20 Jan 2022
This week: There’s a second wind for second hand.
That re- prefix is getting a real workout these days. The latest buzzword? Recommerce.
• Reverse commerce, aka recommerce, includes resale, rental, and subscription models. The recommerce apparel market at large is growing 11x faster than traditional retail. By the end of the decade, it will be worth more than double the fast fashion market. Why? “Environmental guilt” is one of the drivers cited by clothing renters. “We rent cars and houses, so why not our wardrobes?” asked Victoria Prew, CEO of rental site HURR. Rental’s eco creds haven’t escaped scrutiny, though. Rental platforms like HURR and By Rotation are looking to disprove the haters by offering in-store pick-ups and two-wheeled deliveries. “The locally minded approach is greener,” said fashion writer Dana Thomas.
• Luxury fashion resale, worth around $30 billion as of 2020, looks set to more than double over the next decade. Labels like Gucci and Burberry are getting in on the action, with the latter recently launching a rental and resale arm targeting the more budget and socially conscious Z. They’re keen to prove you’re never too young for a lil’ R&R. “Rental and resale allows younger generations who don’t have as much disposable income to actually get a feel for a luxury brand,” said Tina Lake, co-founder of My Wardrobe HQ.
• Need further proof of which way resale is headed? Follow the money. 2021 saw a flurry of partnerships and in-house resale initiatives established. ThredUp held an IPO and buddied up with Farfetch. Etsy made headlines when it acquired Depop for a cool $1.6 billion. Vestiaire Collective one-upped that figure with a $1.7 billion valuation. CEO Max Bittner credits some of that success to the seismic shifts since 2020, and the rise in interest around second hand as the more responsible option. “Something that’s really helped us is the awareness of how everything we took for granted can change.”
“Desirability and demand for secondary marketplaces is linked to the shift in wealth creation,” wrote the ever-prescient Ana Andjelic. “There is a direct line between the pre-2020 spending frenzy… and the current spending on vintage goods.”
PAST IS PRESENT
Not all resale retail is created equal, though. “Second hand fashion has existed for decades, primarily in thrift and vintage stores,” noted The Business of Fashion. “But the advent of online resale platforms has led to a step change in how used items can be bought and sold.”
The path from URL to IRL is being trod by recommerce sites of all stripes. Why?
• Online reseller Rebag has seven stores, and recently cut the ribbon on its latest LA spot. “We’re integrating [our authentication] software into all our stores because offline is still a major portion of resale,” said founder Charles Gorra. “Through stores, we’re able to purchase customers’ products instantly.” Sneaker resale marketplace StockX, which is valued at $3.8 billion, partnered with Appear Here on their London pop-up – where they offer authentication and payout services. It’s also a key piece of the hype machine. “High-end consumers, particularly in streetwear, have started to see sustainability as a status symbol,” reported Courier.
• “[The] explosive growth in online sales has also magnified one of e-commerce’s biggest problems: returns,” reported The Atlantic. The average online return rate is between 15-30%, compared with single digits for the average brick-and-mortar. We’re all aware of the obvious environmental impact of shipping, but what actually happens to most of the unused stuff we return? It gets thrown away. “Reverse logistics is nasty,” said Tim Brown, MD of the Supply Chain and Logistics Institute at Georgia Tech. And fast fashion, that perennial culprit, generates some of the highest return rates of all.
• As the second hand market grows, brands are getting aggro about protecting their IP. Stories of major labels going after small sellers abound. “Navigating online takedowns has become a headache,” reported The Verge, citing one vintage sunglasses dealer in California who’s decided to move the majority of his sales offline, where there are fewer returns and shoppers can try the products on. “We plan to launch a further 4 pop-ups with Appear Here this year, not just in London but across the UK,” said Ruth Vout, founder of VOUT Vintage. “Searching through our curated edits in store and finding that special piece is a journey that you can’t replicate online.”
Ruth also points to the increased awareness around past fashion as a solution to present problems. “Around 30% of our customers have never shopped vintage before,” she said. “We’re all taking a more considered approach to our consumption habits, and becoming more educated on the damaging effects of high street and fast fashion retailers.”
So there you have it. The current state of second hand. Not the next choice, but the best choice.
Words by Amy Tai, creative consultant and native New Yorker now based in London.