presence in the form of an online store, as well as social media handles where sales can be quickly concluded and sealed.

There are a variety of approaches to the study of media and technology. The first is the structural-functionalist approach, focusing on the social functions of media and technology. The web, for instance, has many parts that enable people to connect and conduct various social interactions. It facilitates everything from small family discussions to global trade networks. The other approach is the critical perspective, which focuses on how technology and media create systematic inequalities.

Computer networks can be divided into two types: peer-to-peer networks and client-server networks. Each class involves two or more computers linked together by cables, wires, or wirelessly. In a P2P network, each computer acts as a server and a client, sharing resources such as storage, memory, bandwidth, and processing power.

editing a photo of clothing on a laptopThis opportunity to maximize the online world is even more critical for organizations that run charities and not-for-profit entities, which, by their very nature, do not engage in profit-generating activities but are out to give to societies less privileged. This is because it costs almost nothing to establish an online presence, such as social media accounts and ecommerce stores. Meanwhile, the potential such a company generates cannot be quantified as individuals worldwide can easily connect with such entities and even go on to patronize them. 

The internet thus provides an excellent opportunity for these organizations to maximize to generate a steady stream of income. 

In this article, we break down all you need to know about setting up an online thrift store, the benefits, and all that you need to take note of before launching out. We have also carefully reviewed and recommended 2 top POS solutions that we submit that are ideal for you to consider adopting for your online thrift store. This follows an in-depth review of each point of sale system features, its pricing, and how well-suited it is for payment processing on your online thrift store. 

We have done the hard work, so you don’t need to. All you need to do is to sit through this review, and we are sure it will more than answer all the questions you might have regarding how to go about setting up your online thrift store. So after going through this article, we are sure you will be well-equipped and ready to launch your online thrift store in no time.

What Exactly is a Thrift Store?

A thrift store is usually a store set-up for the purpose of selling second-hand clothes as well as household goods, electronics, usually in a bid to raise funds for a charity or non-profit organization.

When you have an item that costs an arm and a leg but doesn’t fit you anymore, it is time to sell it and get a new one. Perhaps you have a dress that you don’t want to wear anymore, but might be able to bring you some money. Just dry clean the dress and sell it online to get you some money. In addition to selling used items online, thrift stores can be located both in person and online. It is a great idea to have an online thrift store that sells items and makes profits practically from the moment it is launched. 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary corroborates this as it defines a thrift store as ‘a shop that sells secondhand articles, and especially clothes, and is often run for charitable purposes.’

What is an Online Thrift Store?

An online thrift store, from the above definition, is simply a thrift store that is run online via the internet. This could be with the use of a social media handle, an ecommerce website, a self-hosted website or a combination of all.

What are the Advantages of Having an Online Thrift Store?

The benefits of an online thrift store are plentiful. Thrifting reduces water consumption, which contributes to the reduction of the global carbon footprint. It is also a nice commitment to reducing environmental pollution. By thrifting, we can promote thoughtful consumption and use less energy. Thrifting is cheaper and it is a way to give back to the community. Running an online thrift store is an excellent way to participate in thrifting as a trend. Below are some top notch advantages of an online thrift store:

An online thrift store is inexpensive to set up

Setting up a thrift store, or just about any other kind of store, is very inexpensive as it costs virtually nothing to be up and running. There are a number of e-commerce builder platforms that help users set up their e-commerce account and be ready to sell in no time. Examples of these include WoocommerceWix, and Sellify. With these options, you do not need to go all out to build a standalone website, which will demand a lot from you, like paying for a domain name, hosting, and design.

You are not limited by time and space

With your thrift store setup online, you are able to expand the scope of what is possible and how much you can achieve. This is because, quite unlike a physical space, which may be limited in terms of space as well as time since people can only visit within a particular time frame of the day, your online thrift store affords you the opportunity to remain available all day, every day.

