As resale sites such as Vestiaire Collective snap at the heels of ecommerce giants, second-hand sellers are shaking off their dusty stereotype, and leading the charge into a new generation of retail.
Vestiaire collective campaign shot 2017
Once upon a time, the idea of second hand clothing conjured images of jumble sales, endless eBay trawling and damaged and dilapidated clothing, as well as fakes and forgeries. But it has undergone a dramatic turnaround. The rise of resale sites has revolutionised the concept, as shoppers head online for everything from Gucci to Marc Jacobs at a fraction of the original price, before selling on their own unused items.
Far away from frenzied eBay bidding, dedicated resale sites are soaring in popularity, and their growth shows no signs of slowing.
Since it was founded in 2009, luxury resale site Vestiaire Collective’s membership base has soared to more than 6 million who buy and sell on the site worldwide – it lists 600,000 products and ships to 48 countries. Other sites boast similarly grand user statistics: there are 12 million users in 10 countries on high street resale site Vinted, and social selling site Depop’s app has been downloaded 3 million times. Even the smaller players are growing fast: HEWI London (formerly Hardly Ever Worn It) has garnered more than 850,000 users since it was founded in 2012.
Recent research from Kantar Retail’s ShopperScape survey shows that female apparel shoppers in the US only plan to shop more in two key channels in 2017 – Amazon and resale sites. Specialist sites such as Vestiaire Collective, Grailed, High Society and HEWI London have been growing rapidly, fuelled by heavy investments from high-calibre tech backers.
In January, Vestiaire Collective announced it had received €58m (£49.7m) to fund its international growth – taking its total investment to €116m (£99.8m). Its major backers include Condé Nast International and Balderton Capital, which is also an investor in the Yoox Group and the Hut Group. HEWI London is backed by Tom Teichman, founding funder of lastminute.com and notonthehighstreet.com, as well as advertising and creative maven Sir John Hegarty. With big-name supporters on its side, it certainly seems like resale is onto something.
Vestiaire Collective Homepage
The rapid growth in resale sites can be explained by subtle shifts in consumer behaviour, relating to sustainability, brand accessibility and the perception of value, says Tiffany Hogan, senior analyst at Kantar: “Shoppers are still very driven by value, but are increasingly willing to spend more on apparel and accessories to get a high quality product. Resale venues provide an easy way for shoppers to save money on luxury and aspirational brands. In a way, they allow shoppers access to brands that they may never have had the means to own before. There is also an element of sustainability in many of the popular resale sites, which highlights that shopping resale is a great way to reduce your impact on the environment.”
The response to these shifting demands has led to a huge rise in specialist sites, which provide a sophisticated, elevated approach to the resale model, catering to this evolving and demanding consumer. While resale sites appear across the fashion spectrum – sites such as Vinted and Depop sell high-street including Primark and Topshop – the fastest growth and innovation lies in the luxury sector. Sites offer service on a par with high-end retailers, for consumers who expect the best.
“Vestiaire and The RealReal, a US-based site, operate sites that look and feel like they belong to a real luxury retailer like Net-a-Porter,” says Hogan. “Their photography is high-quality and they offer additional content that helps shoppers style looks and find great pieces on a site that offers a very fragmented collection of styles.”
Another site using this approach is UK-based HEWI London. The site was founded by Sharon Wolter-Ferguson in 2012, as a response to her own experiences of buying second-hand designer goods.
“I wanted to handle everyone how I would like to be treated,” she explains. “So we really encourage our members to treat each other with courtesy and create a respectful community feel, rather than just trying to make as much money as possible. One of our investors said to me in the beginning that we are kind of like the Selfridges of the space. It’s about giving extra, that passion and that care, rather than being corporate.”
The success of the site has been such that HEWI London is planning on launching a sister website later this year, focusing on high-end high street items from brands such as Whistles, Cos and Michael Michael Kors, to further curate its product offer, and provide a more fluid user experience.
As part of this specialist service, sites such as HEWI London are investing a great deal in ensuring their customers stay satisfied, in particular in guaranteeing the authenticity of items sold. To ensure items are genuine, at Vestiaire Collective, the seller sends items to Vestiaire headquarters. There, they are examined by an authenticity team – who are specifically trained by brands – before they are sent on to the buyer.
