Posted on April 23, 2021
It’s shaping up to be a busy summer for those of us in the clothing trade!
If you want to start selling as soon as possible, then an online marketplace could be just what you need. With simple user tools and a ready audience of buyers, platforms like eBay and Etsy can get you selling in 20 minutes or less.
Not every platform is going to be right for your product line. Listing fees can be quite high, depending on what you’re selling and which platform you choose. In this article, we’ll give you a quick tour of the platforms available to UK clothing businesses. We’ll share the pros and cons of each site (or app), and show you what to do next if you want to win big sales this summer!
It should come as no surprise that the first site on our list is eBay! As one of the biggest marketplaces in the world, eBay has a massive audience just waiting to buy from you. Countless modern fashion brands have launched their businesses on the platform (including Nasty Gal). It’s a really intuitive user-friendly system to use.
For UK fashion and apparel sellers, eBay lets you test the waters with as little as 1 item. With eBay’s Seller Hub, you get the tools you need to run your storefront. It covers everything from stock levels to customer feedback and marketing channels.
The cost of running an eBay shop varies depending on how you set yourself up. You can work on a ‘pay as you sell’ basis, where eBay takes a commission and/or listing fee on every single transaction. You can also choose from a range of monthly subscription fees. The marketing upgrades are perfect for startups — you can pay extra to get your product out in front of as many buyers as possible.
One thing to be aware of with eBay is that, even though it commands a massive audience, the average seller’s share of that audience is tiny. If you set up a new account with just a few products in your shop, you’ll have to fight for the attention of every single customer with razor-sharp photography, captivating headlines and descriptions. If you’re new to Conversion Rate Optimisation, we’ve got some CRO advice for fashion businesses that is worth a read.
While eBay lists every type of product you could think of, Etsy is more focused. Offering just handmade, craft and vintage items, Etsy is a great fit for handmade businesses. Just be aware that buyers on Etsy are not looking for a ‘factory line’ item. Buyers go to Etsy to find personal and handmade products that feel special.
Etsy is very easy to use. Just like eBay, you don’t need to understand how to write website code or have a special Merchant ID at your bank. You just upload your photos, copy-paste your sales text and hit ‘go’. You can sign up for an account at https://www.etsy.com/uk/sell
Just like eBay, Etsy is a highly competitive space, so you need to work hard to stand out. You also need to budget for etsy’s seller fees, which can run as high as 24% of your total sale price, depending on what you’re selling and whether you subscribe to their seller tools.
UK-based fashion retailer asos.com is a massive business, attracting 2.7 billion site visits in 2020 alone. While they don’t have a simple ‘sign up and sell’ option that anyone can access, ASOS does partner with more than 800 independent boutiques through their ASOS Marketplace platform.
If you’re a small fashion and clothing startup with a unique range of clothing or accessory products, then you should at least apply to join ASOS marketplace. If you’re approved (and if you’re happy with their 20% commission rate), you could be selling direct to ASOS’s massive audience in a matter of weeks.
ASOS requires you to use PayPal as a payments provider, and there are some stringent customer service standards that you must meet (you need to respond to customer queries within 24 hours and ship goods within 48 hours), but in all it can be the perfect choice for your brand. It can give you the rocket-boost in sales volumes you need to get going — just make sure you scale your business safely (advice here)!
You might have seen the TV ads for this site (“Shpock it!”). Shpock has a big marketing budget and it’s fast becoming a powerhouse on the international ecommerce stage. When we last checked, it was getting 10 million buyers a month (you can see the latest numbers on Shpock’s seller page).
Shpock could be a good choice for your business if you’re trying to build an audience for a brick-and-mortar retail shop. Shpock’s ‘regional’ and ‘national’ subscriptions help you target buyers within 30 miles of your shop from as little as £19 a month.
We checked with a cross-section of our custom label customers and we were surprised to hear that not many have tried this site yet. If you want to give shpock a whirl, our advice is to do your own research first, and maybe start with their 30-day free trial to see how it goes.
Aimed at young millennials and Generation Z (zoomers), this mobile-native marketplace is focused on selling unique one-off or limited-run items through its mobile app.
Selling clothes through Depop.com is incredibly easy via their app; all you need to do is snap 1-4 photos, add your text and set your price. The site charges a 10% fee on all transactions.
Depop’s audience isn’t as large as some of the big players like Etsy and eBay, but their audience is made up of customers looking for great garments. It’s a highly focused group of relevant buyers, and if you’re in the one-off garment business, we highly recommend you set yourself up on the app and give it a go for a few weeks.
Based on our research, the 5 marketplaces listed above are the best place to start if you’re a UK fashion business looking to sell this summer. Longer-term, there are a few other sites which are worth keeping an eye on:
Thread.com is an ingenious UK startup that delivers a tailored personal shopping experience to both men and women. As a shopper, when you first log in to thread.com you have to answer lots of ‘shape, size and appearance’ questions about yourself. You then get a small, curated list of items that are likely to suit you. At the moment thread.com have only partnered with bigger brands like Liberty and Urban Outfitters, but we’re sure that as this business grows, so will their list of suppliers, so keep an eye on their website!
Vinted.co.uk works on a different business model than most marketplace sites. With Vinted, sellers don’t pay commission — instead, the buyers are charged a fee. This ‘buyer-pays-my-fees’ model makes things simple for sellers, because you know what you’re going to get paid every time you make a sale. Vinted could be worth experimenting with, but check their website first to make sure your product range matches their demographic.
If you’re a solopreneur or small fashion design business, marketplace sites are great. You can focus all of your energy on making great prodWhere to Sell This Summer: The Best Online Platforms For Clothing Startupsucts, because you won’t waste time fixing technical site issues and doing your own marketing. You can also start trading with as little as a single item and grow organically over time (great for cash-strapped startups). Learn more about the pros and cons of running your own site in our beginner’s guide to ecommerce.
You do need to be aware of the limitations of marketplace sites, though. When you sell your goods through a third party like eBay, you might not get to keep your customer data for future use. After fees and commissions, you’ll find the profit margins are thinner on each sale. It’s a great way to ‘get the ball rolling’ on your brand, but it’s by no means the only way to make a sale.
I hope this list is helpful. Let us know what platform you choose and what worked for you!
Thanks for reading!