Continue to sell even when you are not online

Having an online thrift store affords you the benefit of continuous selling even when you may not be online at the moment. Unlike physical thrift stores or stores in general, where you have to be physically present or have someone physically present in order to take orders and receive payments, an online thrift store ensures that visitors can make a purchase which you subsequently get notified of and then attend to once you are back online.

a thrift store business being run from homeIt can easily be connected to a payment gateway

Most e-commerce website builders offer their users easy connectivity to a payment gateway of their choice. In fact, you don’t have to lift a finger. All you need to do is simply make a few clicks and your payment gateway is integrated and you are ready to receive payments right away.

You can easily connect your online thrift store to your social media accounts and make more sales 

With your thrift store online, you can easily connect your social media accounts to it, spread word about what you have to offer and what is available for sale, and encourage your followers to visit your online thrift store. With this, you are able to easily increase visibility for your thrift store as well as get more people to buy into the course your organization is pursuing.

Maximize the power of social media

In today’s world, social media has gone beyond just being a tool for sharing pictures and updates. Social media is now a powerful tool to be used by businesses. Aside from using the various social media platforms around as brand handles, you can make use of it as your full-fledged thrift store.

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram have powerful features such as reels, stories, etc. that can be used to showcase your merchandise with their comment and messaging functions used to receive feedback. For payments, all you need is to have a payment link generated and you can receive and fulfill orders right on your social media handles.

An online thrift store helps reduce environmental pollution

Running an online thrift store means that you are contributing to the reduction of environmental pollution. It contributes to reducing the carbon footprint of humans generally.

Helps gives back to the society

Thrift shopping affords you the opportunity to give back to society by offering second-hand goods to those who may not be able to afford brand new clothing and other things.

Things to Consider Before Setting Up an Online Thrift Store

  1. Determine what kind of thrift store you want to run

Different thrift stores sell different second-hand products. Most stores have their own niche, and this could be clothing, furniture, books, or records. Others go on to sell a wide range of things. Do you want to be involved in selling just about anything, or do you want to have a niche and be known for specializing in a particular niche? 

It’s important you decide what exactly it is you want to start selling before going in. This also will largely be determined by factors such as the availability of that merchandise (where do you intend sourcing it and how close the source to your location is) and your knowledge of that particular product. Another thing to consider is your target market. Who are you targeting? The good thing about having an online thrift store here is that you can actually target a wide and diverse range of people. But then again, it is still better if you narrow down and focus on a particular demography: students, young unmarried bachelors, etc.

  1. How do you plan to source your merchandise?

This is an important factor you want to consider. Even though your store is online, you will have to fulfill orders, and this will be dependent on having the merchandise available physically, which you will then dispatch once payment is received. You don’t want to set up your store and run out of goods every now and then simply because you are not able to restock quickly.

Where are you going to be sourcing your merchandise from and how do you plan to ensure you always get goods delivered to you on time? Do you also plan to make trips down on a weekly or monthly basis? You should have answers to these questions as they may determine the success or otherwise of your online thrift store venture.

  1. Know the rules that guide the re-selling of the type of merchandise you plan to sell

It is important that you know the rules guiding the type of merchandise you plan to sell so that you don’t run afoul of the law. You should do your research and know all the intricate details involved in being involved in such a thing. If you need to get a license to sell, then these should be things you deal with before jumping in.

  1. How do you plan to fulfill orders?

Before setting out, you should put in place your order fulfillment channel(s). Will it be by collection or through courier services? You need to have these questions answered and have a solid distribution plan well planned out before you launch.

  1. What POS solution will your online thrift store use?

This is another factor you need to consider along the way as you are about to set up your online thrift store. Thankfully, there are a plethora of good options you can adopt and these will be highlighted later in this article. 

How to Start an Online Thrift Store on Instagram

One of the best ways to earn money online is to start an online thrift store. Instagram is the perfect platform to sell pre-loved products. You can link your store to Instagram and sell items to millions of users. You can sell clothes, shoes, bags, accessories, and jewelry on Instagram. You can showcase and sell beautiful fashion there.

Young men and women are influenced by social media when buying clothing online, because they can browse used items on social media and afford beautiful garments for a fraction of the retail price. You can start a thrift store on Instagram if you’re looking for the best tips for success. Millions of shoppers visit Instagram every day and buy clothes.

