Secondhand goods are having a moment—and it goes far beyond garage sales and flea markets. The process of selling old items and buying used ones is becoming easier with online marketplaces and mobile apps, and upcycle-friendly consumers are taking advantage of the trend. “Re-commerce,” as it has been dubbed, is shaking up the retail market, attracting shoppers with discounted prices and luring retailers with the opportunity to capitalize on the upcycling trend.
Finding Deals in an Online Marketplace
It’s no secret that brick-and-mortar establishments have been struggling in recent years. With the rise of easy-to-use apps and efficient online shopping experiences, customers are forgoing the trip to the mall and instead filling their digital shopping carts from the comfort of their couch.
The resale business has found unique advantages to this online shopping model, and a new era of secondhand shopping has boomed. According to a recent report, the apparel resale market is expected to almost double from $18 billion in 2016 to $33 billion in 2021. And you’re no longer limited to hunting in small thrift shops for unique finds or competitive bidding on eBay.
Companies like thredUP, Grailed and TheRealReal have created digital platforms that allow consumers from coast to coast to easily buy and sell gently used goods not found in traditional retail. These sites focus on luxury consignment for more contemporary items. Stylish dressers wear a designer piece for a season and then put it up for sale in the online secondhand marketplace. Interested buyers, most often millennials and women over 65, per a 2017 thredUP survey, can then purchase a like-new item at more affordable price—up to 75 to 90 percent off retail, according to the same survey. These third-party sites are helping to connect sellers with an online community—for instance, Poshmark taps into users’ social media accounts to help build followers and encourage shopping. In exchange for pricing advice and a secure payment platform, the third-party receives a cut of the sale.
Why Thrifting is Thriving
Secondhand shopping is no longer just about finding long lost one-of-a-kind pieces; the industry has many benefits that are attracting both buyers and sellers. The 2017 thredUP survey reported that millennials are 2.4 times more likely to be motivated by eco-conscious factors when shopping secondhand, and 61 percent say they shop secondhand primarily because of the environment. Beyond the eco factor, for buyers it’s the promise of lower prices and better deals that come with gently used goods. Sellers are motivated by decluttering, clearing out closet space and earning a few extra dollars. Some are even able to turn it into a profitable small business by buying up items from thrift stores and reselling at a higher price point online.
Big Brands Take Note
To stay nimble in today’s market, traditional retailers are adapting the re-commerce mindset to aligns with their brand’s ethos. Re-issuing previously worn favorites helps to establish a brand’s time-honored coolness, and draws in the consumer attracted to lower price points and better sustainability. A.P.C., a French denim manufacturer, offers a Butler program, through which customers can trade in a pair of broken-in jeans via the online store, and if approved, gain a new pair at half the price. As A.P.C is looking for that “attractive patina” that comes with worn-in jeans, the company is more than happy to pay homage to the former wearer by marking their initials onto the jeans, refurbishing them, and reselling them.  While these jeans are not available for purchase online, customers can visit a store to check out their inventory.
This year, eco-conscious retailer Patagonia launched a new program called Worn Wear. Customers are encouraged to trade in used Patagonia gear for a credit towards a new product. Patagonia then repairs the worn garment and sells it in on their website at a fraction of the cost. The ability to join the upcycling conversation is part of the reason Fast Company just named Patagonia one of the 25 Brands That Matter Now, citing that the company is “leading by example in the notoriously wasteful apparel business.”
As resale continues to succeed, more big brands will consider following in these re-commerce-driven footsteps. Secondhand shopping presents consumers an attractive e-commerce opportunity to buy and sell quality items while still taking steps forward in sustainability. If a company wants to be a part of the conversation, they just need to find the goods.