From antique dealers to sneaker sellers, buying something for less and selling it at a higher price is a tale as old as time (and capitalism). Over the years, the business of resale has not only survived but thrived off this premise, enabled by the likes of eBay, Depop and Poshmark, maintaining its status as a reliable side hustle and even a full-time business.
But in 2023, things look a little different. For starters, arguably the top career aspiration du jour is being a TikTok influencer. And in the booming resale world, things are more crowded than ever. So how do individual sellers, a.k.a small business owners, cut through the digital noise and make their self-made labels thrive? Well, by becoming content creators.
Picture this: instead of scrolling through a curated online storefront or Instagram feed, you can now watch vendors sell their goods virtually in real time. Live-stream shopping is nothing new— it’s been around in China for over a decade. There, it took off during the pandemic, with the industry worth an estimated $305 billion in 2021, Business Insider reports. It’s a burgeoning trend in North America, too. Sune, a new shopping app launched earlier this year, lets users buy directly from creators and influencers through a personalized video algorithm with an emphasis on emerging and under-discovered brands and products. Pinterest is continuing to roll out Pinterest TV, which was born in 2021. It’s a live-streaming feature where Pinners can buy from brands at a discounted price. Even TikTok is leaning into live video commerce, allowing businesses to list and sell products right there on the app. And now, reselling platform Poshmark is tapping into this shift.
For the past few months, the brand has been rolling out its new live-stream feature, “Posh Shows.” It goes like this: a seller sets up their tripod and ring light (not unlike an influencer) and goes live to sell their stock. One by one, they describe each clothing item or accessory, listing prices and addressing incoming comments about sizing and fabric details. It’s like a modern infomercial or a YouTube haul in real-time—except with more human-to-human interaction and a get-it-before-it’s-gone flea market urgency. (Each “auction” ends within 30, 45, or 60 seconds.)
Importantly, this is just an added feature to the internet reselling we’ve come to know—which is a ton of work already. From the hours spent sourcing to painstakingly photographing each garment to listing products with enticing descriptions and marketable details, re-selling (the “old fashion” kind, if you will) is time-consuming and labor-intensive. So why are some sellers so keen to tackle the entertainment aspect of live shopping, too?
“It's a major game changer for someone like me,” explains Crystal Blandshaw, a full-time reseller with 300,000 followers on Poshmark. She started selling on the app in 2015, when she saw a gap in the platform’s market: hair accessories. Today, her inventory spans extensions, clip-ins, wigs, as well as athleisure fashion. The New York City native quit her corporate job three years ago, and now makes over six figures reselling on different platforms.
On Poshmark alone, she estimates her 2022 income was $52,000, adding that it shot up since she began live shows in September. “Before, I would make on average three to five sales a day. [Now], you can make 50 sales in three hours. You're doing more volume in a shorter period of time.” She estimates that her average monthly income increased between $1,600 and $1,800 since she started live selling. The numbers are great, yes. But there’s another, intangible bonus to this strategy: brand awareness.
To really succeed at live shows, you need not only an enticing online storefront, but the prowess of creating content. The upbeat camera-ready disposition of an influencer has long been overlooked as a legit career skill, but these days, it’s more marketable than ever. Case in point: in their user guide, Poshmark encourages the use of background music, sharing fun anecdotes about each item and interacting with commenters in real-time.
These strategies have been a game changer for Dawn Ferguson, a part-time clothing reseller who’s been on Poshmark since 2019. While balancing her job at a storage facility, she clocks around eight hours on Poshmark four days a week, where she has over 100,000 followers. “Before the pandemic, I made maybe an extra 200 bucks a week,” she says. Once Covid hit, things started “dwindling” business-wise. “And then when the live shows came out, everything doubled and tripled.” Now, Ferguson makes roughly $70 per show and averages two shows a week, on top of her site-listed sales.
Another key to live-selling is engaging with the audience, “getting them to hit that like button [and] share the show,” Fegurson says. In other words: building an online image. That’s why some Poshmark sellers will go live for others, who either don’t have access to the feature (it’s still being rolled out on a first come first serve sign-up basis), or who don’t feel comfortable being on camera. “I can do a whole show and sell your items; I don't have to sell any of my items,” says Ferguson. “But I have that traffic coming to me.”
Although it’s got growing hype, live-stream shopping in North America has still yet to take off in the same way that it has in China. But Poshmark has already seen early signs of success. Since the rollout began in September, there have been 100,000 shows and 4 million individual bids. And as the site continues to expand access to the feature, it has racked up a hefty waitlist. That’s because, according to sellers like Blandshaw and Ferguson, it’s the future of resale.
“We live in a microwave society…people want things in the now,” says Blandshaw. Going live not only adds immediacy but also gives her credibility as a small business owner. “Most sellers pride themselves on ‘what you see is what you get,’” she says. Showing off an item’s wearability and quality on live begets what she views as unprecedented transparency. Ferguson, too, notes that it feels more personal; reveling in telling the story behind second-hand garments to an audience, instead of just typing up a caption.
In the age of quick-turnaround content and fast fashion, live-stream shopping lies somewhere in the (more sustainable) middle. It’s not just about selling clothes. It’s about creating content that is engaging, entertaining and individualized—and that might be the most versatile career skill out there. Ferguson is confident that with her live-stream savvy, she’ll be a full-time reseller soon. As for Blandshaw? Reselling success has inspired her to work toward becoming a full-time content creator. “I feel like I am definitely influential already,” she says, referencing her added audience of nearly 22,000 on Instagram. Even still, she maintains that doing content creation won’t lead her to give up resale. As she sees it, “the two go hand in hand.”
Reporting for this story was partially conducted during a press trip to New York, paid for by Poshmark.