Basics of Starting a Thrift Store Online on Instagram

There are some technical details you should know before starting an online thrift store or selling stuff on Instagram. Setting up an Instagram account is the first step. If you’re new to selling used items online, these steps might be helpful. If you’re already experienced, you can skip the basics.

For Instagram Insights and to grow your business, you can switch to a professional or business account at any time. Business profiles have extra features that personal profiles cannot. Although individual accounts often get more organic reach, switching to a business account later on is usually recommended. Then you’ll need to choose a payment processor. PayPal, Venmo, etc. Instagram can be used as a marketing tool for your own online thrift store.

Market Research

If you want to start an online thrift store on Instagram, you have to know what to sell, what customers expect, and if there are any competitors in your market. Fashion products that are still in good condition can be sold online, including textiles and apparel, clothing, bags, shoes, footwear, and accessories. You need to know your target market in-and-out before you even start an online store.

No matter if your items are new or pre-loved, from high-street brands to high-fashion or anywhere in between, you need to find buyers. To ensure happy, returning customers, you must sell quality products. Your products should be free of imperfections, misalignments, rough edges, mismatched patterns, irregularities, or defects. Determine what people will want before starting an Instagram thrift store.

Provide specific designs that meet their needs. Follow trends and seasons to ensure that your items will attract potential customers. Old trends tend to come back around as well. Keep an eye on what is popular on Instagram and other platforms and be sure to offer what is in demand. To figure out what used items you can sell, study similar items that have been sold in the past.

Your ability to see trends and make products that sell quickly will improve with experience and know-how.

How to Find Products to Sell

Your next step is to source products for your online business venture. Thrift shops are also growing and help the fashion industry tremendously. There are many great places to find affordable items to sell on Instagram. Conscious fashionistas run thrift accounts on Instagram that emphasize ethical and eco-friendly fashion practices.

It encourages conscious behavior and drives change in the fashion world by offering beautiful garments for a fraction of the retail price through thrifting. Using social media platforms like Instagram, you can start a curated thrift business, selling second-hand clothes online to conscious buyers. Used fashion products can be found at auctions, fashion fairs, farmers’ markets, town markets, garage sales, and online marketplaces.

Setting Up a Distribution Process

You need good logistics and efficient processes to sell used items on Instagram. Plan ahead for storage, transport, and distribution of your products. Prepare packing materials and supplies, including packaging, boxes, labels, bags, paper, cushioning, foam, strapping, and wrap.

Pleasing Your Customers

On Instagram, you can sell used items. But you have to keep your customers happy. Respond to buyers within a day, at the very latest. Make sure the product packaging is perfect, the quality is good, and the authenticity is authentic. Respond to customers’ questions as much as possible. Update your offers accordingly.

Make sure your customers are happy and satisfied. Keep them interested in your new Instagram thrift store and make sure they remember you. The best way to stand out from other Instagram thrift stores is to thank customers after each purchase.

How to Take  Engaging Product Pictures

A girl running an online instagram thrift store taking product shotsInstagram thrift stores require high-quality pictures. Too many fashion re-sellers take poor pictures and wonder why their products don’t sell. Make your product pictures unique, clear, eye-catching, color-matching, diverse, and on-brand to stand out from the competition.

Each picture you upload on your feed should show off your fashion items so potential customers can quickly identify that what you offer is right for them. When taking product pictures, make sure they are realistic, without too many filters and lighting effects. Don’t make the mistake of not putting enough time and attention into them.

Consider these tips to make your feed more appealing to potential buyers:

  • Choose a good camera; a cell phone can work
  • Choose a light and neutral background
  • Autofocus on the product
  • Ensure good lighting not too dark or too bright
  • Use natural light as much as possible
  • Adopt an original and professional look
  • Pay close attention to the details
  • Choose portrait mode primarily for mobile view
  • Keep unity between shots and different products
  • Use the same setup and a tripod for consistency
  • Edit pictures afterward to increase the attractiveness
  • Take inspiration from other product photos

About Product Description

Starting a thrift store online and being successful requires an excellent product description. Instagram captions can be up to 2,200 characters long. It’s enough for each potential buyer to understand what you are selling and why they need your products. It’s also best to keep your copy brief. Instagram captions get cut off after about 125 characters. Most people don’t read all of them.

