When someone mentions sustainability and fashion in the same sentence, we tend to think of companies sourcing organic cotton or incorporating recycled materials into special collections. While that’s a vital part in the overarching picture, it’s only one avenue within a larger ecosystem. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a rise in the number of businesses eager to challenge the traditional one transaction mindset and begin to explore the realm of circular fashion.
With the cult followings that sneaker resale sites like StockX have garnered, it should come as no surprise the notion of secondhand fashion being inferior to new garments is crumbling. According to thredUP’s 2020 Retail Report, 80% of Gen Zs say there’s no stigma to buying used fashion. No longer can retailers, who want to capture the attention of younger generations, turn a blind eye to the world of resale at a time when these platforms are skyrocketing in popularity. Take Poshmark, for example. They boast 31.7M active users and broke all expectations on their first day of trading in January when the company’s valuation jumped to over $7 billion. As a whole, the resale market is currently valued near $28 billion and is projected to reach a monumental $64 billion within five years.
80% of Gen Zs say there’s no stigma to buying used fashion.thredUP’s 2020 Retail Report
So how can traditional retailers get in on the action?
Wardrobe Curation. Less likely than previous generations to concern themselves with what products brands are promoting as “trendy” or “in fashion,” Zs are hungry to discover unique pieces rather than grabbing something straight off the mass production assembly line. This process allows them to experiment with different identities and ultimately refine their personal style. Having historical collections circulating on resale marketplaces allows brands to multiply the entry points for which a younger consumer can start building a relationship and preference for your product.
Influencer Closet Cleanouts. The concept of resale has become so deeply embedded within influencer culture due to the overwhelming amounts of PR packages they receive from brands on the daily. It’s hard to go a week without seeing a fashion influencer post an Instagram Story announcing an upcoming closet cleanout or a shout out to peep their Poshmark for newly added treasures. What’s notable here is that these moments are not looked down upon; instead, they are looked forward to. These pieces get snatched up in a moment’s notice and can serve as an introduction between brand and follower.
Treasure Hunting. Who hasn’t compulsively scrolled through their social media feed to see what they’re missing out on. That same sense of FOMO is embedded within the resale market. Take thredUP, for example: every time you hit refresh, you are served up an assortment of fresh products. That heightened sense of curiosity is what hooks customers and keeps them continually checked-in on the site. Similarly, retailers like Macy’s have brought that same sense of adventure to their stores by designating dedicated floor space to secondhand products. thredUP’s CEO stated that retailers who have in-store programs with them see a 21% increase in overall customer spending and a 70% increase in frequency of store visits. The novelty of not knowing what you’re going to find paired with the entertainment of the search itself creates a multi-dimensional and memorable shopping experience that entices shoppers to keep coming back.
Value Retention. Ever heard of cost per wear? It’s a train of thought that helps many shoppers validate making a high price tag purchase. Let’s say you’ve been drooling over a $3,000 pair of sneakers. You estimate that you’ll wear them about 30 times which makes the cost per wear $100. Still a little steep, but what if you were able to predict the resale value of that item? That’s where Clair AI by Rebag comes in. This brand new technology allows a consumer to snap a simple image of a product and receive an instant quote with its current resale value (while currently exclusive for handbags, Clare AI is likely to expand). Think of it as the Kelley Blue Book of fashion. This invaluable tool could serve as a conversation starter between sales associates and customers as well as help alleviate initial sticker shock and give the customer peace of mind when ultimately making their purchase. Knowing that long term value will be top of mind for customers, brands will be challenged to invest is quality materials that can withstand the test of time and retain their value so they can be lovingly passed from one owner to the next.
Re-routing Unsold Inventory. Unfortunately, one issue retailers regularly experience is a surplus of inventory. Maybe it was a specific color-way that struggled to sell or simply an unseasonably warm winter that didn’t garner the level of outerwear sales that were projected. Instead of straight up destroying unsold merchandise (so much cringing), forming partnerships with resale sites is a great avenue to help offload these products. Tommy Hilfiger’s recently launched Tommy For Life program not only serves as a resale avenue for pre-owned products but also aims to repair damaged merchandise from stores and distribution centers to give them the refresh they need to be sales floor ready.
Remember when e‑commerce seemed unnecessary and omnichannel was too daunting of an undertaking to tackle? Resale has similarly proven to be a category that’s not backing down or going away any time soon. In 2019 alone, the fashion resale industry grew 25 times faster than traditional retail. Gone are the days of single owner products; therefore, the most prosperous brands will be those who begin rethinking how Zs are curating their closets and start carving out their own spaces in the resale marketplace.