Helpsy yourself: A used-clothing collection company opens an online store

Its eco-minded approach includes shipping only in used boxes and a no-returns policy
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Francis Scialabba

4 min read

One of the biggest new developments in retail over the last few years is, ironically enough, what’s not new: resale. And while every category seems to be riding the resale wave, from furniture to toys to sporting goods, where resale is white-hot is for clothing.

  • Resale site ThredUp raised $168 million in its 2021 IPO, and has popularized the retail-as-a-service (RaaS) model by partnering with ~28 brands to launch resale programs, including Adidas, Gap and Target.
  • In 2021, resale grew 58% YoY, according to a report by ThredUp and GlobalData.

Now Helpsy, a used-clothing collection company that began as a B2B wholesaler that sold to resale clothing shops, is throwing its own (gently used) hat into the ring.

Today, it opened Helpsy Shop, an online store and mobile app with men’s and women’s clothing and shoes.

  • The store will open with about 50,000 items, and add about 10,000 more weekly.

With a little Helpsy from my friends. Helpsy began in 2017, when three friends–Alex Husted, Dan Green, and Dave Milliner–bought a New Jersey clothing-collection company, Garden State Wiper, and subsequently bought seven more related businesses, most of them in the Northeast, which collectively now form Helpsy.

  • Helpsy Collect, its clothing collection network, has more than 1,300 collection bins to drop off any clothing that no longer sparks joy.
  • The company also says it operates ~200 clothing drives annually and presently has contracts for curbside clothing-pickup programs with 26 municipalities, including Boston.

B’ing green. Helpsy is a certified B Corp, with a stated environmental mission of keeping clothing out of landfills, and of supporting the charities and municipalities it partners with (and pays) on efforts like clothing drives, curbside collection, and placement of collection bins.

  • In 2021, Helpsy said it diverted 29 million pounds of clothing, shoes, and other items from landfills.
  • That year, it also paid more than $400,000 to partner charities and municipalities for the clothing they helped collect.

Helpsy originally sold all of the clothes it collected to other businesses, who’d either resell it as clothing or, for damaged or otherwise unsellable clothes, recycle it into products like shop rags. But in early 2021, it began selling online, listing more than a million items on resale sites including Poshmark, Etsy, and Depop, Green told us.

True to his name, Green said Helpsy Shop’s policies and logistics will reflect the company’s environmental mission.

  • The company will ship all its orders in used boxes that will be sealed with Helpsy-branded tape. (For Green’s own test order during the site’s test, his box “was like, freeze-dried eggs or something,” he told us.)
  • To reduce what Green called “emissions per item,” Helpsy will offer free shipping only on orders over $75, since they will be more likely to have several garments.
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The point of no returns. Perhaps the boldest policy Helpsy Shop is implementing, for what it says is for the sake of the environment, is summarized in these five words on its website: “We do not accept returns.”

Unless there is a specific error that Helpsy makes, like sending the wrong item or one with damage that had not been disclosed, the policy is firm, and the company takes pains to explain why.

“We take our environmental impact into account with virtually every business transaction we execute,” it explains on its site. “Returning an item to us creates more delivery miles and carbon emissions, and we don’t want that! As a Certified B Corp, we want to do our part to lessen the environmental impact of purchasing goods online and encourage you to resell or give away your unwanted clothing.”

Green said he hopes customers who buy used clothing, some of whom do so for environmental reasons, will see the policy as tough love rather than tough luck.

“We want our customers to be happy with us,” Green said. “But we’re also doing this, you know, in large part for environmental reasons. And so a transaction where the customer pays shipping back to us and…we credit them the money back, that may happen. But…that’s a waste of their time and it’s bad for the environment.”

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.