My Thrift Store Experiment

Over the years, I have spent countless hours in thrift stores shopping for inventory and I’ve discovered that traveling to a nearby metro area and spending one or even two day’s shopping can be extremely beneficial.  It allows you to get a bunch of inventory in a short amount of time and spend the rest of the week working.

Three Hour Radius.

Anyone who lives in a rural or smaller town is typically within three hours of a metro area where they can spend the day shopping.  I don’t believe in the excuse that you can’t find inventory and I know first hand that it can be done consistently.  That is my ‘three hour radius’ belief.

Car Full of Gold.

Traveling to a metro area also allows you to be more selective with what you purchase.  You don’t have to settle for the same old stuff you see locally because there are so many more options.  So many more stores.  This is the ‘car full of gold’ belief.

I have been using this strategy for years but I’ve always wondered…what is the return?  When I travel to another city to buy inventory, how much do I make?  How long does it take to sell?  What can I expect from my shopping trip?

As many of you know, it’s hard to track that information but I was determined to try to figure it out.  This leads me to my ‘Thrift Store Experiment’.  I wanted to find answers to these questions.

The Thrift Store Experiment

On January 9th, I left my house at 7am and headed for Des Moines which I consider to be a mid-market area.  You can’t go to every thrift store in one day but if you move quickly you can hit a decent amount of them.  I arrived at 10am and shopped all day long until the last store closed at 9pm that evening.

The primary thrift stores in Des Moines are Goodwill and Salvation Army with a few smaller ones mixed in.  The Salvation Army’s in this area are GIGANTIC stores.  You could literally spend hours in one store if you wanted to.  I chose to be selective about which parts of the store I spent time shopping in and moved on to another.

On that day, I was able to shop at 15 different stores.


These are the stores I shopped at in Des Moines to run my experiment.


This is what the back seat and trunk of my car looked like before heading home.

For the most part it was a very average shopping day.  It wasn’t bad and it wasn’t great.  I found a decent amount of items (91) that I believe will all sell in a fair amount of time but no big hitters that will sell for an abnormal amount of money.  It’s a perfect shopping trip to test my questions.

  1.  It took us about three days to process the group of items including prep, photo and list.  By listing all of the items within the same period, I can track how long it takes for items to sell.
  2.  I assigned each item a specific inventory number.  This allows me to track each item.
  3.  I keep a running spreadsheet of each item that sells AFTER we ship it out.  This is true data and eliminates non-payment buyers.
  4. We listed each item on a five-day auction.
  5. If the item didn’t sell on auction, we flipped it into a buy it now.

The items after coming back from Des Moines and ready to list.

The Analysis

Money Spent on Inventory:  $399.53

Amount of Items Purchased:  91

Items w/ Flaws and Unusable:  4

Total Items Listed:  85

Average Price Per Item:  $4.39

As of 1/24/17:

Sales Made:  $1155.97

Amount of Items Sold:  37

Average Price Per Item:  $31.24

Where We Stand:

Profit:  $756.44

Amount of Items Remaining:  48

In Conclusion

Overall, it’s great to get a feel for where this thing is going.  In less than two weeks, we have almost tripled our initial investment.  That’s great!  However, what may be even more exciting is what is still to come.  We have 48 items left to sell and are averaging over $30 per item sold.  That’s a PIPELINE of future sales to come down the road.

It’s also good to know that we sold through 43% of the items within the first couple of weeks.  Things aren’t hanging around, taking up space and are moving quickly.

I will continue to update this ‘experiment’ as time goes on and share it with you.  It will be interesting to see the END results.



We have continued to track this experiment and have the latest results.  We are loving the data that it continues to produce.

Updated Totals:  

$1786.77 in sales

57 items sold 

Average Price Sold $31.35

Remaining Items:  28

Overall Profit:  $1387.24


In six weeks we have sold 67% of the items purchased.

How About You?

What part of this experiment interests you the most?

What would you like to know more about?

Let me know in the comments below…


26 thoughts on “My Thrift Store Experiment

  1. Jesse your work is amazing and totally intrigues me! I must admit I had busted out the calculator when I scrolled a little further and realized you had done the math for me.
    You are able to do this as your job, do you believe there would be the same benefit on a smaller scale? Less products purchased with less time to commit? Of course, the amount of money in return would be less but would the percentage on return be the same?
    Just something to think about! Thanks for sharing Jesse!


