Resale Circles Back

When the pandemic first hit, many observers thought retailers’ resale initiatives, which offer quality second-hand and slightly imperfect apparel and home goods at a deeply discounted price and had been on the rise prior to the lockdown, would be placed on hold for safety reasons. Consumers, they thought, would potentially be concerned about the merchandise experiencing too many touches—being pre-owned and then cleaned and sanitized, sorted, repaired, and verified for authenticity—on its way to their homes.

But the opposite seems to be true. First, there is less concern than in the pandemic’s early days about the virus being passed on surfaces like fabric. Second, purchasing used products appeals to consumers who want affordable but well-made and long-lasting merchandise, especially during a time of economic uncertainty. Third, consumers are attracted to resale programs for sustainability reasons, even more so now as scientists have said that the root causes of climate change, such as deforestation and habitat loss, could increase the risks of global pandemics.

Within this context, a number of retailers in the apparel and home goods spaces have announced resale initiatives since the start of the crisis. The four examples below were all announced in September:

  • H&M Group’s Cos brand, headquartered in London, launched a new service in the U.K. and Germany called Resell, with plans to expand internationally later this year. The service allows fans to buy and sell their “pre-loved” apparel and accessories online, as well as purchase unworn pieces from the brand’s 13-year past.
  • Selfridge’s hosted a four-week Secondhand September promotion in its Oxford Street, London, store, in which it encouraged consumers to buy secondhand clothes for that month. The promotion was put together in conjunction with nonprofit Oxfam, which has 500 thrift shops across the U.K. as well as an online shop. Oxfam gathered a selection of used apparel—from a Jean-Paul Gaultier pair of pants to a leather flying jacket—in a pop-up shop in Selfridge’s for the month, with proceeds going back to the organization’s anti-poverty mission. Oxfam also did Secondhand September promotions with eBay and Vestiaire Collective.
  • Globetrotter, an outdoor retailer in Germany, introduced a space for resale in its Frankfurt store, featuring returned and used outdoor apparel, outerwear, backpacks, and other items from a variety of brands. The chain may roll the initiative out to its other eight locations in the future.
  • Pottery Barn partnered with The Renewal Workshop to launch a line of returned and imperfect bedding, bath, curtains, pillows, robes, and other home goods called Pottery Barn Renewed. The items are processed by The Workshop, which then sells them on its website.

Earlier in the pandemic, in May, Walmart became the latest of a long list of retailers to team with ThredUp, launching a resale initiative encompassing 750,000 pre-owned apparel, handbag, accessories, and footwear items for women and children, sold through its e-commerce site.

The resale trend—part of a broader emphasis on “circular fashion” that also includes rental services and upcycling—has been on the licensing community’s radar since at least 2018, and spreading fast since then, with retailers, fashion labels, and celebrities among the players involved.

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