How the Rise of the Conscious Consumer is Fueling Resale’s Rapid Growth

By Nicole Silberstein of Retail TouchPoints.

Not too long ago, the sale of secondhand goods was driven primarily by value: shoppers looking to avoid breaking the bank on big-ticket items or clothes the kids will just grow out of. Recently, however, something new has begun to drive massive growth in the used goods sector — consumers who are shopping based on their values, in addition to searching for value.

Both socially conscious shopping and the resale sector already were on the rise before COVID, but the pandemic gave a boost to both. In a recent survey from Coresight, 29% of respondents said environmental sustainability was more of a factor in their shopping choices now than before the pandemic.

This sharpened sense of social awareness converged with last year’s economic downturn and product shortages to move the sale of pre-owned goods (or pre-loved, as those in resale like to call them) into the mainstream. Nearly half (48%) of Americans bought an item through resale in 2020, according to research from C2C resale marketplace OfferUp.

Put value together with something that actually addresses your values and you have an incredible overlap,” said Andy Ruben, Founder and CEO of Trove, which manages resale programs for brands such as Patagonia, Levi’s and Eileen Fisher. “[Resale] is the fastest-growing channel in retail for that reason.”

“Many brands and retailers also are launching their own in-house resale and rental services, and according to Ruben this will soon become a business imperative.”

“Since World War II, the thrust from modern retail has been access to quality products,” said Ruben, who also oversaw global ecommerce strategy at Walmart and was the company’s first Chief Sustainability Officer before founding Trove. “Modern retail has done so much to create value in the world — we have our closets filled. The next ‘S’ curve that we’re seeing the beginning of now, though, is around the idea that good retail isn’t just about producing and distributing items.

“The same as we can make better utilization of a car that sits idle 92% of its life, we can get more utilization out of a used Levi’s shirt,” said Ruben. “Many of these things are produced with a lot of quality, and we have the models to get them into the closet the first time, but we just don’t have the models to move them around.

“Along with the increased availability of used goods has been a marked shift in consumer sentiment. “There’s a generation that only bought used because they had to, and there’s a Next Gen customer that’s buying used because it’s cool,” said Ruben.

“It’s the thrill of the hunt,” said Ruben. “Retail has become fairly sterile. You pull an item off the shelf and there are 100,000 right behind it. Finding something that feels like a ‘find’ is part of the draw.”

“For one thing, in many cases recommerce buyers are often net new customers”, according to Ruben: “We see very very little cannibalization, if any at all. For the brands we work with, 65% of the customers who buy used have never bought from the brand.”

“Brands need to move to own this for themselves,” said Ruben.

Many already have taken this step by launching their own resale programs — either in-house or with white label partners like Trove — or by partnering with resale marketplaces as Stella McCartney and Gucci have done with the RealReal. And that’s not to mention brands like Ralph Lauren, Ann Taylor and URBN Group (Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie) that have launched rental services in recent years.

Trove | Circular Shopping

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