Why is this interesting? - Thursday, April 18

On retail, The RealReal, and the shrinking stigma of pre-owned

Colin here. Back in freezing cold February in I was walking around Soho in New York. Most of the big luxury stores were fairly empty, and the salespeople were just milling around doing whatever’s left to do after a big holiday shopping season. That is until I stopped into the outpost of The Real Real, which was packed to the gills as if it was the hottest boutique in town. The twist? Almost everything on the racks is pre-owned. It had all of the polish of a luxury retail store down to the elegant espresso bar and thoughtful merchandising. The only hint that things were different was the line of people waiting to consign.

Why is this interesting?

For one, this trend is very real. According to Forbes, “used-merchandise stores [are] among the fastest-growing sectors this year, up 7.6% through the first half of 2018 following an 11.6% gain last year. And that number doesn’t even include online sellers like Thredup and The RealReal.” The latter, the article goes on, may signal a bonafide shift in the way people buy designer clothing:

What The RealReal recognizes, and the luxury brands may yet have to learn, is that its resale market is a vital part of the greater luxury market infrastructure. It helps support first-time sales.

“Whenever we survey our consigners or buyers, they say they check out our site before they buy new. It helps them if they are going to spend a lot of money to know that the value is good. Even if they have never consigned, they want to know they can,” Wainwright says. “People can’t underestimate how smart shoppers are.”

“If you know you can make 80% of [the price] of an item back, you are more likely to go ahead and make the purchase in the primary market ,” Levesque adds.

There’s a few things to unpack here. One is the sea change in luxury consumer behavior. Pre-owned was previously the purview of savvy vintage shoppers who had an eye for the perfect Burberry trench or timeless Chanel piece. But it seems like some of the stigma is going away. This is obviously driven in part by the ability to buy something with less guilt thanks to a promise that at worst you can probably recoup 70 percent of its original value. Finally, there’s the environmental impact. While talk of the “circular economy” can sound like PR language, it can’t hurt to have people buying fewer, better things. Part of what makes certain items iconic, a Brunello Cucinelli sweater or Ghurka duffel, is that if treated properly they will last a lifetime. (CJN)

Cartoon of the Day:

I Lie Awake in Fear by Brooke Bourgeois. (NRB)

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Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)