You can also highlight your products from your catalog with product tags in your business posts. If your product description is thorough, it will ensure customer trust and push hesitant customers to buy your used items.

It’s all about putting the right product in front of the right people on Instagram when starting a thrift store. In your Instagram captions, include the following: People look at product descriptions to gather as much information as possible. Serious resellers usually provide many details. You should consider:

  • The product name or title
  • The brand name
  • At least 100 words detailed product description
  • Information regarding fit and sizing
  • Unique details about construction
  • Colors and patterns
  • The item condition
  • Materials used for fabrics and finishing
  • Information about shipping rates and taxes
  • Other related products you might sell
  • Relevant hashtags

Pricing Your Products

To sell your Instagram thrift store products, you need to price them correctly. Avoid selling items too cheap or very expensive. Middle-range prices are most successful. You may turn off many people if you heavily discount an item or give a deal that seems too good to be true. Offering pre-loved items at a reduced rate isn’t always the best strategy.

Selling fashion items at a fair price will help you sell them faster and keep people interested. Place your prices too low, and it diminishes your brand and the perceived value of your products. If your product offerings are priced well, potential buyers will be more inclined to purchase them. Getting a fair price for a quality product is important.

Starting an Instagram thrift store and succeeding depends on getting it right and pricing your used items correctly. You can get ideas of how to price your fashion items by researching similar items that have previously sold on Instagram and other platforms. Price influences online purchases the most.

Using Marketing Strategy for Growth

You need to let people know about your thrift store if you are going to start it on Instagram. It’s crucial to have an effective marketing strategy and increase awareness about your brand and what you offer. To grow your Instagram account, put in a lot of hard work. There are millions of users competing for attention. Keep your followers engaged to increase your followers.

Talk to customers and people in your community as often as possible. You need to post stories every day with product links. Communicate with your audience as much as possible to make them interested in your offers. Talk about your favorite items, organize a sale, and promote it through stories. Use pictures and videos together, upload multiple photos at the same time, and don’t forget Instagram Reels.

The more active you are on Instagram, the faster you’ll find success with your online thrift store. Make sure to read notifications, respond to questions, and read comments. Collaborate with others and promote each other. Be present in the community. Engage with other creators and resellers. Using other platforms can help you grow your following.

If you already have a growing audience elsewhere, you can direct them to your Instagram page. Or start from scratch and build your following on other social media platforms. Choose the right social networks where you can reach a high number of people with the least effort if you have limited time. The content should be relevant to your products and relevant to each platform.

Follow your audience on Instagram too and post consistently. Instagram thrift stores can be very profitable. You just need to be consistent with the brand, theme, style, and posting schedule. Be present on the platform every day and post as often as your schedule allows. The Instagram platform is great for fashion. You’ll sell your clothing items faster and keep people interested.

Instagram offers perfect opportunities for pre-loved fashion resellers. Take a few pictures wearing each item and share them every day. The high number of users makes it easy for you to find potential buyers. But the competition is also high. Stay consistent to gain an edge. Maintain a routine and upload high quality, attractive content.

How to Start an Online Thrift Store on Any Ecommerce Builder

Step 1: Choose your preferred e-commerce platform builder

Decide on the e-commerce platform you prefer. You need to weigh the provisions of the various providers and see which one fits your desires. Most platforms offer some features for free, while other features are paid for. The top 10 choices you can consider are highlighted below. Alternatively, do you just want to stick with a social media platform like Instagram?

Step 2: Integrate with your preferred point of sale system and payment processor

Having made the choice of your preferred point of sale (POS) solution and payment processor, the next thing is to sign up for an account and then integrate this into your store. With this, you have sorted out how your customers will pay for purchases made in your store.

Step 3: Upload pictures of your merchandise

Once you have set-up your online store, the next thing you want to do is populate it with pictures of your merchandise along with their prices.

