ThredUp is testing a large outlet store concept in Texas, fine-tuning its resale-as-a-service partnerships at 120 Macy’s and J.C. Penney units, and gleaning insights from a collaborative effort it launched last month with Madewell: the Madewell Archive collection co-branded with ThredUp. The secondhand items in the collection are sold alongside the brand’s new products.
“Madewell came to us and said, ‘Our customer wants to buy secondhand,’ so we’ve been collecting the products for them,” said James Reinhart, founder and chief executive officer of ThredUp. “I hope this is a recipe for other partners in the future. It demonstrates the opportunity for new and used to work together.”
Reinhart is always looking for opportunities to introduce secondhand to other retailers. “We’re taking to a bunch of people. We’re in various stages of conversation with a lot of brands,” he said, declining to be more specific. “We’re continuing to experiment with what we should do online and what we should do off-line.”
ThredUp is slowly “figuring out the relationship between our partner stores and our own stores,” Reinhart said, noting that ThredUp operates three freestanding stores. “Our existing stores have taught us a lot about how to run partner stores. I see them as training grounds in different concepts. In the last six months, we started buying in our stores, so consumers can drop off bags. We’re building a smart turnkey solution. Hopefully we’ll be able to take that to partner stores.”
Reinhart said ThredUp is seeing consumer adoption accelerate while existing customers are buying more. “Their share of closet for secondhand is growing, and that’s being driven predominantly by young people. More than 80 percent of our revenue comes from repeat customers, and on the supply side, more than 70 percent of supply comes from repeat customers.”
Luxury products are an area that’s growing on the web site. “It’s growing at the rate that the rest of our business is growing,” he said. “There’s a lot of product out there. The product availability has gone up a lot. Still, the amount of luxury product is modest compared to The RealReal.”
Educating consumers about making more sustainable purchasing decisions can create awareness, fuel interest and mint new secondhand shoppers. Thredup is hoping to do just that by launching today a Fashion Footprint Calculator, a tool that makes it easy for consumers to see how their closets can contribute to climate change.
“We commissioned a survey of 1,000 people,” Reinhart said. “We found that people were willing to shop more sustainably, but there was a little paralysis about how they could make the biggest impact or wondering if they could really make any difference.
“We’re hoping to provide an education for folks and get the conversation started,” he said. “The average customer spends $2,500 a year on apparel and 70 percent of it will never be worn on a regular basis. That’s $1,750 worth of stuff that you need to find a home for.”
Another way to look at it is that the average consumer contributes 1,620 pounds of carbon dioxide to the environment each year. Making small changes could move the needle if enough consumers followed through. “I didn’t truly appreciate what a difference washing clothes in cold water makes. I always knew intellectually that hanging clothes to dry was good,” Reinhart said, adding that 75 percent of laundry’s total carbon impact comes from machine drying.
The calculator, which was created with independent research firm Green Story, offers other nuggets, including that returning apparel to stores has a significant impact since only 50 percent of returned garments are restocked and 25 percent ends up in landfills.
Buying secondhand reduces consumers’ carbon footprint by 60 percent to 70 percent, and buying from sustainable brands such as Patagonia and Reformation could reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent.
“I think consumers will respond well to it,” Reinhart said. “As much as we’re driving change, we’re just in the first inning.”