Secondhand stores have been around for a while, but over the last few years are when they really started becoming a popular option for consumers. It used to be passé to wear secondhand clothing, but now it is a profiting, trendy market with a vast consumer base. The secondhand market has expanded online to e-commerce, which makes it just as easy to buy used clothing, as it is new. Resale merchandise is also trending on social media. There are special accounts just dedicated to “thrifting” where people pick up clothing from the resale market and make blogs or post it to Instagram. They in turn either wear the garment how they purchased it or upcycle it into a completely new piece. In 2012, it was a $10 billion industry and it is set to become a $51 billion industry by 2023.
There are vast businesses in the secondhand sector, but here are the few I chose to highlight today:
First founded in 1974 by Kerstin and Spencer Block, this secondhand business started out in Tucson, AZ and has only branched out from there over the last 44 years. There are a plethora of brands offered and they give their consignors a percentage of the selling cost on the spot. So this way they don’t have to wait for their product to be sold and Buffalo Exchange in turn owns the product. The stores are organized by section and size so it is easy to navigate for an ideal shopping experience.
They are one of the pioneers in the consignment model that is well recognized and used today. One of their main focuses is sustainability. Instead of giving plastic bags you can bring your own bag or you can buy a recycled paper bag for $3.00 and they participate in multiple charities. One new owner took over after the previous owner passed away. Now it is a mother-daughter run business. They now have 50 stores spread across the country in:
· District of Columbia
· New Mexico
· New York
· North Carolina
Buffalo Exchange continues to thrive and grow and be a leader in the resale market.
The Real Real
This is a moderately new business that started off in 2011 as an e-commerce business out of the owner, Julie Wainwright’s home. To maintain her inventory she used to drive to consignor’s homes with a U-Haul truck to pick up merchandise to keep her business moving. She had a vision to extend the life of luxury goods in the marketplace. When you have a dream and drive that is a recipe for success and growth.
In 2017, she opened her first retail store in NYC and announced a partnership with Britain based, designer Stella McCartney. Both ladies have a shared interest in sustainability and partnered up to drive the resale market forward. The Real Real established the first Monday in October as National Consignment Day in 2017. This highlighted the circular economy model that the resale market provides.
The brand has expanded its stores across the country in/and a full staff of employees in:
· San Francisco
Today, they sell luxury jewelry, art, and apparel and have a staff of over 100 authenticators to make sure every item sold is the real deal. People who consign with them receive an 85% payout. This is still a relatively new business and it is amazing to see the progress they’ve made over the course of only a few years.
Elite Repeat Consignment Boutique
This is a newer up and coming store that opened in 2017 and has been gaining traction over the years. They are located in Rockland County in New City, New York which is not too far from Manhattan. Their mission is to provide, “name brand designer clothing & accessories for women including handbags & shoes without the upscale pricing.” Similar to The Real Real, the team at Elite Boutique makes sure each item has 100% authenticity guaranteed. My assistant asked Ann Marie, the owner and founder, a series of questions pertaining to her business:
What made you go into this business, from this industry, why fashion?
“I’ve always been interested in fashion, when I was a teenager I used to paint t-shirts to sell and embellish them to make my own design aesthetic. When I was in my 20’s I had my own swimwear brand from 1993-1998 that I eventually transitioned into a children’s wear brand. Fashion is an art and a way of expressing yourself and has always been a passion of mine.”
Why resale? How does the consignment process work?
“I have always been an environmentally conscious individual and opening my own consignment boutique has allowed me to help sustain the environment and pursue my passion. Clothing production, especially synthetic clothing production emits a lot of pollution and each garment that is recycled through consignment shopping is a portion of that waste avoided.
The consignment process consists of different elements: the type of goods that are brought in and the category they fall under. The percentage varies on the type of item that is brought in. If it is a luxury item like a Chanel bag we’ll give 65-70% payouts to the consignor and if it is a contemporary item we’ll give a 50/50 split to the consignor. We don’t typically take appointments, clients bring items in and we take a look to see if it matches the aesthetic of our store. We like to make this process as easy as possible for our clients.
Then we sanitize, steam, and tag each item individually. Presentation and the overall customer experience are very important to us. We want our customers to walk out feeling beautiful and more confident than ever.”
How long have you been in business, what is your vision statement?
“ We found a space to rent and officially opened in early 2017. Since then, business has been picking up and sales have been increasing each month. My vision statement is to provide exceptional customer service while simultaneously helping the environment to sustain long-term growth.”
What was the process, how did you choose the location of your store?
“I knew I always wanted to open a shop in New City, but the question was always where? I didn’t want just any location; I wanted a place with personality. My ultimate goal is customer satisfaction and I wanted a space that would reflect that.’’
You had mentioned shopping should be an experience, what do you do to enhance that experience?
“My customers are my top priority. When they come into my shop, I always offer them a beverage and help with any styling needs. I also hold special sip and shop events to enhance customer experience with food, beverage, and special vendors.”
Are you involved with charity work in the community?
“Charity work is very important to me. I like to be involved in the community and other organizations. I often donate to the Humane Society, Not for Profit Thrift Stores, Hi-Tor Animal Shelter, Rockland Family Shelter, and The Pride Center of Nyack just to name a few. Giving back and helping others is the best feeling.”
Who is your target customer?
“My target customer is anyone and everyone. I cater to all woman size 0-plus but anyone is welcome to shop in my store. A lot of consignment stores don’t carry plus sizes but I make it a point to carry trendy plus size clothing. In the future, I want to expand the niche plus size market I want all my customers to feel confident and beautiful.”
What type of items do you consign? Brands?
“We consign lightly used items to new items with tags on them. We take anything from contemporary to luxury wear. However, the piece has to be trendy. Trendiness and pieces that are aesthetically pleasing to the eye is so important to us.
I also enjoy styling my customers and getting them out of their comfort zones, putting outfits together. I love when they arrive with one fashion sense and leave with new style and flare.”
Congrats on winning best of Hudson Valley, Where do you see your company going in the future?
“Thank you, I have two goals for the near future: moving forward with my business and expanding my charity work. First off I would eventually like to expand into a bigger space and open a sister store. Secondly I would like to open not for profit stores for transitioning teens and also a women’s center so they have a safe place to shop and feel comfortable.”
Ann Marie took her passion and turned it into a thriving business. She had an idea with the drive to make it happen and is also a pillar in her community. Success is possible in the fashion industry and Ann Marie sure is on her path to success. Her business also helps the environment providing an outlet for sustainable fashion. To find out more about Ann Marie and Elite Boutique, check out her website as she adds new merchandise daily and be sure to follow her on Instagram and Facebook for new curated content. Check out her website below:
Second hand is not only sustainable but it is also trending in the marketplace as well. It helps the economy and helps the planet avoid waste and pollution. Fashion is always evolving and while it might not have been the norm years ago to wear secondhand clothing, it is the norm now and there is so much to choose from. Technology also makes it easy to obtain used items and some items are so lightly used you wouldn’t even know the difference between a used and new item. You can purchase luxury goods, contemporary goods, art, jewelry you name it. This industry is filled with infinite possibilities and I am excited to see what the future holds.