By Philip Hall, Managing Director of Europe, CommerceHub
The rise of clothing recommerce (“resale commerce”— the process of selling previously-owned clothing items) speaks to what today’s consumers want: the ability to break free of fashion’s traditional seasonal cycle and access products from high-quality brands at lower prices.
Luxury retailers and marketplaces have been making serious moves to cater to consumers in search of affordable luxury items. The collaborations Selfridges launched last year, including the Depop popup which showcased a rotating selection of second-hand items on a moving rail display, complemented by talks hosted by Depop sellers gave their customers access to more selection and hard-to-find items.
Selfridges also hosts Vestiaire Collective’s only permanent physical space in the Oxford Street store; where shoppers can pick up designer second-hand garments and clear some space in their wardrobe at their dedicated resale point. And, luxury marketplace Farfetch teamed up with Thrift+, an online service that sells donated designer and high street items on consumer’s behalf in exchange for credit and a charity donation of their choice.
With the second-hand luxury market reaching 7% of personal luxury market value and growing 12% per year, compared to 3% growth in the total luxury market, you can’t ignore the potential impact this opportunity opens up for retailers looking for ways to stay relevant and compete effectively.
BCG’s 2019 True – Luxury Global Consumer Insight Report surveyed 12,000 luxury consumers in 10 countries and found that out of true-luxury consumers, 34% sell second-hand products, while 26% buy second-hand. This is largely fuelled by digital platforms which make it easier than ever to access a large range of styles on online marketplaces, such as HEWI.com (Hardly Ever Wore It), Vide Dressing and Vestiaire Collective. They also offer authenticity guarantees with garments often inspected by experts before the buyer parts with their money.
An unstoppable, generational trend
Younger shoppers are driving this trend, especially Gen Z. Many Gen Z members are motivated to make more conscious purchase decisions driven in large part by their desire for quality over quantity and their concerns over the environmental impacts of fast-fashion. In fact, 74% of 18-29-year-olds prefer to purchase from sustainable brands. One in three Gen Z consumers are expected to buy second-hand this year alone, proof this trend has staying power. Globally, 64% of Gen Z and Millennial luxury consumers said sustainability influenced their purchasing behaviour, compared with 46% baby boomers and just 37% of the silver generation. Looking at the broader second-hand market, the younger consumers are certainly leading the way, with Gen Z adopting it faster than any other age group.
A good example of a brand that is taking sustainability responsibilities seriously is London-based Front Row. Inspired by the success of US Rent the Runway, which tackles a host of sustainability initiatives, including renting, reselling and donating, Front Row has followed in their footsteps and customers are loving it. Consumers are inclined to use services like this for two reasons. Firstly, they’re trying to remain conscious of their impact on the environment; this is a way to reduce that effect while acquiring less new things. Secondly, they aspire to higher end, luxury goods yet require a more affordable price point.
How resale boosts a retailer’s customer experience
Now is the time for UK retailers to evaluate how to take advantage of this growing opportunity and make recommerce another vehicle to support how they compete and grow in a fast-changing retail dynamic. Making positive additions to operations by incorporating a process to either buy back unwanted garments in return for store credit, rent out higher value items or launch an upcycling campaign is proven to resonate with younger consumers whose buying power cannot be ignored.
Furthermore, continuing the lifecycle of fashion items sparks conversations and provides an opportunity to bolster a retailer’s brand experience and generate positive PR. Being seen to make genuine moves to improve a retailer’s environmental impact will improve brand loyalty of consumers and puts pressure on the whole industry to clean up its act and follow suit.