Sure, resale is a hot trend these days, but ask yourself these six questions before taking the plunge.
Resale is getting the attention of retailers big and small. That’s because the secondhand apparel market is projected to double by 2026, reaching $77 billion, according to retail analytics firm GlobalData. And resale, the sector of secondhand with more curated assortments, is driving that growth, according to thredUp’s 2021 Resale Report.
Propelled by young consumers’ desire for less wasteful use of materials, a more conscious approach to consumption or, simply, more affordable clothing, resale is expected to grow 11 times faster than retail clothing. “Secondhand is displacing fast fashion, new-clothing purchases and harmful production as consumers switch to thrift,” according to thredUp, an online consignment and thrift business. No matter how hot the resale trend is, however, it’s not going to be right for every dancewear retailer. Here are some questions to consider as you evaluate its potential for your individual market.
Can I make a profit?
Maybe. But if that’s the sole reason you’re considering resale, the additional employee time and hassle isn’t going to be worth the small amount of money you stand to make. If you see resale as a customer service, a community goodwill-building effort, an ecofriendly venture into “circular fashion” or an extension into e-commerce, it’s probably going to be worth more to you than if you’re solely seeking a new profit center.
Do I have the bandwidth?
Each resale item will need a SKU (stock-keeping unit) and a way to track it in inventory, so your point-of-sale system needs to be bulletproof, and you need the people resources to receive, negotiate and process (i.e., inventory, tag, photograph, post, package, ship) new arrivals. You will also want to write guidelines and policies for what you accept for resale, what condition it must be in, and what your financial terms are.
Is it right for my customer base?
Right now, resale is most popular with teens and budget-minded moms outfitting children and tweens for recitals and competitions. If your customer base is older and/or wealthier, resale may not be worthwhile for you.
In-store or online only?
If you’re worried that stocking “gently worns” may cheapen your store’s image, you can opt to create an e-commerce boutique through the dancewear resale app Dance Xchange—which will charge you a 20 percent commission. Or you could work with dancewear Facebook pages like Dancewear Resale 2.0 and Dance Costume Resale 2.0, or create a special section on your own website. If you go the e-commerce route, you can also use it to unload past-season apparel and other slow sellers outside of your brick-and-mortar locale.
Consignment or store credit?
Store credit in exchange for costumes (even if purchased elsewhere) builds customer loyalty and may lead to add-on sales. Unless you are running a consignment business exclusively, you will most likely find yourself overburdened with tracking and paying out on completed sales. Plus, disputes with consigners over when to take markdowns and other issues can lead to ill will.
What will I do with unsold merch?
Those with experience in resale warn that there are just going to be some things that don’t sell, no matter how selective you are. You need to have a plan in place for what to do with these unwanted items. Box them and sell them at rock bottom? (That’s what thredUp does.) Donate to a local studio for their students who can’t afford costumes? Return to the customer? Dump them at Goodwill? It all takes time and effort, but you don’t want to suffer the negative publicity H&M did when Danish journalists revealed in 2017 that the fast-fashion giant had incinerated 60 tons of unsold clothes—a situation that contributed to today’s global enthusiasm for resale and recycling.
For more on the resale fashion market, including a new app that aims to be “the Poshmark of dance,” read “Dancewear Taps Into a Growing Trend—Resale.”
Anne M. Russell is a Los Angeles–based writer who covers small business, fitness and technology.