Resale, re-commerce, secondhand, and thrift are all interchangeable names for a rising sector in retail—the indecisive naming, both a sign of its youth and potential. A recent survey released by ThredUp, a leader in the resale space, and conducted by GlobalData, a retail analytics firm, revealed an estimate that the secondhand retail market will more than double by 2026 reaching $82 billion. In addition, resale will grow 16x faster than the broader retail clothing sector, with resale companies making up 18% of the clothing industry by 2031.
Last week, Fashionphile, one of the original e-commerce resalers, opened a 60,000 square foot authentication center and showroom in New York City. The location will house about 15,000 handbags and accessories, a photo studio, and eight procurement offices. In addition, it will act as a touchpoint for sellers to bring in products in exchange for cash. This opening follows a 2018 Madison Ave selling studio and a 30,000-square-foot location in Carlsbad, California. The company found that these physical locations act not only as a selling point but in the case of Carlsbad, about 78% of customers left with something in their hand.
It may seem counterintuitive for an e-commerce resaler to open a location targeted at sellers, but, like any other e-commerce brand, there is a massive experiential benefit to having a physical touchpoint.
Stores fix the obstacle of mailing in products, specifically oversized items.
Consumers want to sell and buy used products, but selling through mail can be challenging enough to deter them. Most famed resale marketplaces require sellers to take photos, list their products, print labels, pack items, and bring the package to the post office. In addition, many don’t get paid until the product sells on the company’s site, which means significant work for the seller, with delayed or potentially no return.
Out&Back, a one-stop shop to buy or sell new and used outdoor and adventure gear, recently announced a pilot program to buy back hard goods in-store at select Dick’s Sporting Goods and Public Lands in Pittsburgh and Denver. After extensive research, the company “came to the conclusion that a) there’s too much friction in the mail-in process to get some sellers to engage, and b) not everything that people want to sell is cost-effective to ship,” shared founder and CEO, Barruch Ben-Zekry. “Through our partnership with Dick’s and Public Lands, if a seller chooses to drop off their item in-store, there’s no more shipping label to print, there’s no more box to find, there’s no more packing to do. The sellers get to drop off their item at a friendly, welcoming, and engaging location, and they get paid before they leave the store,” he added. By focusing on the complexity of the sale process, the company concluded that an in-store partnership would be a key acquisition channel for new sellers. And simultaneously drive traffic into the partner retailers.
A partnership makes sense for brands that don’t want the overhead and logistics cost of figuring out resale. But for a behemoth like Ikea, resale is more than manageable on its own. In 2021, Ikea launched its Buy Back and Resell service in the US after some successful pilots nationally and internationally. Notably, the first pilot in Pennsylvania was highly successful, with 100% of the product bought being resold. These programs have been popular for a while in the clothing realm of retail, but they’re only just starting to take hold in the oversized product space, where stores play a more vital role.
Sellers get cash in their wallets, and retailers get traffic in their stores.
One appeal to stores is the immediate influx of cash for the seller. In the case of Out&Back and Fashionphile, the companies give money to consumers in return for their used items, no strings attached. However, most direct-to-consumer brands take the restricted route, ensuring consumers stay loyal. For instance, Patagonia and Levi’s give sellers credit for a new purchase. But, ultimately, either option puts cash in the shopper’s wallet.
And the benefit isn’t just for the sellers. An increase in sellers brings traffic and potential customers to a store, an advantage for partner retailers and brands that run their own resale programs.
It’s unclear what the resale market will look like in the future. Will independent resaler platforms like Thredup dominate? Will brands, resale or direct-to-consumer, create their own in-store programs? Or, will there be vast partnerships between resale tech platforms and retailers? The blueprint for the sector has yet to form fully and will continue to evolve, but no matter what lines the industry draws, physical stores will be amongst them.