Good as new? Resale executives debate whether a brand’s resale website should look as good as its main one

The topic arose at The Lead Innovation Summit
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James Reinhart (left) and Jenny Campbell (right). Diane Bondareff/The Lead Innovation Summit

· 4 min read

At The Lead Innovation Summit that took place in New York recently, James Reinhart, the co-founder and CEO of ThredUp, was being interviewed onstage by Danny Parisi, senior fashion reporter at Glossy.

Reinhart offered advice to brands embarking on launching their own branded resale sites, particularly about how their resale e-commerce site should look compared to their main sites.

Reinhart said that it’s a “mistake” when brands “want their resale site to look as good as their new site.” When it comes to the resale site, “you want it to look good, but there’s a different price point and a different expectation” among consumers buying secondhand, he said.

As a brick-and-mortar analogy, Reinhart noted that brands “don’t put as much money” into building out their outlet stores as their other retail stores.

“Brands want parity” in the aesthetics of their e-commerce and re-commerce sites “and I actually think that’s the wrong strategy because you want to maintain the elevated experience of your new product, which is a really critical piece,” he said.

We asked three other leaders in the resale industry about how they think the sites should look—and they saw it much differently.

Life of the parity: Adam Seigel is co-founder and CEO of Recurate, which partners with brands—including Steve Madden, Michael Kors, and Mara Hoffman—to build their resale programs and websites. Siegel said that before brands first meet with Recurate about launching their own resale programs, they’ve often researched marketplaces like eBay and Poshmark.

“A lot of them tend to search for their own brand on those sites and are turned off by how the brand is perceived,” particularly by “a bunch of poor quality images and descriptions,” Seigel told Retail Brew.

For brands that partner with Recurate, the lead images for products on their resale sites, as well as the descriptions, are the original product photos and copy for the products provided by the brand. Clicking on those listings brings consumers to the page where more snapshot-quality photos capture the actual items for sale in their present state.

“We lead with the brand imagery and descriptions, and so it is beautifully on-brand and seamlessly integrated into their online shopping experience,” Siegel said. “Because that’s…what they want. They’re a brand, they’re trying to keep a reputation for themselves, and we need the secondhand experience to maintain that same reputation.”

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So while ThredUp’s Reinhart cautions brands against wanting their resale websites to have parity with their main sites, “what we aim for is parity,” Siegel said. “The experience that this brand’s customer expects from that brand—they can expect it and should expect it whether they buy new or buy secondhand.”

Separate but equal: Emily Gittins, co-founder and CEO of Archive, which partnered with retail brands including the North Face, Oscar de la Renta, and Diane Von Furstenberg to launch their resale programs, said Archive has never advised brands to make their resale sites look less appealing than their primary e-commerce sites.

“A lot of the products that we see on our secondhand sites are some of the brands’ most exciting, vintage, or highest-quality pieces,” Gittins told us. “The fact that they’re secondhand does not mean that they’re ‘less than’ in any way. So we would argue at Archive that the secondhand experience should be as good as that mainline experience.”

Still, Gittins said, brands don’t want resale sites to be a carbon copy of their main sites and confuse consumers.

“Usually [brands] want it to be very similar to their mainline experience and as good customer experience, but with clear differentiation and perhaps a different brand aesthetic,” Gittins said. “That is appealing to a different customer, but still in a very elevated way.”

Fleece common denominator: One brand that’s not concerned about making the resale experience for consumers more elevated than buying new is Patagonia, where the landing page for its resale site, Worn Wear, features a video that proclaims purchasing resale is “better than new.”

Andy Ruben is the founder and executive chair of Trove, which partnered with Patagonia on Worn Wear, and whose company also partnered with brands including Carhartt, Levi’s, and Lululemon.

A bifurcated approach, where, as Reinhart suggested, the experience for consumers on the brand’s main sites is “elevated” compared to their resale sites, is not what Ruben recommends.

“If your brand means something or wants to mean something, it has to have…an elevated experience across every interaction point,” Ruben told Retail Brew. “And there’s no brand marketer in the world that will tell you that you can do that 80% of the time, and then have a lesser brand experience 20% of the time.”

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.