Department stores hope used clothes will revitalize sales

J.C. Penney, Macy’s, and other retailers are partnering with clothing resale startups to attract more foot traffic.

August 21, 2019

Photo by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Last week, J.C. Penney and Macy’s announced a deal with the fashion resale site thredUP to devote sections in their stores to second-hand clothing in hopes of increasing sales of new merchandise.

Used clothes are big business

Starting in the Great Recession, cash-strapped fashion aficionados started turning to eBay to get their fixes. Then, as consumers became increasingly aware of the ethical and environmental costs of fast fashion, resale really took off. 

Now, sites like thredUP, Poshmark, and The RealReal emerged as a means for shoppers to offload their closets’ excesses and pick up new-to-them pieces. The resale market is expected to grow from $24B last year to $51B by 2023. 

And it’s not just Macy’s… even high-end players want in

In April, Neiman Marcus bought a minority stake in the fashion resale site Fashionphile. This fall, some stores will launch spaces for customers to sell — but not purchase — pre-worn designer duds. NM hopes these customers will then spend their cash on new merchandise.  

That smell? Some say it’s a bad deal

While some analysts applaud the second-hand strategy, others worry the practice could strain stores’ relationships with suppliers, who have increasingly paid more of retailers’ marketing expenses and shouldered the costs of price markdowns.

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