Instagram is becoming a secret weapon for influencers who want to make money off selling clothes without paying fees to apps like Poshmark and Depop

duan 3.JPGDuan Mackenzie Nelson models her own blouse to sell on Instagram.Courtesy of Duan Mackenzie Nelson

  • Instagram users are increasingly using the platform to sell secondhand clothing, turning their backs on third-party resale apps like Poshmark and Depop, to avoid fees and connect directly with their captive audience of followers. 
  • "I used to sell a few things on Depop, but I noticed that those things just sit," Brooklyn-based influencer and YouTuber Duan Mackenzie Nelson told Business Insider. "I've taken the same products and put them on my Instagram Stories and they just sell right away."
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Duan Mackenzie Nelson felt frustrated that no one seemed interested in buying her clothing on Depop

Her carefully photographed items would remain unsold on the resale app for months, and though the Brooklyn-based YouTuber later found success selling to local consignment shops, she was dismayed by the large commission fees or offers strictly for store credit she was receiving in return for a sale. 

"I used to sell a few things on Depop, but I noticed that those things just sit," she told Business Insider. "I've taken the same products and put them on my Instagram Stories and they just sell right away."

As a bona fide micro-influencer with more than 34,000 followers, Mackenzie Nelson found a sweet spot in selling to her fanbase, who was already "liking" and commenting on her lifestyle posts en masse. She started regularly holding what she calls "Sunday Closet Cleanouts," where she posts new items for sale on a weekly basis. These items tend to sell within just a few hours. 

Mackenzie Nelson said she strategically posts on the ephemeral Stories feature, rather than her main feed, to create a sense of urgency. After she makes a sale - the logistics of which are conducted via Instagram direct message, and payments made either on Venmo or PayPal -  she personally ships each item along with a handwritten thank-you note. 

"It genuinely makes me feel good," Mackenzie Nelson said of her Instagram sales. "I think it's a nice way to clear your closet and your mind. If you have minutes to take a picture and post it on Instagram Stories, why not?"

 

The rise of the Instagram thrift store

Mackenzie Nelson is one of a growing number of Instagram users selling secondhand clothing on the platform. It's an attempt to capitalize on their social media communities while also bypassing the pesky fees taken by third-party selling apps like Poshmark and Depop, which could reach as much as 20% of sales. 

The growth of Instagram "closet cleanouts" and thrift accounts is largely a reflection of what has become a banner year for the resale market.  In June, The RealReal became the first publicly traded resale company, a telling sign of larger market trends. Just a few months later, beleaguered department stores like JCPenney and Macy's announced experimental programs to sell ThredUp items in select stores.

More recently, an Accenture report found that consumers are more keen to both give and receive thrifted gifts than ever before, as the resale industry continues to climb to reach a projected $51 billion by 2023, according to a report by ThredUp. 

realrealBethany Biron/Business Insider

Unlike Mackenzie Nelson, Canadian radio host Brooklyn Driediger doesn't have a massive Instagram following, with just shy of 3,000 followers on her personal account. However, when she started selling thrift clothing on Instagram a few years ago to make some extra cash while on the job hunt, she was surprised to find it worked.

Driediger had already developed an affinity for thrift shopping as a college student on a budget and a knack for scouring racks that's not always for the faint of heart. Much like Sophia Amoruso developed Nasty Gal from her bedroom in San Francisco, finding trendy blouses and pants at local vintage stores and turning them around for a profit on eBay, Driediger took a similar route with the help of Instagram. 

"What came out of necessity for my budget became a hobby," she told Business Insider. "It's really become a lifestyle change. I just wanted to share that with my friends. A lot of them want to go thrifting, but not a lot of them want to go to the thrift store, so I saved them a step online."

'I'd rather list on Instagram'

Today, Driediger has both a full-time job and an account dedicated to selling secondhand clothing - both her own and items she finds while on vintage shopping runs - called @thriftuition. She said she turned to Instagram because she found the resale apps cumbersome and wanted more control over her sales while tapping into her existing following. 

"I was originally going to do Poshmark, but I just didn't like the idea that people then had to sign up to a third-party app or whatever just to buy clothing from me," she said. "I thought, 'I should make this more easy for them to get to. It should be more attainable, and so if they already follow me, all I have to do is press one button.'"

 

Lisa Dickinson - who runs the Instagram page @ShopWardrobeWednesday, where she sells thrifted clothing to more than 3,700 followers on a weekly basis - also decided to try Instagram after striking out on Poshmark. Dickinson said the platform helped her connect more directly with an engaged following of people, which has since fostered several repeat shoppers. 

Dickinson said she'll still use third-party sellers as a last resort if an item isn't selling, though she generally tries to avoid using them.

"I'd rather list on Instagram because I've kind of created this community," she said. "I have regular customers who I've become friends with and I like selling there better."

Dickinson said she's noticed an uptick in similar thrift accounts on Instagram, a telling factor of the surge in growth around the resale market. Even a quick search of #secondhand yields nearly eight million hits, while #thrift brings up 3.5 million. 

Driediger echoed Dickinson and said an average of between three and four thrifting accounts follow her on Instagram every day, adding that she anticipates there will continue to be an explosive growth in resale on Instagram.

"It's really becoming this new wave," she said. 

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