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How ThredUp Has Fueled the Sustainable Resale Trend

The resale revolution is just getting started, and ThredUp is ready.

As consumers embrace sharing over ownership—aided, in no small part, by the minimalism-promoting “Marie Kondo effect”—ThredUp is driving sustainability by making secondhand online shopping as easy as, well, all online shopping.

Part online consignment merchant, part thrift store, ThredUp was founded by James Reinhart because he was compelled to find a use for the closet full of shirts he never wore. Fast-forward 10 years, and the fashion resale marketplace now features over 35,000 women’s and children’s brands. It’s upcycled more than 80 million items to date, according to spokeswoman Samantha Blumenthal. By processing over 100,000 items every day, ThredUp is able to have 2 million-plus items in inventory at any given moment.

According to the company’s 2019 Resale Report, which combines GlobalData research and the results of ThredUp’s own 2,000-person survey, resale has grown 21 times faster than the retail apparel market over the past three years. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the movement is led by millennials and Gen Z, with one in three Gen Z women expected to purchase secondhand apparel, footwear or accessories.

“Right now, 26 billion pounds of textiles are sent to landfill each year, and the production of new clothing is one of the world’s largest polluters,” said Blumenthal. “As consumers, we are buying twice as much and wearing it half as long. By extending the life of clothing, we hope to inspire retailers to produce less and consumers to reuse more.”

The company dipped a toe into manufacturing last fall when it introduced its Remade line of clothes, which it says is the first apparel collection designed expressly for resale. ThredUp promises to accept each item back for an average 40 percent payout, and each piece of clothing ships with a scannable label for efficient reentry.

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ThredUp also recently launched Resale-as-a-Service (RAAS), one aspect of which allows consumers to earn credits from retailers in exchange for sending their worn clothes to ThredUp. The company tested into the concept last fall with L.A. brand Reformation as its first partner.

Blumenthal said the company envisions a future where every garment is accompanied by a barcode, enabling it to be easily scanned back into the circular economy and resold again and again.

“The concept is resonating not only with consumers, but also retailers and the broader fashion industry,” she added.

In what areas has the fashion industry made the biggest strides in sustainability in the last five years?

“Nearly nine in 10 retail executives want to get into resale by 2020, and we have already seen many brands find ways to promote reuse and extend the life of their products. We believe the more retailers that promote circularity and find ways to improve their supply chain, the better. Consumers are voting with their wallets and demanding greater transparency, responsible sourcing and production from the brands they love, and we’re glad to see retailers beginning to respond and taking strides to improve their practices.”

Sourcing Journal’s Sustaining Voices celebrates the efforts the apparel industry is making toward securing a more environmentally responsible future through creative innovations, scalable solutions and forward-thinking initiatives that are spinning intent into action.

See more of our Sustaining Voices honorees and their stories, here.