Others are using it to turn a profit and maintain a constant churn of clothes. Since the pandemic began, reconsignment — the rate at which users buy and eventually resell items on the same platform — has doubled. Gen Z is flipping finds the fastest, with classic luxury brands among the most resold. Watches from Cartier, Rolex and Hermès retain resale value best over time, as well as shoes from Chanel and Gucci, and bags from Louis Vuitton. Rival Thredup says its increasing customer base is rotating clothes at a higher rate too: in its latest report, published in May, 36 per cent of Gen Z respondents said they now purchase apparel weekly or monthly, the same rate at which they clear out or resell.
Each of these purchases and sales has an environmental impact in the packaging and shipping, something The RealReal says it is trying to address with more recycled and recyclable packaging, as well as carbon offsets. Resale is now facing similar challenges as rental, with neither being the completely guilt-free, impact-free solutions they have been presented as at times. The scale of resale consumption, and the hints at a deeper problem for the category that pegs itself as sustainable. “Consumers are addicted to newness, regardless of whether it’s from the primary market or secondhand,” says The RealReal’s senior director of merchandising Sasha Skoda. “With the rise of social media and the trend for hauls, people are buying in bulk to avoid repeating outfits.”