For luxury brands, resale is almost an inevitability

“It ultimately will just be a matter of time before you see more and more of those luxury brands who have yet to embrace resale move forward in embracing resale,” Sasha Skoda, head of merchandise at The RealReal, told Retail Brew.
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· 3 min read

Apparel brands across the board have come to adopt resale as a strategy, but for luxury labels themselves, it’s a space that’s noticeably lagged behind. That’s because there’s a perception resale can cannibalize a brand’s sales, Diana Ford, co-owner of The Vault Luxury Resale, told Retail Brew.

“You work at Louis Vuitton and you think, ‘Oh, wow, there’s a resale shop down the street that sells Louis Vuitton. They’re going to take mine,’” she said. “Another reason is…unfortunately there are resale shops that aren’t as into authenticity as they should be.”

But Ford sees the tide changing. Her resale shop, based in Brentwood, Missouri, had its largest sales day on Sept. 3, riding a wave from the early pandemic era when shoppers cleaned their closets.

The Vault, which Ford owns alongside her sister and mother, acquires some of its merchandise directly from luxury owners—designers, actors, musicians, politicians, celebrity stylists—who are looking to clean out their closets. Ford said they’re in New York City roughly 10 times a year to gather clothing and travel to other cities as well.

“We're in Manhattan coming down service elevators in blue IKEA bags with $100,000 worth of Chanel shoved in them,” she said. As for designers of luxury brands, Ford said that “they would rather we take it out, so they don’t see it at a consignment shop on Madison Avenue when their store is on Madison.”

The bulk of luxury resale goes through consignment shops or digital marketplaces like The Vault, TheRealReal, and Hardly Ever Worn It (HEWI), though some luxury brands, like Oscar De La Renta, are launching their own in-house resale sites.

  • CEO Alexander Bolen told Forbes the company is not “entirely happy with the way our brand is presented on those sites,” pointing to counterfeiting and misidentification of products on third-party marketplaces.

HEWI board director Rachel Reavley isn’t worried about luxury brands creating their own websites, given resale is such a large—and untapped—market. Secondhand is expected to grow 126% into a $218 billion industry by 2026, according to ThredUp’s latest resale report.

  • Also, 74% of retail executives are now more willing to offer resale to their customers, up 14% from 2020.

While brands may have lagged behind the trend, widespread adoption of luxury resale is “just a matter of time,” Sasha Skoda, head of merchandising at The RealReal, told Retail Brew.

  • Balenciaga saw demand on The RealReal increase 41% YoY, per the company’s latest luxury resale report.
  • Gen Xers and Boomers drove demand for Dior up 31% YoY, and Gucci saw a spike of 126%.
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“What’s really important is for consumers to be educated on the type of product that they’re buying, understanding the impact that fast fashion has on the planet, and being able to make purchasing decisions that are just going to be more sustainably-minded,” Skoda said.

She added that consumer awareness will be the biggest obstacle facing The RealReal’s efforts to turn a profit since going public and broadly for the entire resale market; CFO Robert Julian told the Wall Street Journal the company wants to focus on selling more products on consignment—directly from people’s closets—as opposed to wholesalers.

That’s going to require more consumers to know what resale has to offer.—KM

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