Resale

Getting used to getting used: The resale outlook for 2023

More brands will jump in. Revenues will soar. But profits may stay elusive.
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GoodwillFinds

· 4 min read

This is the first of two stories about what’s in store for the resale market next year.

There are countless metrics for the unprecedented growth of resale in recent years, but none more whiplash-inducing than this one:

  • Among The Recommerce 100, ThredUp’s list of the hundred brands with the most active resale programs, 72 launched in 2022.

If most of those successful secondhand stores were humans, in other words, they’d still be banging their spoons against their high chairs and speaking gibberish.

And like those onesie-wearers, the resale market is boisterous, thriving, and growing fast. But it is not, by any measure, mature, and growing up—if our eighth-grade school photos are any indication—is not always pretty.

So to prepare for resale’s Kodak moments and growing pains in the upcoming year, we asked some insiders for their predictions.

Revenue will grow…

It’s booming:

  • The US fashion resale market grew from $13.6 billion in 2018 to an estimated $28.1 billion in 2022, according to a December report from Coresight.
  • It will grow by almost 15% in 2023, to $32.3 billion, Coresight predicts

…but don’t hold your breath for profits

Resale marketplaces TheRealReal, Poshmark, and ThredUp all have had impressive growth from 2019 through 2021, the most recent year for which full-year revenues are available:

  • TheRealReal revenues grew from $316.4 million in 2019 to $467.7 million in 2021.
  • Poshmark revenues grew from $205 million in 2019 to $326 million in 2021.
  • ThredUp revenues grew from $163.8 million in 2019 to $251.8 million in 2021.

But except for Poshmark, which turned a profit in 2020, none were profitable for any of those years. Neither TheRealReal nor ThredUp has reached profitability yet either.

Matthew A. Kaness, CEO of GoodwillFinds.com, the Goodwill e-commerce site that launched in 2022, told us that with the high cost of acquiring, sorting, washing, and warehousing used clothing, it’s tough to “cover the overhead” for resale marketplaces to turn a profit.

Brian Ehrig, global head of fashion and luxury at Kearney, predicted that profits are “further ahead” than 2023 for many in resale.

“The big thing that they don’t have right now is scale and they need a lot more to be able to monetize all the investment that they’ve made so far,” Ehrig told us.

But don’t forget, it took Amazon seven years after it went public to turn a profit, and ThredUp, which told investors in November it will finally break even in 2023, went public only in 2021.

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So…chin up (ChinUp?), ThredUp.

More brands will jump in

In April 2022, James Reinhart, co-founder and CEO of ThredUp, prophesied in a press release that “the number of new resale shops launched in 2022 is expected to exceed the number of all other resale shops launched to date.” And, astonishingly, he was right, as noted in The Recommerce 100 report.

Emily Gittins, co-founder and CEO of Archive, which partners with retail brands on their resale programs, predicted the pace will not slow in 2023.

“Even more brands than in 2022 will enter the space this year,” Gittins told us. “But also a lot of brands [that] dipped their toe in in 2022 and tested something out on a small scale will, in 2023, be looking to expand...We’re seeing a lot of brands want to go deeper on the propositions they already have.”

Roll out the red carpet for luxury brands

When Rolex announced in December that it was rolling out its resale program, it heralded that many luxury brands—which, with their predominantly affluent consumers, have been slower to embrace resale—are now on board.

Rolex followed luxury brands like Coach, Gucci, and Valentino, which had already launched their resale programs

Gittins said that some luxury brands stayed on the sidelines until they could be sure they could sell used products in the same elevated way they sell new ones, as opposed to, say, the way a Gucci purse might be photographed plopped on a washing machine for an eBay listing.

“A lot more luxury brands will dive in next year,” said Gittins, referring to 2023, “because there’s been more innovation on how to make the user experience extremely high quality and in line with what a luxury brand needs. And as that continues to get proven out, they’ll get more comfortable and move into the space.”

Next time: Part 2 will have more predictions, including how more resale e-commerce sites will open IRL stores, more non-clothing brands will jump in and launch resale programs, and TheRealReal will buy everyone a pony. (Ok, maybe not the pony part.)

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All the news and insights retail pros need to know, all in one newsletter. Join over 180,000 retail professionals by subscribing today.