Business

Why Brands Are Taking Charge of Their Own Resale Markets (2022)

Clothing brand Tradlands was founded to be the opposite of fast fashion, with durable fabrics, classic silhouettes, and expert details designed to stand the test of time. Which also means that Tradlands goods often appear on resale apps like Poshmark—used but still in great condition, and ready for a new home.

As demand for its secondhand items grows, Tradlands didn’t want to see a third-party app capture the market for its goods. So in April 2021, it launched its Worn Well Exchange, a channel for customers to buy and sell preloved items powered by Tradlands’ existing Shopify product catalog and features.

“It’s always been part of our brand mission, that the pieces that we come out with season over season will go with pieces that we’ve come out with in the past,” says Mollie Dunn, the brand’s ​​Assistant Creative Director. Offering pre-loved items means “having a way for those same pieces to get continuously loved, [while keeping] them out of landfills.”

In just a year, Tradlands has seen 357 listings created for secondhand items, about 30 items listed per month, and 311 items resold to customers. Sellers get to choose between a cash payout—which Tradlands keeps a percentage of—or in-store credit, keeping them in the brand’s commerce loop. 

Everything old is new again

There’s nothing new about the concept of purchasing secondhand goods. Thrift shops have existed since the mid-1800s, with organizations like Goodwill and the Salvation Army pioneering the concept. During the Industrial Revolution, thrifting became a way for low-income or immigrant communities to access more affordable clothing, and during the 1970s counterculture movement, it became a symbol of resistance against consumerist ideals.

The target consumer for thrifting has shape-shifted over the decades, and today, backed by technology, brands are beginning to take control of their own secondary markets—a practice known as recommerce.

While recommerce is the same concept as resale or secondhand, it’s emerged as the modern term for the secondhand market, which has seen a renaissance, thanks to apps and online platforms like Poshmark, Depop, and ThredUp, as well as luxury consignment reseller The RealReal

Tradland's pre-loved section
Tradland’s pre-loved section.

According to a report from ThredUp, the emerging resale market was worth $15 billion in 2021 and is expected to hit $47 billion by 2025. Younger generations are pushing this trend, with over 40% of millennial and Gen Z shoppers saying they’d purchased secondhand apparel, shoes, or accessories in the past 12 months. 

A huge draw of the recommerce movement is its direct connection to sustainability, because it offers a second life to items that would otherwise end up in landfills. In addition to offering customers access to goods at more affordable prices, having a recommerce channel also highlights brand values and commitment to greener practices

With recommerce booming, brands are realizing that they’re missing out if they’re not offering a way for customers to buy and sell gently used and authenticated products. Lululemon announced it would be opening its own resale channel, while IKEA recently expanded its own resale program. Other brands that have launched recommerce programs include Madewell, Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, Floyd Home, and more.

By owning its own recommerce channel, Tradlands can integrate features it already uses to market new items. On its pre-loved listings, Tradlands includes its own high-quality product images, influencer pictures, and reviews—all things resale apps can’t compete with.

“You can see how it looks on different body types and how it washes and how it wears. So it’s just a lot more information about the piece, keeping it in house that way,” Mollie says.


Making recommerce as seamless as possible

Logistically, resale does mean some extra work. Handling every aspect of resale, the way The RealReal does, means intaking used items, assessing quality, photographing them, cataloging, uploading to the site, tracking inventory, and then finally shipping. It’s a lot to take on and requires staff and hours to get right.

“It’s a bit of an added layer of complexity, but we’ve had a lot of positive feedback from our community. So it’s all been worth it,” says Mollie. 

A handful of startups now offer technology that helps ease the process. Tradlands partners with Recurate, a service that helps brands establish their own resale channel from within their existing store and lets customers resell their authenticated purchases directly to one another. 

It’s one of a handful of startups trying to help sellers get a piece of the resale market. In addition to Recurate, there’s Trove, Treet, and now ThredUp offering resale-as-a-service. These companies take on the heavy lifting of the logistics of resale, such as shipping. 

While a brand like IKEA may have the resources to build out a fully in-house resale system, these third-party solutions make a lot of sense for brands who don’t have the capacity to staff a whole new division. For a small business, even a small volume of resale could be a large undertaking. And for a large company, the volume of resale items may be too much to take on.

Treet, which works with companies including the shoe brand Coclico, makes it possible for customers to list products, print prepaid shipping labels, and earn either cash or store credit. According to Jake Disraeli, Treet’s co-founder and CEO, this creates customer loyalty: Right now, 56% of those who sell on Treet sites choose to take store credit, which means they’re reinvesting in the same brand, which can then leverage their own customer data to inform future resale efforts.

Coclico's pre-loved section
Coclico’s pre-loved section.

“​​There’s more inherent trust in that site, which leads to higher conversion,” Jake says.

That trust also comes from seeing a brand you love making a public commitment to sustainability. According to the ThredUp report, one in three consumers care more about wearing sustainable apparel than they did before the pandemic, while 51% of consumers are more opposed to eco waste now than before the pandemic.

“Younger generations are more conscious—they see resale as a way to still rotate their wardrobe in an environmentally conscious way,” Jake says.

“We see recommerce and resale as an extension of life. The best thing you can do for an item is use it longer, just by buying a used good.”

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