Online resale platforms are revolutionising how we shop for designer goods — and doing their bit for the environment and hip pockets at the same time. By Carli Philips.
Over the past few years, perceptions around online thrift shopping have shifted dramatically. Once the domain of bargain-basement hunters trawling the vortex of eBay, it is now populated by discerning shoppers looking for designer goods on multi-brand resale websites such as Vestiaire Collective, The RealReal and the more accessible Depop and ThredUp — companies that have changed the nature of second-hand shopping. Want a pair of Nikes you saw two seasons ago but couldn’t get in your size? Look hard enough and you might just find a seller in London keen to offload a pair. However, such websites operate as third-party platforms for peer-to-peer transactions, which means that, until now, brands have been cut out of the action with no involvement in the exchange.
Now they want in, and a range of new tech companies are making it happen. “Recommerce” is the buzzword of the moment, with brands integrating gently worn, resurrected and preloved fashion pieces into their e-commerce stores. Not only is it making resale profitable, but it’s also helping drive sustainability goals by keeping products in the marketplace for longer.
One such company is Recurate, which offers branded re-commerce solutions and is headquartered in Washington DC. Recurate’s software offers three models: peer-to-peer, in which customers sell directly to each other after their listing is approved; “take-back”, where customers can ship back previously purchased items to the brand to be resold; and “brand supply”, which involves the resale of the brand’s imperfect inventory or sample items. Recurate has worked with a slew of contemporary fashion brands to seamlessly incorporate resale into their e-commerce sites: 7 for All Mankind’s 7 Revival, Mara Hoffman’s Full Circle, Steve Madden’s SM Re-booted, Frye shoes’ The Frye Exchange, Outerknown’s Outerworn, Badgley Mischka’s The Archive, Michael Kors Pre-Loved and Re/Done denim’s Re/Sell, where luxury jeans can be rehomed for a second chance at life.
Peak Design, a label that makes everyday bags and backpacks, is one of Recurate’s biggest success stories, says the company’s VP of brand success, Cynthia Power. “No matter how much pre-owned gear they put up on their Marketplace, there’s almost 100 per cent sell-through and it doesn’t affect any new sales. Peak [is] all in. It’s testament to the idea that if you have both a new and used offering, there’s still a ton of loyalty and goodwill.” So committed is the company to this market that on Earth Day in April, it “blockaded” its own website, encouraging shoppers to buy used Peak Design gear instead. Power attributes much of the resale venture’s success to making good quality, long-lasting products from the outset. In Peak Design’s peer-to-peer model, sellers can opt to receive payment in store credit or cash. “When sellers are compensated with a gift card, it’s a huge win for brands as it usually reactivates existing customers or results in an up-spend,” says Power.
The fashion industry needs “growth models that are not tied to new production,” said Andy Ruben, founder of technology and supply-chain platform Trove, in an April 2022 article for fashion journal WWD. He said that the most obvious option is resale, which “enables brands to grow their business without growing their carbon emissions”. Optimistic and achievable, Ruben says that “smart brands realise they can delight their customers and increase their revenue without commensurate growth in production if they can capture their pre-owned goods and control their own second-hand sales. Simply put, brands win in a future where they sell their quality items multiple times.”
Trove is responsible for Lululemon’s Like New program, Levi’s SecondHand trade-in scheme and Patagonia’s Worn Wear — a program that offers store credit for gear that is used but still in good condition. Rooted in ideas around sustainability and activism, the brand’s Worn Wear ReCrafted takes it to the next level with one-off pieces made from deconstructed and repurposed materials. Think patchwork vests and jackets made from used down jackets and panelled denim bags created from post-consumer cotton canvas.
“There [are] huge opportunities,” says Recurate’s Power of branded resale platforms. “Some brands are motivated by a strong sustainability focus and others can see their brand’s market share being captured by the likes of Poshmark and eBay. Either way, the benefits are multifaceted.”
Another player in the branded re-commerce game is Reflaunt. Founded in 2018, the tech startup (which announced $US11 million [$AU16.4 million] series A financing in August) is supported by the LVMH initiative La Maison des Startups program and other major industry stakeholders. Reflaunt powers fully integrated e-commerce sites such as Ganni Repeat, a standalone website for the popular ready-to-wear Danish label, where sellers are given the option of being paid in cash or store credit with an extra 20 per cent added. The company estimates that across all of its partnerships, 85 per cent of customers choose to be paid in shopping credit and use it to top up on new orders 2.5 times beyond the credit value, boosting sales and engagement. As shoppers haven’t even left the brand’s ecosystem, brands can leverage their data, too.
Reflaunt also partners with other labels to develop standalone micro sites, such as Net-a-Porter x Reflaunt and Reflaunt’s Balenciaga resale site, where they take care of all the logistics, from photographing products and writing descriptions to evaluating resale pricing using a specially developed algorithm. The company also takes care of the logistics required to drop off preloved items at a physical store, which, naturally, involves footfall and more eyes on more product.
Clothing manufacturing takes a huge toll on the environment, but re-commerce ensures resources don’t go to waste by extending the lifespan of manufactured items and making them available to other consumers. Not only is it lucrative for brands, it’s also a big step towards a more sustainable future.
This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our sixth edition, Page 26 of Winning Magazine with the headline: “On Brand”. Subscribe to Winning Magazine today.