UPDATE: There are plenty of people who are pissed off about the fact that H&M's recent Balmain collaboration sold out in stores and online within a matter of minutes. But, even more infuriating was the fact that much of the collection reappeared online in a few more minutes. Below, we've republished an interview with one of these collaboration resellers who's been able to work the system to the benefit of her pocketbook, but the detriment of your closet.
This story was originally published on October 25, 2013.
In stores tomorrow, the Isabel Marant for H&M collection might prove to be the biggest, most anticipated mass collaboration ever. And, that's saying a lot, as these designer matchups can turn typically prim, proper editors into lunatics (speaking as someone who attempted to navigate the VIP presales in two cities). It's not enough to go shopping for these lines these days armed with just your cash and enthusiasm; you have to have a strategy. With eBay resellers scooping up multiples of each item, you'll have a hard time finding what you want in the size you need, even if you're willing to wake up at the crack of dawn.
It's easy to see scalpers both as hackers exploiting the retail system or as self-starter entrepreneurs taking advantage of all their (perfectly legal) resources. "The ability to flip products and charge double for them…why are we not all doing this? I’m always so confused," said one eBay reseller we spoke to who was willing to divulge her methods, her motivations, and her thoughts on her haters. Working in the fashion industry for her day job and operating a hugely successful eBay shop on the side, this woman had some interesting things to say about the whole reselling phenomenon.
So, how did you get started as an eBay fashion flipper?
"I actually got started doing this because I used to work in PR in retail, so I used to buy things at wholesale price and, if they didn’t fit, resell them. So, I had an eBay store, and I developed a following, so I just continued with that. [My coworkers] know that I sell things, and they think it’s like, a funny quirk.”
Click through for the rest of the interview with this eBay reseller.
Describe your strategy. Are you doing this yourself? With a team?
“It’s like going to a music festival. You know you’re going to get dirty, and you know people are going to push you, but you’re there for a reason. When I went to Missoni, I stood in line, and I was there at 8 a.m. I have friends that also like to shop and do these things, and we'll collaborate on a list of what we all want. Since they live in D.C., they go. And, then I pay them back, and we sell it online collaboratively. That’s the thing that people don’t think about. Do you have a friend who lives in Denver or Maryland? Just call that friend, and they can get it for you usually. In D.C., Margiela sat on the racks and went on sale at H&M. Call your mom, if you have to.
Sometimes, with the collections that get released in Europe, the conversions end up not being that bad. If you go to an eBay seller in this case and say, ‘Hey I know you want to charge this much for it, but I know you have 10, so can I buy four for this price?’ you end up getting the product for the same price anyway.”
How do you figure out what to buy?
“There are always those coveted items that everybody knows that most shoppers would want, but I also try to think of people who would want a one-off. Like, for example, for Phillip Lim, the cosmetic cases were actually great clutches, and they’re super cheap. So, I bought multiple of those because someone who doesn’t necessarily care if it’s Phillip Lim but wants to be a part of the experience will just buy it as a clutch because they’re able to have a quick little cute piece.”
Have you ever bought out a certain style in a store?
“When Missoni for Target hit, I bought out the chevron classic fleece blanket because the quality was so good, it was ridiculous. Like, if the quality’s not good, I won’t buy it at all. But, the quality was so good in this case that I bought the four they had.”
Have you ever had nasty confrontations with other shoppers?
“Oh, yeah. Most people shop in herds, and they bring four or five friends. I only have one person that I do this with. I’ve had people steal things out of my cart. There was this amazing gay couple who tried to slay the earth at Missoni for Target. They had four shopping carts, and they created a wall in the aisle so you couldn’t get around them to get to anything. And, they were both pushing at the same time, so by the time you got access to anything, you had to barter.”
Do you think these people are reselling, too?
“I can’t imagine they're buying for themselves, because they buy so much. Like, are they just going home and sitting in the middle of all of it and wrapping themselves up in four Missoni blankets? I would assume that's not what they’re doing, but you never know. I guess some people might be obsessive.”
How do you decide how much to mark things up?
“I try to keep it reasonable. Like, if it’s a really coveted item, it goes up between 15 and 20 percent. I just want to get a little bit of [return on investment].”
How much money do you drop initially? And, how much do you make off of each haul?
“For example, I spent $500 on Missoni, and I think I made $700 to $800. That was home goods, and I typically hold on to those things for a few months, and then I’ll sell it now that no one else is selling them, and the value goes up.”
What would you say to someone who feels that what you're doing is unfair to consumers?
“I feel like everybody at home knows they weren’t able to wake up early and deal with the other customers, but we've all come to appreciate these designers, especially through their diffusion lines, and they need to have things. My customers know that they might have to pay a little more, but they’re getting exactly what they want from these collections, so I feel like it benefits everyone in the end. From the retailer’s perspective, they also create these collections knowing it will become this coveted, limited-edition item that will end up on eBay. That’s another purpose of these collaborations. At the end of the day, they want to have this exclusivity included in the brand identity, and this is a way to do it.”