“The curation and authenticity element build trust between us and our customers. We control the consumer-to-consumer element and ensure everything is checked and processed correctly,” explains CEO and co-founder Sebastien Fabre. “It’s this control that I feel appeals to our customers.”
For Fabre, the overall key to success is down to technology: “Technology is the biggest opportunity ever for the fashion industry, the digital/mobile is a transversal approach. It has to be organic and natural in the company strategy. It’s about creating a smooth and undisrupted journey for the user.”
Tech advances, including social media and the growth of shopping on apps and mobile shopping – mobile accounts for between 60% and 70% of daily traffic to Vestiaire – mean that retailers are observing shifts in the way consumers shop. As ideas of value change, consumers are taking a far more active role in their shopping, and are increasingly running their own wardrobes like businesses.
“Buyers are more educated and understand the re-sale value of products. It gives shoppers the ability to purchase luxury fashion and know that there is an option to re-sell,” explains Fabre, who believes the resale model allows consumers to “act like traders” when they shop.
“People are now considering the resale value of a piece before making their purchase,” he says. “The Internet and especially mobile and social have dramatically changed the way people access and ‘ingest’ fashion.”
If you’re into fashion then you know what you find in a resale site is a one-off.
Amy Fyfe, co-owner, Edit Second Hand
This has opened the market in luxury up to a younger consumer, who can trade their way to the items they covet. This, paired with shifting ideas of style and value, means that rather than following fast fashion, some consumers are turning their attention to resale to build their personal style.
“People always want to find something different,” says Amy Fyfe, co-owner of resale site and store Edit Second Hand. “If you’re into fashion then you know what you find in a resale site is a one-off.”
Kantar’s Hogan agrees: “Shoppers, especially younger ones, aren’t as driven by the latest trends, and are more interested in honing their unique, personal style. The idea of what true value is to shoppers is changing. It’s not necessarily something that is new or in perfect condition, but something that satisfies their needs.”
The message for brands then, is to have strong brand values and a voice that connects with shoppers needs in the long term.
Part of this heightened consumer awareness can be seen in resale’s sustainable credentials. Resale offers consumers a way to constantly refresh their wardrobes, without entering into the world of fast fashion. Sites such as Vestiaire, US website ThredUp and Edit Second Hand all cite sustainability as a motivator to their shoppers, as does Vinted, which sits at the lower end of the price spectrum.
“More and more people are becoming mindful about how we use our resources,” explains Justina Bernotaite, product communications manager at Vinted. “Conscious shopping, de-cluttering and getting great deals resonates with the world and is becoming more popular than ever before.”
As consumers continue to flock to resale sites, and companies such as Vestiaire Collective continue to innovate and grow, traditional retailers can learn a lot from the core messages that are secret to resale’s success. Customer experience, technological advancement and shifting consumer ideologies may herald the dawn of a sharing fashion economy, or even a shift away from disposable fast fashion – and resale sites are leading the charge into a new kind of fashion retail.
Five resale sites to know:
The power player: Vestiaire Collective
1 vc founder shot
Founded in 2009, Vestiaire Collective has more than 6 million members and gains around 170,000 each month, and now ships in 48 countries. With new investments of €58m (£49.7m), the business aims to be global by 2020. While womenswear is the core of its offer, it also now stocks vintage, menswear and jewellery and curates edits and content for its shoppers. vestiairecollective.com
The menswear specialist: Grailed
Specialising in luxury menswear, Grailed curates its offer based on the ‘covetability’ of the item – making it the home for cult street-wear seekers. grailed.com
The Gen-Z choice: Depop
Designed to look and navigate like a social media site, Shoreditch-based Depop sees itself as a cross between eBay and Instagram. The site was launched in 2012, and the Depop app has been downloaded more than 3 million times. depop.com
The physical retailer: Edit Second Hand
Launched in 2010, Edit Second Hand’s offer may be smaller than other key players, but its carefully curated selection has led it to become one of the UK’s most reputable resale sites. Key to the site’s success is its physical store in Cuckfield, West Sussex, which attracts customers from across the country. editsecondhand.com
The one to watch: HEWI London
Formerly Hardly Ever Worn it, HEWI London currently has more than 850,000 members, and investors including Tom Teichman and Sir John Hegarty. With an average order value of £320, HEWI London runs both a regular service and a VIP offer – for celebrities and key sellers – and is launching a high street-focused sister site later this year. hardlyeverwornit.com