Step 4: Promote your store aggressively 

Run ads, get your immediate network to follow your social media handles, and share your store link on forums, groups, and other channels.

Step 5: Consider implementing basic SEO rules

Given that this is an online store, you must be aware and adopt some SEO rules in order to ensure that your store is getting the maximum visibility it can get online and on search engines.

This involves using the right keywords in appropriate places, such as bio, store address, and description.

Maximize the potential of hashtags: You can create your own hashtag such as #ThriftBy (followed by your store name) and include it in all your social media posts. By doing so, you increase the visibility of your store and brand. 

stock image of an online thrift store on a laptop

10 Best Free Ecommerce Builders for Online Thrift Stores

As noted earlier, there are a number of e-commerce site builders that you can use in building your online thrift store. These platforms offer free services, but some services can be paid for. Some of these are:

  • Wix: This is ideal for small online stores and those just starting out.
  • Webstarts: It is a website builder that offers free online store
  • SquareUp: Free to use but they collect 3% of every transaction processed.
  • WooCommerce: It is about the best WordPress ecommerce plugin
  • Magento: It is free to install and is ideal for enterprise-level businesses.
  • Square Online: While it has a free plan, its paid plan costs between $16 – $79 / month
  • Big Cartel: This is ideal for independent artists.It has both a free and paid plan.
  • Shopify: You’ll find it handy if you have a large business. It offers a free trial.
  • Squarespace: Is ideal for businesses in the creative space.
  • BigCommerce: It is scalable and has tons of in-built apps to help your store.

Thrift Store POS Providers

Now, one of the major things to consider is the option of your preferred point of sale solution. The point of sale solution is important as this is the channel through which you will process payments from your customers. As such. It is important to choose the service most suitable to your use case. 

The ideal POS solution should be one that helps you increase your sales, improve efficiency, and automate your business. 

Factors of an Ideal Thrift Store POS solution

  • Cost-Effective

The ideal POS system should be one that is cost-effective for your business. Now this is rather relative as needs differ from one person to another and what might come across as being ideal in terms of cost for one person may not be so for another. As such, you need to look through the complete solutions available and choose the one that is right for you.

  • Thrift Store Specific

Such a POS machine or software must have thrift store specific features that will ensure it works adequately for an online thrift store. 

Below, we highlight our top-recommended POS solutions for online-based thrift stores. 

Methodology—How We Chose the Best Thrift Store POS

In arriving at these POS recommendations, we have analyzed and reviewed these point of sale solutions; they have been thoroughly accessed and their features reviewed in order to ensure that they are specifically targeted for use with an online thrift store. 

You can be rest assured that we have taken time to review each one of them in-house in order to ensure that they are adequately targeted and provide features that anyone running an online thrift store will find useful. 

Since our focus here is to provide POS solutions that will adequately work well for online thrift stores, we have taken a look at point of sale solutions that basically have some specific features, one of which is that they should be a predominantly cloud-based solution. Another major factor we put into consideration is that such a solution must be targeted at small businesses, which also means they will be easy to set up and not cost much to run.

Other things we looked out for include: 

  • Must be able to process payments virtually instantly.
  • The point of sale must have the provision to generate payment links.
  • It should support multiple payment options.
  • Must offer 24/7 customer support, provide tutorials and training.

Based on the above, our top recommended thrift store POS are:


Based on our Shopify review and analysis, Shopify comes out on top as a POS solution for online thrift stores. It is the best for e-commerce businesses. 

Shopify POS PricingWhile we consider the fact that it runs a monthly fee rather than offering a per transaction based pricing model, we up voted it above Square given its huge focus on e-commerce and the fact that it offers a more robust provision for getting you started on your online thrift store.

Shopify allows you to sell anywhere—online, in-person, or through any other channel. The only reason why it is not the first on our list is the transaction charges when it is compared to Square. Shopify is an all-ecommerce-focused POS brand, and anyone focused on online sales will find it spot-on to use.

