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The RealReal’s New Data Suggests a Big Trend Might Be on the Way Out

Is Y2K on its way out? The RealReal is hedging its bets.

The largest online marketplace for authenticated, resale luxury goods released its 2023 Luxury Consignment Report. The report covers the state of resale over the past six months, charting the shift in customer shopping behaviors due to macroeconomic uncertainty and breaking down the shopping behaviors of each generation.

“A potential recession, the climate crisis, and global unrest are all reasons that, going into 2023, consumers are making shopping decisions based on value—with 66 percent saying they shop resale primarily to get a good deal—as well as personal values,” Rati Sahi Levesque, co-CEO and president, said. “We’re seeing our members do this in many different ways, from trading down ultra-luxe bags for more accessible options and buying fair condition items to express themselves through fashion and sustainable shopping practices. The value of resale is different for every person—and that’s the beauty of it.”

Derived from data from its 30 million members and 28 million items sold, the RealReal’s 2023 Luxury Consignment Report revealed several key trends through exclusive data documenting shifts in the luxury market over the past several months and looking forward to the year ahead.

The trade-down trend

Over the past three years, prices for high-end bags from brands such as Hermès, Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton have steadily increased, selling for an average of more than 70 percent of their MRSP, the report found. But going into 2023, the resale value of these bags is beginning to level out, with prices down 5 percent in the last six months. Instead of investing in ultra-luxury classics, many consumers are looking for more affordable, trendier styles from brands like Bottega Veneta, Prada, Miu Miu, DiorBurberry and Valentino.

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The “bag barometer” found that sales for lower-priced luxury brands have steadily grown over the past 90 days. Prada was up 20 percent, Valentino up 21 percent, Burberry up 36 percent, Dior up 38 percent and Bottega Veneta up 45 percent. Miu Miu was the most popular at 55 percent. Younger consumers can’t seem to get enough of the viral ultra-mini skirt brand, with sales of its leather bags up 178 percent.

Heritage brands were slowing down; Chanel was down 9 percent, Hermès down 10 percent, Gucci was down 17 percent and Louis Vuitton was down 20 percent. That said, looking back to 2019, the average selling price (ASP) for Hermès, Channel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton is still up by an average of 17 percent. The RealReal recommended keeping an eye on Gucci: the departure of a creative director often heralds an uptick in demand as older pieces become more collectible and excitement builds around the new guard, it pointed out. This year may bring a spike in sales once Alessandro Michele’s replacement is announced.

Fair condition: gateway to luxury

In early 2022, The RealReal began accepting bags in “fair condition,” those showing signs of noticeable wear such as worn corners, significant scratches or interior indications of use. But since then, demand has nearly doubled. The average price for a fair-condition piece is 33 percent less than that of items closer to like new, making these “gateway bags” an ideal entry point for cost-conscious shoppers. Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermès and Prada make up 60 percent of the fair-condition market. The No. 1 gateway bag is the Monogram Multipli-Cité Tote by Louis Vuitton, with an ASP of $545. Fifty-eight percent of those who purchase this LV bag in fair condition are new to The RealReal.

“The ‘worn’ trend is about people appreciating quality items and refusing to let a few scratches get in the way of enjoying a Chanel or a Gucci bag,” Becky Akinyode, a freelance stylist and creative consultant, said in the report.

What to buy and sell in 2023 

Pearl jewelry. Ultra-feminine dresses. Tailored suits. Loafers. Brooches. These are poised to be among 2023’s most bankable trends based on search data compared Q4 of 2021 and 2022. The RealReal reported seeing an appetite for both vintage and vintage-inspired clothing and accessories, moving beyond the 2000s-style looks that have dominated the past few seasons. The common thread? The embrace of a tried-and-true, slightly more formal aesthetic may bring comfort—and feel like a smart investment—amidst social and economic uncertainty.

A growing number of fashion lovers are seeing the benefits of the circular economy—one that lets them buy and sell good-condition goods and help build a more sustainable future for fashion. Research conducted in 20022 by Lisa W. Miller & Associates found a 23 percent increase in shoppers buying resale. Based on data from 2022’s third quarter, there were 30 million total RealReal members and a 29 percent growth in buyers year-over-year.

Gen Z is the generation most likely to prioritize sustainability, as they re-consigned 52 percent more in 2022, particularly in the women’s category. Millennials are the generation most likely to shop a lot; they buy the most of any demographic, with nearly 20 percent more purchases in 2022 than other cohorts. Gen Xers are most likely to treat themselves as they spend more money per person, buying 20 percent more bags last year. Boomers are The RealReal’s highest-value consignors, selling 20 percent more branded jewelry. The Silent Generation bought 31 percent more home goods last year.

The vintage trend saw sales up 50 percent since the start of 2022. While a hunger for authentic Y2K pieces may have garnered widespread interest in vintage, many shoppers now gravitate toward more mature labels. Prada saw a search increase of 376 percent, Richard Tyler saw 282 percent growth and Jil Sander garnered a 263 percent rise in queries. The early aughts are still highly sought-after, though, with Blumarine seeing an increase of 1,278 percent, Vivienne Tam at 428 percent and Moschino at 322 percent.

“For the past year, Y2K has dominated everything, but we’re beginning to see that flow in the other direction,” Dominik Halas, the RealReal’s master authenticator of vintage, said in the report. “Demand for vintage from brands known for their couture-level tailoring is on the rise—and in a big way.”

The vintage influence extends to the ready-to-wear realm, with up-and-coming designers and established brands churning out classic-with-a-twist silhouettes and re-editioning styles of yore, like Prada’s beloved nylon shoulder bag. Ultra-feminine dresses, avant-garde suiting, mules and loafers saw a strong uptick in demand.

And demand for pre-owned jewelry continues to climb as well: unique, personal pieces like colored stones, vintage brooches and pearls lead the way. Emeralds are especially desirable, with demand up 35 percent since last year and nearly 155 percent since 2019. Comparing Q3 to Q4, pearls searches (up 115 percent) outpaced diamonds (up 50 percent). Looking at Q4 2021 vs. Q4 2022, demand for pearl bracelets (up 50 percent) significantly outpaced diamond bracelets (12 percent). Brooch pins were the unexpected outfit completer of 2022, with an uptick in demand of 27 percent during the holiday season.

Though not noted in the report, the luxury resale sector shouldn’t expect to be hit too hard amid the economic uncertainty going into the new year. At the National Retail Federation (NRF) Retail’s Big Show earlier this week, industry experts reported that the industry for pre-owned premium goods is reported to be growing 11 times faster than traditional retail.