There are a great many benefits to shopping for clothes online, and eBay has been steadily growing in popularity over the last few years as a source of great fashion at bargain prices. With the effects of the recession taking their toll, the British public need more than ever to count their pennies and keep expenditure at a minimum. This is part of the reason that eBay is a sensible option, but one of the other key factors is the variety and range of clothes that are available at the online auction site, constantly growing and being updated. Whilst at first you may associate the notion of auctioning items and of eBay itself with second hand goods, this is only a very small selection of the clothes on offer. Some people sell on brand new clothes that they’ve never worn, or even opened (unwanted Christmas presents, for example), whilst numerous small, independent stores sell their wares through eBay, many of which are handmade. At the eBay fashion outlet, a dedicated section of the website, you can also buy designer clothing and accessories at a discounted price, either directly from the brand or from a trusted retailer. If you’re looking to conserve your cash in 2012 without sacrificing the clothes you love, eBay shopping is a useful skill to develop. There are, however, a few things that every savvy eBay shopper needs to know.
If you’ve never shopped on eBay before, whether for clothes or for anything else, this section is to help you get to grips with the very basics. If you’re already familiar with the eBay search and purchase system, feel free to skip ahead.
One of the great and convenient things about shopping online at a site like eBay is that you can look specifically for an item you want, rather than have to browse endlessly through shelves and racks of clothing. Typing in key words, for example “red cardigan” or “size 7 heeled boots”, will shorten the shopping process immensely. You can also shop for brand names, if you know of a particular make you like. Once you have found an item you want to buy you need to identify the seller’s sale options: although the primary mode of purchase is bidding on an item, which is relatively straightforward, there is also the even more straightforward option of “Buy It Now” as well as the option to haggle under “or Best Offer”. In the case of the latter, you can make what you think is a reasonable offer for the item and the seller will either accept or reject your suggestion. Be realistic: there is no point making an offer drastically below the “Buy It Now” price, as it is highly unlikely the seller will accept. If you bid on an item or purchase it via “Buy It Now”, you are entering into a binding contract to then pay for that product if you win the auction. If you do not do so, you may receive an unpaid item strike from the seller, which harms your eBay reputation and can cause other sellers to refuse to do business with you.
One of the major issues that potential eBay buyers have with the process is the risk of inappropriate sizing. As any woman knows, there is virtually no such thing as standard sizing; often a size 12 in one store may fit perfectly, whilst the “same” size in another is far too tight or too loose. This is why shopping for clothes that you cannot try on first can be a little risky. If you’re spending very small amounts on clothes, there isn’t much point being overly cautious; if it doesn’t fit when it arrives, you haven’t lost much and could pass it on to a friend or even re-sell it yourself. For more expensive items, however, you should try to be as sure as possible that the item will fit. Buying clothes like jeans can be problematic; blogger Miss Conduct recommends that you only buy items that have to fit one measurement, such as skirts (which only need to fit around the waist) or items that can be a little loose without much harm done, like a t-shirt or cardigan. Lilit Marcus at thegloss.com gives another invaluable piece of advice: buy a measuring tape, and use it. Often eBay sellers will list specific measurements rather than standard sizes, and if you know yours then you can match them up and only buy clothes that have a strong likelihood of fitting you well. Another cheeky tip from Miss Conduct, if you want to buy particular brands online, is to try on designer clothes in their official store so that you know your size in their range before sauntering home and buying the same items for half the price.
Pay attention to all the information the seller provides about an item, and don’t be afraid to ask for more details.
There is a huge appeal in buying handmade items online in that you know for a fact that the clothing you are wearing is entirely unique. Even if a particular seller makes numerous copies of the same item, they usually include a short notice explaining that no two pieces will ever be identical. This can be both a blessing and a curse; you should be aware that if you have bought an item based on a picture of the first one the seller created, the iteration of the item that you receive could be quite different. Buying directly from retailers who produce handmade goods gives you the opportunity to buy many items that simply don’t exist anywhere else on the market, and some of them will even be one-off items, never to be replicated. Whilst buying brands like Topshop and H&M puts you at direct risk of turning up at a party or nightclub in the same outfit as someone else, when your clothes and accessories are bought online you can know with almost 100% certainty that you will look unique.