From our review, Shopify is an especially great solution when it comes to integrating online channels with in-person sales channels. We especially like it as it supports order tracking for purchases that are shipped.

Shopify’s ecommerce platform is a well-detailed and comprehensive one that anyone looking to build a strictly online ecommerce presence will find great. It allows you to build and fully customize your site with over 70 plus templates available for your use, custom domains, and features a drag and drop builder that makes building your store a breeze. You do not need to employ a professional to get your online thrift store up and running.

With Shopify, you can embed your products anywhere, add a mobile friendly and secure checkout to your site, as well as create a customizable button for use if you have an existing. The entire system is adequately synced such that what you sell online is what you have available physically.

We like the fact that it boasts a competitive payment processing rate and has several marketing tools provided for in its base plan.

With Shopify, you can easily boost awareness of your thrift store by increasing awareness on social media networks like Instagram and Facebook. 

How Much Does Shopify Cost?

Shopify allows you to easily setup your site and try out the service with a 14-day free trial. Its base plan, Shopify Lite, which lets you add products to any website or blog and accept card payments, costs $9 per month.

Its basic plan costs $24 per month. Its next plan, which is ideal for growing businesses, costs $69 per month, while its advanced plan costs $299 per month.

Square POS

Based on the features we looked out for, Square POS is another great POS solution for online thrift stores. It scores high giving its flexibility and ease of use. Square POS we submit is a great and one of the most ideal options for your online thrift store. In fact, Square is better when we consider it side by side with Shopify in terms of pricing since it is free and adopts a per transaction based pricing.

Square POSWe are particularly fond of Square given its free ecommerce option. This can serve as a ready option for you to consider in setting up your online thrift store. If you have not yet made up your mind on where to host your store, then you most probably want to consider it. It also comes with some great online ordering tools. Just what you need for your online thrift store.

With Square, you can process card payments while offline. It offers a free plan as well as free trial, and provides for multiple payment options such as contactless and mobile sales. It comes with no contract or monthly fees, simply charges per transaction processed.

Its drawbacks, which include limited inventory management features and basic reporting features can easily be overlooked for the many others it offers.

From our evaluation, Shopify scored high above all others as it earned marks for being a total e-commerce solution. Its cloud mobility, free e-commerce feature and online ordering tools are great features we believe come handy when building an online thrift store. However, we found out that its reporting feature when compared with others like Lightspeed isn’t so in depth.

How Much Does Square Cost?

Square POS software is free to download, but its Pro Plan costs $60 per month, per location. It also has a premium plan that comes with custom pricing. It takes a flat fee of 2.6% and 10 cents per transaction, charges 2.9% plus 30 cents per ecommerce sale. Recurring billing and card-on-file transactions cost 3.5% plus 15 cents per transaction, while keyed-in payments cost 3.5% plus 15 cents per transaction.

Should you want to get its hardware along with it, Square’s hardware and their costs include: 

Square Stand which goes for $169 or $27 per month for six months

Square Terminal which goes for $299 or $27 per month for 12 months

Square Register: $799 or $39 per month for 24 months

Card Readers: Start at $49


In the end, when all the preparations are done and the website and collection are ready, it’s time to launch. The road to success is filled with victories and failures, so get strong and be prepared for anything. Make sure to celebrate everything, including your first purchase, your first $100 in revenue, and more. You can count on us for professional assistance on how to start an online thrift store at any point along the way to your celebration. Just contact Wise Small Business for assistance.


Where do thrift stores get their inventory?

Thrift stores can acquire inventory from a wide variety of sources but the most popular, particularly for online thrift stores are small businesses, local thrift stores, moving sales, store liquidations, and donations.

Is thrifting a good side hustle?

Owning an online thrift store is a great opportunity to make money on the side, even if it isn’t your full time job. The amount of money that you’ll be able to make largely depends on the type of items that you are able to find, and your customer base.

Should I wash my thrift store items before reselling them?

Most secondhand thrift stores do not wash clothes before reselling them so it’s really a matter of preference. However, even if you don’t want to wash the clothes, you could always use disinfectant spray on them before sending them to your customers.