Worn is Wonderful: The Future of Shopping
Online apparel resale is a robust category. Online apparel resale is the ability to sell and buy pre-worn clothing that is in good condition. It is also the experience of seeking and finding unique items that make a personal statement.
Most research indicates that the desire to shop online apparel resale is most popular among Gen Z. Online clothing resale is now a competitor of fast fashion, clothing that is the staple of H&M and Zara. Having said this, there are no real data to indicate online apparel resale is taking the place of fast fashion… at least not yet.
According to businessoffashion.com, 2020 resale in the US was a $27 billion business. Businessoffashion.com estimates that the potential for US resale could be as high as $67 billion by 2025. One analyst stated that apparel resale has the power to become 20% of the apparel retail marketplace. Although these numbers reflect some physical outlets for apparel resale, the action is happening online.
Gone are the days of rummaging through an Army Navy store for that pair of navy blue wool button-flap sailor pants or for that used Pea Coat. Online apparel resale is really rocking the retail boat.
But, more than just a way to shop, indications are that online resale shoppers may have an enormous effect on the future of fashion shopping. Brands must take notice now.
The online apparel resale category is already full of competitors. Poshmark and thredUP are already thriving options, as are Depop and Vinted. Depop is so popular among Gen Z that Etsy, the online crafts marketplace, announced it will be buying the UK-based Depop.
Urban Outfitters, the retail lifestyle brand that is home to Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain and BHLDN for example, is planning to start its own clothing resale entity. Nuuly Thrift will arrive this fall via an app. According to Urban Outfitters, Nuuly Thrift will be a brand extension of its Nuuly Rent platform, a competitor to Rent the Runway. Extending its platform, Rent the Runway entered the resale marketplace in June 2021.
Business Insider reported on an interview between Rent the Runway CEO, Jennifer Hyman and Vogue magazine. Ms. Hyman told Vogue that the option to buy second-hand clothing will attract a new audience. This potential new audience are those people who were unlikely to subscribe to Rent the Runway or just did not have an occasion for a dress or a gown. Since so many Rent the Runway items have already made money for the brand through rentals, buying customers will find affordable prices.
In May 2021, Walmart announced a collaboration with thredUP. According to Newstex Blogs, this relationship will permit Walmart to showcase more apparel on its website while giving thredUp the ability to showcase hundreds of thousands of worn-but-in-good-condition apparel items on Walmart.com.
Resale apparel is also showing up in luxury. Kering, the French luxury brand corporation home to Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Brioni, Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga, invested in Vestiaire Collective, a high end luxury resale brand. In the US, there is The RealReal, another upscale luxury resale brand.
There are many reasons for second-hand clothing purchase behavior.
- Finding that special shoe, vintage dress or unique skirt at an unbelievable price is one reason for online apparel resale. Researchers point to the fact that Gen Z recognize how pre-loved, good condition, possibly vintage, clothing increases in value over time.
- Sustainability is another. Gen Z are very sensitive to the environmental harm of fast fashion. And, Gen Z is very open to taking personal actions to better the planet. Gen Z has deep concerns about disposability. Recycling and reselling clothing fits with their unease about waste. One financial advisor points out that Gen Z are “…much less concerned about newness than they are with waste….”
- Inflation and recession are other answers. Costs are rising while many people have been unemployed or living on reduced income. Being able to make money by selling clothing as a side hustle adds to the appeal.
- Finding a retro or vintage outfit that makes a personal statement about the owner’s character is a yet one more possibility.
- Being able to play in a treasure-hunt experiential vibe – like shopping at TJ Maxx – is another. For a generation that grew up with digital gaming, searching for a valuable item is rewarding fun.
- Covid-19 has been an igniter for online apparel resale. There are data to show that being in lock-down gave people the time to clear out their wardrobes. Receiving money for those about-to-be-discarded clothes makes more sense than throwing these items in the trash. Ads for Poshmark highlighted the ability to pay for special events such as a wedding or family travel. All you have to do is sell your not-recently-used, pre-loved items. And, according to an executive at Depop, savvy sellers can make around $300,000 a year. This gives them the cash to invest in a house or a car. Additionally, with the possibility of going back to the office, as people sell items, they are looking to beef up their wardrobes.
- Online apparel resale is also a desired alternative to visiting a physical store. There is still ambivalence about in-person shopping due to the increase in Delta-variant coronavirus cases. Gen Z is extremely digitally skilled. Shopping online is easily navigated and can be accomplished on a phone.
- Pandemic rules and closures made donating items to a charity or a religious institution’s thrift store difficult. For quite some time, these physical options were not taking clothing. And, if they did, the seller had to visit the store: there were no more free pick-ups. Online apparel resale makes selling and buying easy.
Online apparel resale has the potential to change the future of fashion shopping. Brands in and beyond fashion should take heed.
In its 2020 Top Trends report, Euromonitor International pointed to a trend labeled Reuse Revolutionaries. Reuse Revolutionaries are those who look to a more circular business model. Recycling plastics, for example, is not as credible an action as it used to be for saving the planet. Reuse Revolutionaries are into “reusing, refilling and renting.” Euromonitor Data show that globally 54% of those interviewed want to make a positive contribution to the planet through their purchasing. The goal is a waste-free world.
This is why online apparel resale is gaining momentum. Other data reported in WWD indicates that pre-owned clothing reps make a point of reporting their environmental ethos and progress. Sustainability optimists see the circulation of secondhand clothing as the beginning of a new era in environmental and social responsibility. Currently, with a few exceptions such as Patagonia, Stella McCartney and Eileen Fisher, fashion has a poor ecological cred. Brands must become players in the circular economy.
On the other hand, the Euromonitor report points to values personalization as a trend. For Gen Z, good-as-new is no longer a negative descriptor. It is a statement about personal character and beliefs. It is increasingly critical that brands help consumers make personal statements about who they are and their values.
Worn is wonderful not just because people are making money on unused used items. Worn is wonderful not just because shoppers can make a purchase of something already in circulation. Worn is wonderful because of the impact it will have on how we consume. In this new future, brands will need to optimize going for the greater social good with personal character and values.