The race is on for startups to crack the code on resale. Brands and service providers alike are looking to tap into the market’s scale and speed — projected to be worth $77 billion in the next five years and growing 11 times faster than traditional clothing retail.
One size does not fit all. The resale industry is quickly becoming more nuanced to meet the needs of apparel brands seeking new, climate-conscious revenue streams and individuals looking to buy pre-owned clothing and sell past purchases. From direct-to-consumer resale to brand-enabled peer-to-peer platforms to independent resale marketplaces, the diversity and competitiveness of offerings is heating up.
Here are six startups I’m keeping my eye on in the resale sector:
Recurate enables peer-to-peer resale by a brand’s customers directly within its e-commerce site. The white-label service focuses on brand integration, unlike independent resale marketplaces, which reduces the friction for sellers by providing access to a garment’s original specs. Recurate’s aim is to make it easy for customers to sell products they previously bought from a brand’s online store. Customers can place new and used items in the same shopping cart rather than navigating a brand’s resale platform on a separate website, and sellers receive cash or store credit in exchange for sales. Brands can integrate Recurate’s platform through a Shopify app, streamlining and simplifying the resale process.
Recurate was launched in February 2020 by Adam Siegel, former senior vice president of innovation and sustainability at Retail Industry Leaders Association, and Wilson Griffin, former director of sustainable innovation at Gap, and already boasts a list of brand partners including Frye, Mara Hoffman and Peak Design. The company closed a $3.25 million seed round in April.
With a white-label peer-to-peer model similar to that of Recurate, Archive is looking to tap into the growing number of brands looking to play in resale without getting their hands dirty with inventory management. Launched in January, Archive relies on brand data integration to simplify the selling process. Sellers can choose between cash or store credit (although early data suggests most of its sellers are choosing the credit). Archive powers the resale marketplace for women’s professional apparel company M.M.LaFleur, but plans to expand beyond the fashion industry in the future.
The resale industry is quickly becoming more nuanced to meet the needs of apparel brands seeking new, climate-conscious revenue streams and individuals looking to buy pre-owned clothing and sell past purchases.
Reflaunt recognizes that while brands may want to control their resale platforms, not all resale customers want to shop directly with a single brand. While the user experience for a seller on Reflaunt’s "resale-as-a-service" platform is similar to that of Recurate and Archive, the technology company posts the same garment on dozens of resale sites to increase the speed of a sale and reach over 30 million potential secondhand buyers worldwide. Brand partners include Balenciaga and Cos, and the company closed a $2.7 million pre-Series A round this year.
An online marketplace to buy and sell secondhand clothing and accessories, Vinted is valued at $4.5 billion after closing an all-equity series F round in May of $303 million. Founded by two Lithuanian entrepreneurs in 2008, Vinted’s usership has soared to 45 million since its initial app launch in 2012. The app-based platform uses a peer-to-peer model in which sellers upload their own photos and descriptions of items and ship directly to buyers.
Depop grabbed headlines last month thanks to news of a $1.62 billion acquisition by Etsy. The fashion resale app has risen to prominence with Gen-Z consumers thanks to its social media savvy, and has become a fierce competitor in the resale market since it was founded in the U.K. in 2011. The online peer-to-peer resale marketplace enables users to buy and sell used clothes, but also builds in a social component to the platform, allowing users to follow other sellers and curate virtual collections.
Vinted and Depop are two of the dozens of independent resale sites growing in popularity. Other prominent players include Vestiaire Collective, which closed a $216 million Series F in March with backing from Kering, the recently IPO’d ThredUp, The RealReal and Poshmark, as well as newer competitors including Mercari, Thrilling and Tradesy.
Although Trove is already widely seen as a leader in the resale revolution, they continue to be one to keep a close eye on. Launched in 2012, Trove is the company behind the early resale programs at Patagonia, REI and Eileen Fisher, and has a growing number of partnerships with brands looking to take control of their secondary markets, including Levi’s and Lululemon. Founded by two sustainability industry veterans — former Walmart Chief Sustainability Officer Andy Ruben and Amazon Global Lead of Sustainable Shopping Adam Werbach — Trove is the company to beat in the category of white label resale service providers. Trove builds and manages end-to-end resale programs from buy-back and inventory management to picking, packaging and shipping products. Customers shop directly on a brand’s bespoke resale website, and have access to information at the garment level.