By  on April 20, 2015

Resale value used to be a purchasing consideration reserved for cars and now it's increasingly a factor in fashion. The latest reminder comes from thredUp, an online consignment and resale Web site targeting moms seeking women’s and children’s apparel from contemporary and designer brands.

An annual report that the five-year-old company plans to make live today reveals the brands searched for most often by site visitors in 2014, as well as the brands most likely to hold their value, the fastest-selling brands and brands whose items offered shoppers the highest discount, on average, from their original retail prices last year.

In rankings shared exclusively with Women’s Wear Daily, Anthropologie was the most sought-after brand by search query on the site, followed, in order, by J. Crew, Free People, Boden, Lily Pulitzer, Tory Burch, The North Face, Zara, Patagonia, Athleta, Forever 21, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Gap, Ralph Lauren, Nike, H&M, Ann Taylor, Gymboree, Coach, Ann Taylor Loft, Burberry, Express, Janie and Jack and Lululemon Athletica.

“Understanding the DNA of the brands that have strong resale profiles…people in the industry can use that to understand what is it about those brands that consumers love so much,” said thredUp co-founder and chief executive officer James Reinhart, who started the company in 2009 with Chris Homer and Oliver Lubin.

Analyzing 18,790 brands it sold last year, thredUp calculates that some offer shoppers higher average discounts from their average estimated original prices than others, among them Anthropologie Cartonnier, with an average buyer savings of 85 percent, Michael Kors (85 percent), Nanette Lepore (82 percent), ASOS (82 percent), and Tibi (80 percent). For shoes and handbags, the greatest buyer savings came from Michael Michael Kors (72 percent), Banana Republic (71 percent) and Kooba (71 percent).

Of women’s apparel brands sold last year, Rebecca Minkoff clothing retained the highest percentage of its estimated original retail value. Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Dooney & Bourke, Marc Jacobs and Rag & Bone followed. Sitewide, items with tags sold 33 percent faster than those without. The fastest selling brands were Lululemon Athletica, Toms, Dooney & Bourke, Ugg Australia, Under Armour and Anthroplogie. Handbags and small leather goods are the fastest-selling categories for the company, which lists approximately 10,000 new items a day and reports 45 percent of its sales are made using mobile devices.

The findings come amid ongoing growth and investor activity in the secondhand ecommerce space. ThredUp has received $53 million in funding to date. Though it did not disclose exact numbers, the company reports tripling its year-over-year revenue last year and said it is on track to do the same in 2015. In February, it acquired children’s online resale site Kindermint and plans to pursue additional capital over the next six months. Following an estimated $100 million in venture capital in companies that resell secondhand apparel and accessories last year, up from an estimated $40 million the year before, The RealReal revealed $40 million in Series D financing earlier this month. More funding announcements from prominent players in the space are expected soon.

While rapid growth in the early stages of venture-backed startups is common, some analysts question whether ecommerce companies dealing in secondhand apparel can continue to acquire new users and achieve profitability.

According to Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, the abundance of inexpensive new apparel and the limited number of people accustomed to buying secondhand challenge growth. Noting that inflation in clothing prices has remained essentially flat for over two decades, she said, “Because the Internet’s growing, they’ll continue to grow, but in terms of what’s the opportunity for this business? It’s going to be somewhat limited because we just have so much access to cheap clothes.”

Others see a fundamental shift in consumption with the potential to expand secondhand shopping to new populations.

“People, and women in particular, are not just willing, but highly interested in buying and selling clothes to and from each other. In the case of secondhand retail, what we call recommerce, we see demand leading the charge. This is a great place for investment and business building, as the primary value extraction, generally charging a small fee for the sale, comes after someone else has created the initial value, designing and manufacturing the good,” says Liza Kindred, founder of fashion tech think tank Third Wave Fashion.

It’s a trend that’s not lost on retailers such as Nordstrom and brands that include H&M, Patagonia and Eileen Fisher, each of which offers customers a clothing recycling program.

More opportunity is available, predicted Kindred, who sees a day when fashion brands could follow the example of car companies such as Lexus that sell both new and used cars. “They can extract additional value by owning their repeat supply chain. It's pretty obvious that the one of the best places to find a new customer for a $4,000 luxury bag is the pool of customers already shelling out $2,000 for a used one. Luxury brands, especially, are leaving enormous potential value on the table here,” she said.

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