As young consumers drive the growth in the apparel resale market, dance entrepreneurs are taking note.
With online apparel resellers like Poshmark, thredUp and Depop boasting hundreds of thousands of sellers and millions of transactions on their platforms, it’s safe to say that the stigma of “used” clothing is a thing of the past. In fact, Wall Street thinks clothing resale is the future: When the 12-year-old Poshmark went public in January 2021 its IPO was valued at $3 billion, while same-aged thredUp’s IPO valuation in March was $1.3 billion. In June, online crafts marketplace Etsy acquired decade-old teen-oriented reseller Depop, paying $1.6 billion.
So when Margeaux Vallee McCarthy, a former hip-hop pro turned dance teacher and commercial real estate broker, says she wants her new app Dance Xchange to be “the Poshmark of dance,” she is staking out new, potentially lucrative, territory in dancewear resale. In other words, she’s tapping into a growing trend in the dance community to cater to dancers’ desires for a place to buy and sell “gently worn” dance attire. In January 2021, McCarthy’s free app launched in Apple’s App Store, followed by the desktop version in October.
Using Facebook as a Business Venue to Resell Dancewear
There’s been some dance resale activity on Facebook already. In 2017, Camille Calhoon, a former dancer with three daughters who were involved in competition dance at the time, launched a private Facebook group, Dancewear Resale 2.0, oriented toward reselling everyday dancewear. Later that same year, she created another private Facebook group, Dance Costume Resale 2.0, which focuses on high-end performance wear.
Today, Dance Costume Resale 2.0 has 32,500 members, all of them screened by Calhoon or one of her admins or moderators. Last year, though, Calhoon found herself so overwhelmed with monitoring the two groups that she handed off the 28,900-member Dancewear Resale 2.0 to Kandi Kouture, which sells its line of dancewear and activewear there. Calhoon kept Dance Costume Resale 2.0, where she, too, sells her own line of custom competition outfits, West Side Costumes.
That’s the catch when using Facebook as a business venue for resale: No matter how successful Calhoon’s Facebook resale page is, her only real financial return is from selling her own designs. That’s because Facebook’s terms of service prohibit creators from selling pages to others, and there’s no way to take commission on the sales the pages facilitate. “The only way we see any return,” says Calhoon, “is to use the cover page for advertising for our costumes when it’s not devoted to an issue, like anti-bullying.”
The Dance Xchange App: A More Sustainable Business Model?
Although McCarthy’s Dance Xchange app could pose competition, Calhoon says she’s excited about it. “I can imagine the new app will do really well,” she says. She particularly likes McCarthy’s plan to use some of the app’s proceeds to fund annual dance scholarships. McCarthy has already secured a nonprofit 501(c)(3) status for the Dance Xchange Scholarship Fund.
McCarthy, who used to shop on Tradesy and Poshmark and sell on eBay, says the idea “struck me one day that I could create an app on my own.” To date, she has had 700 downloads of Dance Xchange from the App Store. There is no Android version because McCarthy says she hasn’t seen demand for one as yet, although her decision also had to do with the cost of development.
McCarthy began working on her app in October 2018 and, as a neophyte, her progress was slow. She says she’s put about $30,000 of her earnings from teaching dance into the app’s development. She found a developer through LinkedIn recommendations. Initially they set up the app to handle transactions through PayPal, but then changed course to go with Stripe instead. “That was about six or eight months of time lost,” says McCarthy ruefully. Stripe creates a secure payment system where money remitted is held until the customer receives the product, adding a level of safety that Facebook resale exchanges can’t provide. It also presents a clear way to create a revenue stream: McCarthy takes a 20 percent commission on sales, the same way Poshmark and thredUp do. (Depop takes 10 percent.)
And, like the three resale behemoths, McCarthy is emphasizing the positive impact of “circular fashion” on reducing material waste. She notes: “According to IBISWorld, there are approximately 66,000 dance studios in the U.S., with an average of 150 students (recreational and competition) per studio. If each student takes just one class a year that requires a costume, that’s 9.9 million costumes. I created Dance Xchange to give those costumes a second or third life beyond an attic or storage closet.”
Dance Xchange doesn’t automatically restrict what can be listed, but McCarthy makes it a point to notify sellers to remove listings if the materials don’t seem to fit within the dance realm. She also anticipates that most of the activity will be in youth recital and competition wear. As she gears up to begin marketing the app, she says she plans to contact different dance competitions to make them aware of the launch, as well as working with Instagram influencers. McCarthy’s day job is marketing director and commercial real estate sales advisor for SVN Lotus in Sarasota, FL, so she recognizes the importance of marketing and says that she’d like to eventually find someone to help with it.
The Dance Retailers’ Role in Resales
Is the resale trend good or bad for dancewear retailers? It’s not a simple question to answer. Roshawn Dorsey, owner of Ms. Ro’s Dance Closet in Atlanta, GA, has nine years of experience with resale, which she transacts both in her store and on her website. In fact, the genesis of Ms. Ro’s Dance Closet was Dorsey deciding to close her dance school and finding herself stuck with lots of pre-worn costumes. She decided to set up a resale business to get rid of her old inventory, and Ms. Ro’s was born. So unlike most dance boutique owners, she started with resale and backed into retail.
Today, she sells only gently worn costumes and avoids shoes and day-to-day dancewear. “Dancewear is my main bread and butter,” she says. “I think if I did resale for that it would hurt my [retail] business.” As it stands, though, Dorsey says, “Resale absolutely complements my retail sales.”
As an example, she cites this year’s Halloween costume shopping frenzy. She put some of her used costume inventory in the store’s window, which attracted new customers. That, in turn, led That in turn led to sales of new merchandise, like tights and leotards to wear under the resale items. “We’ve been doing great this year in general, but the Halloween costumes brought in the most traffic,” Dorsey says.
Dorsey sells even the nicest classical ballet outfits in the $30 range. “I’m not trying to make a gang of money. I know I could sell some of this for a lot more,” Dorsey says. “It’s more of a customer service than a profit center. It’s the dancer in me: I know there are kids who can’t afford the crazy prices [of new costumes].”
The Bottom Line
Whether it’s driven by consumers’ desire for less wasteful use of materials, a more conscious approach to consumption or simply more affordable dancewear, the dance resale trend is on the move. And that will surely mean new opportunities for dance entrepreneurs—and their customers.
Anne M. Russell is a Los Angeles–based writer who covers small business, fitness and technology.