Why Items Don’t Sell Online and Possible Solutions

I have items that have been in my store for so long that I’d forgotten I had them! Which got me thinking about why things don’t sell and is there anything that can be done.

Here are a few of the problems that crossed my mind (not a comprehensive list) and possible solutions.

Problem #1: Competition

Let’s face it, we have a ton of competition in today’s online marketplace. Buyers are spoiled for choice. It can be difficult to get eyeballs on our stuff, particularly in super-saturated categories.

Case in point: I have a few vintage aprons for sale and there are 19,000 search results on Etsy alone on any given day. Granted some of those listings are for vintage patterns, but still. Prices range from $2.50 to $30+

I’ve only got three aprons left to sell (and when they’re gone I won’t be buying more), but how can I get these sold?


  • Put my remaining aprons in a lot with a hard-to-resist price.
  • Sell them with vintage recipe cards or small kitchen implements (like measuring spoons) turning them into a fun gift idea for someone who loves cooking.
  • Cross-post these on other platforms. (I do sell a few things on eBay and Craigslist.)
  • Give them social media attention.

Problem 2: Items are Not on Trend

With vintage and antique items knowing what’s on trend is often a moving target. While mid-century modern items have been hot for years, others have just a brief time in the spot light and others have been decidedly unpopular for years–big lots of china, most crystal, collector’s plates, brown furniture, etc.


  • Repurpose or refurbish the item. This takes a creative, DIY mindset (not mine!), but I rather like the table tops laid with mosaics of vintage china bits or chunky brown furniture made light and bright with creative paintwork.
  • Give out-of-trend items a new purpose. Help potential buyers see things in a new light. Case in point: Milk glass vases have been out of favor for years and I see them all the time in thrift stores and estate sales, but some folks are selling them in groups and marketing them as wedding vases. Great idea, oui?
This attractive group is from MyShardsofGlass on Etsy.

Problem #3: Bad Photographs

Photos can make or break a sale, so it’s surprising I see so many listings with blurry photos, dark images, dirty backgrounds (like stained towels), no closeups, photos taken from only one angle. I’ve been trying to improve my photos but I’ll admit I could be doing better.


  • Look at your photos like a potential buyer. Do your photos attract you? Do they highlight all aspects of the item? Etc. If not, redo them. It’s worth the effort.
  • Consider developing a “look” for your items/store.

I love the aesthetic JansVintageStuff has developed for her hugely successful vintage Etsy store. She appears to use all natural light and just a few consistent props and backdrops to achieve this appealing look.

Another successful store WyrembelskisVintage favors a clean white background.

Both of these stores have high quality photos (and interesting items!) which have helped them build solid vintage businesses.

Problem #4: Pricing

Some things don’t sell because you’ve got the wrong price–which can be too high or too low. I think my pricing is on point, but I do check my item prices from time to time and adjust as necessary.

Case in Point: Here’s an item from another seller that has me perplexed. This Disney Snow White and the Seven Dwarves sterling silver charm bracelet is listed at $1,000 (or make best offer)!! This is a wildly inflated price. I’m interested to see how long it sits.


  • Do the research. Period. I subscribe to WorthPoint just to see the sold stats of items (from 2007 to current).
  • Use similar current listings as a guideline. Always helpful.
  • Run sales. Everyone loves a bargain.


Some things are just long tail. They are quality items, fairly priced with good photos and keywords but have a small market and it could take months to years for the right person to come along. If you can wait, wait.

Case in point: I bought an antique Heintz bronze and sterling silver cigar humidor in an eBay auction for $82 knowing it had meat on the bone. I priced it at $325 and was willing to sit on it. Two years later a potential buyer asked if I’d be willing to give her a 10% discount. I was and she bought it for $292, plus shipping. Worth the wait in my books!

But sometimes the best move, the right solution, may be to jettison the item! And sometimes I do just that. Need some inspiration? Vlogger Loretta of Reseller Revolution shared an “anti-haul” video of all the unsold stuff she was donating to the thrift store.

I wish everything sold quickly, but it doesn’t, even for the most accomplished sellers. This post is really just a glance at a few of the reasons why. Obviously having good titles and search terms helps. As does having “free” shipping or appropriate shipping costs. But I hope what I have written is helpful.

As always, happy hunting and selling!



  1. Good tips! We did a big purge last year before we shut the shop down for 5 months to travel, and it was a bit painful to just let everything go (but also freeing in a way, to start over with fresh inventory). We ran huge discounts on Etsy, sold stuff in 2 garage sales, and then donated almost everything else that didn’t sell. Trends come and go but it’s always frustrating when an item that we – the seller – know is a special and unique item, and it just won’t move, even for a good price.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for sharing this Marsi. 🙂 Sometimes I’m surprised when things don’t sell because I think they are so fabulous! I have been slowly letting a few things go too. But you’re right, it is painful!! All the best, Karen

      Liked by 1 person

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