Should Your Ecommerce Platform Sell Pre-Owned Items? Pros and Cons Explained

Should Your Ecommerce Platform Sell Pre-Owned Items? Pros and Cons Explained
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New Fashion Customer Features

Introduction

As fashion markets are quickly expanding, many e-commerce professionals could be addressing an important strategic decision: should I include pre-owned items on my platform?

This would not be a problem for many other product categories but does provide some unique challenges in fashion.

Amazon for instance has always been selling second-hand items alongside new ones, but with clothing things are different. 

It is probably thanks to pioneering companies like Rent the Runway with its groundbreaking business model that the general perception of using pre-owned clothing changed. 

With the growth of this new market segment, we can see how specialized platforms have risen to the challenge, with new and unique value propositions

Vestiaire Collective for instance has taken quite a bold move, moving beyond the idea of renting second-hand clothing by brokering the idea of a second-hand, accessible luxury. 

It is true in fact that heritage brands built so much equity into their brands that the prestige and aspirational value of a fashion garment stick with a popular logo long after its first owner. 

So much so, that second-hand clothing has become a side hustle for many fashion victims who know where to find great pieces. This is actually something we’ve looked into ourselves by shortlisting some of the key elements that concur in creating long-lasting value in a fashion garment.

Having said all of this, should you include pre-owned items in your e-commerce store?

This is not a simple yes or no question. It may be helpful to list reasons for and against it. 

Let’s start with the reasons in support of selling pre-owned clothing. 

What Are Pre-Owned Garments and Why They’re So Relevant

The decision to sell these items on your e-commerce platform would eventually have to do with acknowledging the relevance of this new market category. 

Pre-owned clothing has some unique traits that can really contribute to better serve your customer. Let’s take a look at some of these characteristics.

They are Accessible

Pre-owned garments are cheaper than new clothing. This allows more customers to access and experience these products. 

The luxury market is in fact in a tough spot. If from one end, the brands that belong to this market segment have very high brand value, on the other hand, only a few customers can actually afford to purchase these products. 

This is why luxury brands have developed many strategies to better monetize their brand equity. They have created diffusion lines, masstige products, collaborations, and much more to expand on their target audience. 

This is why second-hand products can be a new way to target younger customers at even lower price points. 

We provide a fully-fledged analysis of brand expansion and brand dilution strategies in this article, which provides further context as to why second-hand products are a great tool to grow your brand. 

They Are Sustainable

Second-hand products are sustainable, and this is great, as despite many proclaims, very few fashion brands have carried out sustainability initiatives that go beyond greenwashing. 

The sustainable impact of second-hand clothing is actually two-fold. 

  • Pre-owned clothing is in fact sustainable from the production perspective, as companies who need to account for the second hand market, would limit the supply of new products to avoid diluting excessively their brand equity.
  • Pre-owned clothing is sustainable from a consumption perspective. This is because customers are influenced to take better care of their garments and reduce their habits of buying new clothing. 

These two aspects, one focused on overproduction and the other focused on overconsumption provide quite a simple and effective strategy to limit the environmental impact of clothing. 

They Are Experiential and Aspirational

Just like for share economies, pre-owned clothing focuses on use more than on “newness”. The social and emotional needs connected to purchasing luxury goods are fully met with products that through use provide all of the same benefits as if they were bought new.

Moreover, allowing customers to buy a product as pre-owned the first time they experience a brand, can very well lead them to purchase new collections down the way, once a stronger connection with the garment has been fostered. 

All in all, these characteristics seem to show how relevant and useful these products are, to the point of considering them a must-have in your e-commerce inventory

However, it’s not all quite so simple.

In the next section of the post, we’re going to look into some of the challenges that come with selling these products. 

What Are The issues with Including Them in Your Ecommerce

Having mentioned all of the previous benefits, there are also some elements to weigh in. Let’s take them into account one by one.

They Can Be Distracting from New Products

Providing more inexpensive versions of luxury goods can easily distract your customers from buying the same product new, or at a higher price. 

Despite being very inclusive, pre-owned clothing can also make a brand feel ubiquitous, and give to real luxury customers the sensation that products that used to be a mark of distinction are now a teenage trend. 

This is something to consider, as you don’t want to expand new markets at the cost of reducing your existing markets. 

They Provide Supply Chain Challenges

In order to provide these products from your own warehouse, you need to purchase these items and then resell them.

This can provide supply chain challenges as you are not buying from professional distributors.

Moreover, private users can sell these items independently and can create a lot of competition for your e-commerce.

The operational challenges that have to be overcome in order to provide a standardized service are no simple issues.

This is why those businesses who are specialized in reselling had to develop new business models to provide this service.

They Have Customer Service Challenges

As a final remark, it’s also important to consider that you are not providing products in mint condition.

Sellers may downplay wear and tear and as a result, despite your best efforts, you could be reselling products that have little to no value aside from their brand and don’t make your buyers happy. 

These are all elements to consider, as the customer service challenges of selling pre-owned clothes simply can’t be downplayed.

Is this for you? Let’s see together what the situation is in our conclusive remarks. 

Conclusions

When it comes to these big strategic decisions, we need to make sure we’re getting our priorities in the right order. How would we do that? By thinking about our brand vision. 

Is our brand vision aligned with, or enhanced by, selling pre-owned clothing?

If this is the case, then you could give this serious thought, otherwise don’t bother. 

As discussed, resorting to pre-owned garments as a way to expand on inventory can create a lot of headaches, and put you in a tough spot, where you are not in full control of the supply chain that serves your customer.

As a final remark, consider that many other causes or trends come up every year, as the fashion industry is constantly evolving and growing.

This is why you should give yourself time to evaluate which are some of the trends that best resonate with your brand so that you are in fact investing in values that really transfer to your customers’ experience. 

Here at 440 Industries, we have a lot of free resources which look into the fashion business, e-commerce management, and much more, don’t hesitate to look into our blog to find other articles on these topics. Enjoy!

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Should Your Ecommerce Platform Sell Pre-Owned Items? Pros and Cons Explained Should your ecommerce sell pre-owned items alongside new ones? In this post we're looking at the benefits and challenges of selling second hand clothing.
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