“What’s interesting about Marie Kondo is she has definitely accelerated people getting rid of things,” said James Reinhart, chief executive officer and founder of ThredUp, a fashion retail web site, discussing the Japanese organizing author and consultant.
“Going through my house and saying, ‘Does it spark joy? Does it spark joy?’ is hard. What’s easier is putting a bunch of stuff on my door step,” he said.
Reinhart, who started ThredUp 10 years ago, today works with 35,000 brands, processes $5 billion worth of women’s and children’s apparel and accessories and runs the two largest garment-on-hanger facilities in the world. The executive sees a huge opportunity in the resale market, which he expects to reach $51 billion in five years.
“What we’ve done with ThredUp is make it super easy for you to get rid of the things you no longer wear,” he said. People receive the ThredUp clean-out bags, send in used clothing and get paid for it in cash or credit. The company only accepts 40 percent of the items in an average clean out bag and the clothing must be clean and freshly washed, from a name brand, on trend and less than five years old, free of stains and rips, and in excellent condition.
Reinhart came up with the idea of ThredUp when he had a closet full of clothes he wasn’t going to wear, had no money and tried to sell them to a now-defunct resale shop in Harvard Square. The store said they didn’t take back men’s clothing and did only luxury. He realized that most people are buying non-luxury garments, and he figured, if he had this problem, others must have this problem too. “Everybody I talked to said, ‘I don’t wear 70 percent of the things in my closet.’ I thought there’s got to be a better way,” he said.
He set out to create a marketplace where buyers and sellers could sell their own things, but soon realized that wasn’t a good idea because people are lazy. They don’t want to sell their own things and go through all the work. But he found that while 2 percent of people have ever sold a piece of their own clothing, 98 percent of people have given away a bag of clothing.
The company’s mission is to inspire a new generation of consumers who think of secondhand first, he said. Reinhart said he’s found the most important thing is to put new stuff online all the time, every hour, 24 hours a day. ThredUp sells 35,000 brands across 100 categories from Gap to Gucci and everything in between. “This isn’t shopping at your crappy thrift store. This isn’t browsing Craig’s List or eBay,” he said. He said the orders come in a beautiful brown box and they are wrapped in tissue paper.
He said 60 percent of people surveyed feel that apparel recycling drives loyalty. “There’s a reason why Madewell introduced a recycling program. It does build loyalty over time,” he said.
Reinhart noted that 56 million women shopped secondhand in 2018, which is up from 44 million in 2017. “It’s is the fastest part of the retail sector. This is happening. This isn’t a trend. This isn’t something that will go away. This is a structural shift in consumption and something we all need to figure out how to work on together,” he said.
He noted that one in three Gen Zers will buy secondhand in 2019. Further, he said when he’s done pop-ups in department stores, it increases the spend by 21 percent and visits more frequently. He noted that he did a collaboration with Reformation where he put a ThredUp clean-out kit in Reformation orders. When the customer gets the clean-out kit, ThredUp processes it and gives the customer credit in Reformation dollars. “These are the types of partnership I think retailers and brands need to be thinking about as they look to the future,” he said.