Clothing is typically not the largest ticket item for the average person, but can still be a significant cost. For those who simply must have the latest fashion, or for those (like myself) who work in professions that require significant investments in high quality clothing as part of the cost of doing business, there is a growing industry that can help keep costs down. The new industry (or really not-so-new, but growing quickly) is generally referred to as “Buy-Sell-Trade” clothing stores, or sometimes simply clothing exchanges. The idea is simple: the stores purchase unwanted gently used clothing from consumers, and then tacks on a mark-up to sell them to their own customers.

These stores should not be confused with thrift stores, where clothing can be purchased on the cheap, but not the kind of clothing you’d wear to a cocktail party or an important client meeting. I can testify from experience that they are very discriminating when making their purchases – the clothing must be in excellent condition, in season, and in fashion. These exchanges should also not be confused with consignment, where you must wait until a customer actually purchases your clothing to collect any money – here, you are paid up front. In order to make a few bucks, you can go through your wardrobe and pick out clothes you no longer want. Before doing so, however, you should call or check the website of the exchange and see what they’re currently buying. Once you’ve picked out the clothes you’d like to sell, you can either come in person to a local exchange, or send for a mailing kit from an online exchange, and mail them your clothes.

Happy Shopping!

The store’s employees will then screen your clothing based on quality, seasonality, and current fashion trends, and pick out the clothes they’re willing to buy. Pricing varies somewhat, but a typical deal would be the following: you can either collect 35% of the price they’ll sell it for in cash, or 50% of the price in store credit. If you both buy and sell your clothes at the same exchange, you can see how this can quickly reduce your spending on clothing. Crossroads, an exchange located on the west coast, has a good guide to selling your clothes here and here (more applicable for women than men). For obvious reasons, exchanges typically do much more business with women than with men, but this also means that men have a better chance of successfully selling items to the store. There are also sometimes variations on this concept known as clothing swaps, where rather than trading in your unwanted clothing for cash or store credit, you can swap unwanted clothing directly for clothing you’re willing to wear.

For those who are inclined to be “green”, this practice is also generally viewed as environmentally friendly, since it is a good way to “recycle” clothing rather than throwing them away and potentially creating more waste material. I view clothing exchanges as a good halfway point between thrift stores on the one hand (for those who simply want cheap) and designer clothing at upscale shopping malls, where markups are significantly higher. Hopefully, some readers will find these a valuable way to obtain high quality clothing at substantial discounts. Happy shopping!

Logan Hertz works as a business strategy consultant in Atlanta and freelances as a personal finance expert. If you are interested in clever, easy ways to increase your income and reduce your costs, email him.

© 2015 Logan Hertz – permission to reprint is gladly given, provided the author is given credit