There are only a couple things that will get my father to stand in line alongside other humans: free food and the annual REI Garage Sale. He’s an adventurous guy—a rock climber, camper, surfer, and biker—and is disgusted by the high sticker price of outdoor gear. So, once a year, he’ll wake up early on a Saturday morning, forgo his crack of dawn workout, and head to our local REI store to sift through piles of previously loved gear.
While my dad has oft attempted to make the REI garage sale a father-daughter outing, my fear of crowds has always kept me in the warm safety of my bed. Don’t get me wrong, I, too, love a good deal and hate spending exorbitant amounts of money where it isn’t necessary. It’s the sifting through piles with strangers breathing down my back that I don’t much fancy. Thankfully for me and my fellow claustrophobic friends, REI and it’s outdoorsy pal Patagonia recently launched online versions of their second-hand retail arms, fueled by startup Yerdle.
Thankfully for me and my fellow claustrophobic friends, REI and it’s outdoorsy pal Patagonia recently launched online versions of their second-hand retail arms, fueled by startup Yerdle.
Garage sales are kinda cool again
Last spring, Andy Ruben, co-founder and CEO of Yerdle joined Patagonia’s Vice President of Public Engagement, Rick Ridgeway, to explain how this whole thing works. The idea is that when an individual no longer has a need for their REI or Patagonia gear, they can bring the items into their local retailer in exchange for store credit. Yerdle takes it from there—they clean, repair, and photograph the items in preparation for sale and then handle all the ecommerce sales and fulfillment. “Brands are conceding the resale space,” said Ruben. By offering more affordable gear and offering store credit for exchanges, companies like Patagonia and REI are creating “new ways of making new and prior customers more engaged.”
And Yerdle isn’t the only one tapping into the secondary market—there are a number of new companies disrupting the second-hand retail industry. They call it recommerce. In the words of TrendWatching: “It’s never been easier for consumers to unlock the value in past purchases. Novel brand buy-backs, exchange schemes, online platforms and mobile marketplaces offer smart and convenient options for consumers keen to ‘trade in to trade up’, alleviate financial strains, and/or quell environmental and ethical concerns.”
Thrifting is on trend with some unlikely fans
Since entering the online retail market, apparel recommerce has gained a lot of traction. And quickly. According to a study commissioned by thredUP, the apparel resale industry is currently valued at $18 billion, and is expected to double ($33 billion) by 2021. What’s more, resale disruptors like Poshmark and thredUP are growing 20 times faster than the traditional apparel retail market, as reported by the same study. That’s a lot of thrifting.
Of course, hyper-growth doesn’t happen without a strong customer base. Fueling this surge? Millennials and women over the age of 65, thredUP reports. An older woman’s love for thrifting comes as no surprise to me—my grandmother almost exclusively shops second hand and loves chatting about her thrift store steals. Millennials (1981-1997), on the other hand, are a less obvious fan base.
Millennials heart recommerce
After growing up during a financial recession, Millennials are often cautious about where we spend our money; often, we choose to put our cash toward experiences rather than material goods. This is a big reason why purchasing secondhand apparel at a discounted price seems like a natural choice for the Millennial generation.
Let me invite you into my Millennial world for a moment. Last year, I fell in love with a pair of pants—they were pink, printed, and oh so flowy. They were also oh so pricey. So instead of compulsively splurging, I did that rational shopping thing where I said, “I’m not going to buy them now, but if I still want them tomorrow/next week/next whenever, I’ll buy them.” And then, as it always goes, when I went back to the store, the pants were gone. Checked the website. Sold out there, too. Fast forward a couple months, and I’m still thinking about these silly pants. I’m defeated.
One of the influencers I follow on Instagram was selling some of her old clothing on an app called Poshmark, so I decided to check it out. On the app, you can search items by type, brand, color, and if one seller seems to match your style and size to a tee, you can also pursue that individual’s closet directly. After applying about six unique filters to my search, I found the pants. And the pants were only 30 dollars. (Thank you, Ann from Poshmark!)
Now, I would be lying if I said I never bought name brands at full price, but since my first Poshmark purchase, I feel even less of a need to buy items full price. And with the growing popularity of the secondary market, I find comfort in the fact that I can always re-sell my fancy shoes and pink pants to someone else that will love them.
With the growing popularity of the secondary market, I find comfort in the fact that I can always re-sell my fancy shoes and pink pants to someone else that will love them.
Kissing fast fashion goodbye
In addition to being attracted by low prices, Millennials are also finding a friend in recommerce because it’s eco-friendly. As Rick Ridgeway of Patagonia puts it, “Don’t buy it if you don’t need it. The only way to reduce waste is to avoid bringing new products into circulation.” By purchasing goods second hand, fewer new products need to be produced, and the production footprint thereby shrinks.
When brands offer the environment a helping hand, Millennials notice. thredUP found that Millennial shoppers are 75 percent more likely to be motivated by the environment when making a purchase decision and that 84 percent prefer socially conscious brands that align with their values.
Of course, in order to participate in the recommerce space, “brands need to commit to making the best most durable product in the first place,” said Ruben. “It is counter to fast fashion—if you’re fast fashion, you can’t do this business model.” In other words, we don’t see a Forever 21 resale site because their products simply aren’t built to make it through more than a handful of wears.
And when companies like Patagonia say “built to last,” they mean it. My father (yes, the garage-sale guy) bought a pair of Patagonia swim trunks when he was in college back in the 80s. They were bright orange and green, in case you were wondering. Questionable fashion choice aside, these swim trunks were indestructible—they lasted through a million and one Yosemite trips, a honeymoon to the Caribbean, a baby’s first swimming lesson, and years of heavy beach use. More than a quarter decade later, a small hole appeared on the right leg, so he brought them back to Patagonia and they replaced the trunks with a brand new pair. Check Worn Wear right now and you might find a relic from the 80’s patched, cleaned, and ready to conquer a new set of adventures.
And when companies like Patagonia say “built to last,” they mean it. My father (yes, the garage-sale guy) bought a pair of Patagonia swim trunks when he was in college back in the 80s. They were bright orange and green, in case you were wondering.
Making the old new again
After a recent move to the chilly Bay Area, I’m in the market for a winter coat. Instead of paying full price for a new puffer, I plan to check out REI’s Used Gear Beta or Patagonia’s Worn Wear. Why should I pay $349 for a Fitz Roy Down Jacket when I can get one for $120?
As much as recommerce is being presented as something hip, people have always been making the old new again. “People used to sit on the same couch that their parents sat on. When they bought a jacket and it broke, they fixed it. It’s not a new concept,” said Ridgeway. “We’re returning to this model and are hoping that this trend of re-engagement with reconception is here to stay.”
Don’t tell my dad, but I think he was ahead of the trend on this one. And the next time he gets up early on a Saturday morning to stand in line at REI, I’ll join him… by surfing the sale from the comfort of my couch.
Sara Lighthall is a content marketer at Zendesk and a student of life. When she’s not demystifying the Millennial generation on Relate, you can find her with her toes in the sand and a latte in her hand. See what she’s up to on Twitter: @saralighthall.