Secondhand obsessions: Selling old is the new new

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Selling old is the new new. An ecosystem is popping up to cash in on the secondhand obsession.

Why it matters: Secondhand goods have long been a key part of retail’s future. What’s new is the growing crop of online marketplaces favored by younger, self-reliant customers, as well as platforms that help brands and designers resell.

Driving the news: Rent the Runway on Wednesday announced that all of its inventory is now available for resale. After a shaky year, the company is also now reportedly preparing for an IPO.

  • This week, Etsy also announced its $1.6 billion acquisition of Depop, a resale platform dominated by Gen Z.

The big picture: Social media has enabled a younger generation to dictate their own tastes.

  • Stores or brands might replenish styles a few times a year, but the secondhand market is constantly refreshed — with inventory pulled from individual closets around the world and then uploaded online.
  • Platforms like Depop (90% of users are under 26 years old) and Poshmark have also turned young shoppers into stylists who can make a bit of income, although many of the massive success stories mask the work required to build a sustainable business.
  • Over the past year, the pandemic forced millions out of a job, reshaping priorities and budgets and driving a new customer base to consider previously owned apparel.

What to watch: With the resale market expected to grow faster than the overall sector, brands are figuring out how to stay in the consumption loop.

  • Enter Trove. The company helps Levi’s, Eileen Fisher and Patagonia, for example, manage the logistics of customers trading in items for resale in exchange for brand gift certificates.
  • On the other hand, companies like Lululemon are experimenting with building their own in-house resale system.

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