    • Thank you so much for your feedback Rachel!

      I absolutely believe that there is money to be made part time and I know quite a few people who are doing it currently.

      That’s how I got started – part time. I was making $1000 a month extra on a part time basis and had no idea what I was really doing.

      I’ll write about some of the key steps to getting started in a couple of weeks. Obstacles I had to overcome in the beginning and what I believe are the most important factors.

      There are things in your house right now that you can make money on! I promise you.

      Feel free to contact me anytime and I’d be honored to help you get started.


      • Jesse,
        I have a son that is disabled and can not work outside of the home due to no one wanting to hire him, is this something that can be done easily? I am here to help full time he is 29 and just need to know how to get started on something like this. What would be the steps to take?


      • Hey Debbie! Thanks for asking about your son. I have a brother with disabilities who is 34 but he is able to work outside the home on a part time basis washing dishes.

        To be honest with you I don’t know the answer to this question. Let me start by saying that it’s not easy but it can be taught. Taking photos, listing and shipping are all tasks that can be trained. The hard part is finding the right inventory and handling customer service.

        If you are willing to learn the business yourself and get him involved I think it’s a real possibility and potentially a really good one!

        I’m planning to write a blog post next week about doing this business on a part time basis and some steps that could help someone get started. If you check back next Wednesday hopefully I can answer your question in more detail about getting started.

        Thanks again for asking!


      • I have a question…
        What items do you know will sell?
        How do I go about selecting products to buy and then sell on ebay?
        I know you mentioned above that this part is one of the most difficult to get along with customer service. I’m just looking for any advice or even some sites or videos that help with this.
        I did FBA for a while, now i’m looking to get into ebay as well.


      • Hey Angel! It’s really all about your interests. What do you have an interest in? What would you like to sell? You can find information on anything that you want and be completely overwhelmed.

        I would start by writing down things that come to mind and then going to ebay and looking at the ‘Sold’ listings to get an idea of what they sell for. Study like crazy.

        Also, what do you have access to? What kind of inventory can you buy? This is why so many people sell clothing or antiques because they can buy them at thrift stores or estate sales.

        I believe that if you figure out WHAT it is you want to sell then the rest will fall into place.

        Feel free to contact me anytime with questions. I’d love to hear from you.


    • Hi Rachel, I just wanted to add to what Jesse’s said that there definitely is a place for a part-time commitment in the reseller world. Based on my contacts through social media and locally, I’d guess that the vast majority of resellers do so on a part time basis.

      Personally, I think that maybe the biggest struggle starting out is finding a niche and business model that will fit with what you want to do. You can see from the pictures of Jesse’s haul that he sells lots of suits, blazers, outerwear and shirts. Personally, I only do a little bit in those categories. I have friends that focus on shoes, friends that focus on purses / handbags, friends that focus on toys, some do mostly books — there really are lots and lots of options.

      Liked by 1 person

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  3. Hi… what was the date that you posted your items? I see you posted the profit you made on 1/24/17…..just wondering how long it took to sell the 30 items…thx


    • Hey Pat! We started to list the items between Jan 13th – 15th. Most of those first sales came on a five day auction that ended between the 18th – 20th. The other sales came after we flipped the ones that didn’t sell on auction into a buy it now.


  4. Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this and for sharing it with all of us! It’s so great to know and be able to prove that you are making money. It’s also good to know that even seasoned veterans like you don’t sell every item immediately. It gives me hope for some of my items that haven’t sold yet! Thank you! I look forward to learning more from you!


  5. Your experiment is so inspiring to a newbie like me. I can’t wait to follow to see the final outcome. Thank you for sharing. I haven’t started yet as I don’t have internet in my home but I can’t wait.


  6. Jesse…I have tons of inventory…clothing, collectibles, small antiques, books, vintage, jewelry…you name it, I have it. I would love to find someone to partner with me to sell. How do I go about finding someone? I live near state line between Wilmington De and Pa. Thanks for any information.


    • Hi Lynn!

      I start my prices off differently based on the product. I would say my starting average price is around $30.00 but I will start some off at $19.99 and others off at $99.99. I use ‘sold’ listings as a guide for my starting points.

      I hope that helps – let me know if you have any other questions.


    • Hey Julie!

      I don’t start my auctions off at 99 cents. I start them off at prices that are typically in the $30 range but can vary based on the item.

      Thanks for asking and let me know if you have any other questions.


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