Buying genuine vintage clothing is another reason that many consumers turn to online shopping and to eBay. Buying vintage from specialist stores can be costly, whilst bargains can be snapped up online if you know where to look. However, Miss Conduct warns that many vintage pieces, particularly those from the 50s/60s, are meticulously tailored to fit very closely. It is likely that these kinds of items will either fit you perfectly or not fit at all, the former being altogether more likely. Lilit Marcus emphasises once again the importance of the measuring tape in this situation, which will come in very handy. Additionally, never be afraid to contact the seller directly if you need more details. Most eBay sellers are extremely polite and eager to help, and as long as you correspond in a friendly manner they will probably reply in the same way. If a seller is brusque or defensive with you, you may want to think twice about buying from them; refusing to answer a question suggests they may have something to hide.
The eBay Fashion Outlet is a dedicated section of the eBay website where over 30 outlet stores sell over 200 designer brands at discounted prices. It is described on the website “like shopping at an outlet village, but from the comfort of your own home”. You can search through the outlet by brand or by store, and each item is displayed with an indication of what percentage of the original price you are saving when you buy it. Brands featured in the outlet include Joe Browns and Gio Gio, with current discounts of up to 75%. The eBay fashion homepage also offers dedicated seasonal collections to help you shop the latest trends, as well as digital publications, like catalogues, showing off clothing that can be purchased on the site. When the recession struck, eBay began to record a huge increase in customers purchasing designer clothes from the outlet: a spokeswoman commented, “They’re people who still want to go to all of the leading social occasions looking like a million dollars – but at a quarter of the price.”
Many top name brands can be found at unbeatable prices in the eBay Fashion Outlet.
Refunds and Scams
Another concern that many consumers have with shopping online is what would happen if they were not satisfied with the item they received, or if they were the victim of an unfortunate scam. Scams do happen, and although sometimes you can obtain a refund through eBay, this is not always the case and there is a real risk you could lose money. Sticking to sellers in the same country or even local area as you can reduce this risk, and it is always extremely useful to check seller ratings and feedback from other buyers before committing to a purchase. Jess Zaino, fashion correspondent and personal stylist, says “the most important thing in shopping online is you really need to look for the feedback, because when you look for the feedback you’ll be able to tell if the person is trustworthy, of what quality are the clothes they are selling”. If the item you are buying is supposedly designer, legitimate sellers should be willing to show you serial numbers and additional photographs. If you want to make sure that you can return an item you are not happy with, possibly because it doesn’t fit or because it was misrepresented in its listing, each unique seller and each store in the fashion outlet operates under its own postage and returns policy. You should thoroughly investigate these before making a purchase. Sometimes, though, you just have to suck it: mistakes are made, and you may end up with an item that looked perfect in the picture but somehow was all wrong when it arrived. Give it to your most hated relative for Christmas next year.
So that’s it – a quick guide to buying clothes on eBay, whether you want to find that perfect piece, save a few pounds or gain access to your favourite brands. Always be careful when making purchases online; eBay payments are best processed via PayPal, and you are covered by eBay Buyer Protection when you utilise their service. Creating an account is quick and easy and will allow you to make secure payments to numerous sites across the web.
- Kat Humphries
Sources and Further Information:
Affluent Turn To eBay Clothes Shopping – auctionlotwatch.co.uk
How to buy clothes on eBay – Miss Conduct’s Blog – boston.com
eBay FASHION – ebay.co.uk
Scams and Steals: How to Buy Clothes On eBay – thegloss.com
Shopping For Clothes Online – videojug.com