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Urban’s New Thrift-Store App Meets Holiday Resale Demand

Though Urban Outfitters Inc. formally debuted its digital thrifting app on Tuesday, resale has long informed the company’s DNA, according to Kim Gallagher.

Secondhand goods featured in “our very first store” five decades ago, said Gallagher, who heads up marketing and customer success for Nuuly, the rental division within Urban that just cut the ribbon on a thrift-shop component. “We’ve had our eye on this for years.”

Nuuly Thrift, as it’s called, neatly fits into fashion resale’s stratospheric trajectory. Gen Z can’t get its hands on enough pre-owned clothing and shoes, in part powering the market to an expected $77 billion value in five years’ time. Other digital resale rivals are going for billion-dollar price tags, while brands from Adidas to Madewell to Fabletics are all chasing clout with conscious consumers.

Building a viable secondhand competitor takes time and effort—not to mention considerable resources, according Sky Pollard, Nuuly’s product head. “We are looking for people who are already experienced resellers and have the ability to find great supply,” she said during a preview of the app, which like Nuuly Rent is exclusively available on the iOS devices that generate the “majority” of its digital traffic. A “small” but “growing” recruitment team is busy scouring the U.S. for promising seller talent.

Urban Outfitters launched the Nuuly Thrift mobile app for iOS, allowing consumers to buy and sell pre-owned and sometimes upcycled fashion.
Nuuly Thrift serves as a resale complement to Nuuly Rent, where consumers can borrow instead of buy. Courtesy

“Interesting people” producing and hawking unique products should attract shoppers to the platform, Pollard said. “Maybe they’re upcyclers who are taking things that are unwanted or in need of a second life and turning them into something new,” she said. “Maybe they’re makers using this platform to unleash their creativity and start to understand how they can run a business.” Recruiting compelling creatives demonstrates “how we’re taking what really is an open marketplace and layering on some curation,” she added.

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Both Nuuly Thrift and Nuuly Rent home in on the consumer’s evolving behavior, Gallagher pointed out. “They’re both really appealing to the customer that wants value and the customer that wants sustainability,” she said, noting that the retail-resale-rental ecosystem within Urban, which in addition to its namesake brand also owns Anthropologie, Free People, Bhldn and Terrain, “works really nicely.”

“The same person who wants to buy a new pair of jeans potentially is thinking about how to resell them down the road,” Gallagher said. “She’s also wanting to rent a party dress that she’s only going to wear once, and she’s wanting to access that new brand that she can’t afford and buy it secondhand.” This customer-centric approach reflects that “she is not shopping one way, she’s shopping all of these ways,” spurring Urban to build the platform itself rather versus partnering with a third party. Maintaining control over the platform means the company has the flexibility and agility to “change what is not working,” while keeping successful features intact, Gallagher said.

Nuuly Cash, “the biggest thing that differentiates” the resale app, according to Gallagher, could be the secret sauce that keeps users coming back. Payouts in this new branded “currency” are 10 percent above what sellers otherwise would get with a bank transfer and they’re redeemable across all Urban brands—through e-commerce and in stores. Being able to seamlessly apply the proceeds from the Nuuly Thrift sale of your kids’ outgrown clothing to a new Anthropologie sofa is “something you can’t do at any of our competition, “Gallagher said.

Urban Outfitters launched the Nuuly Thrift mobile app for iOS, allowing consumers to buy and sell pre-owned and sometimes upcycled fashion.
A dedicated Nuuly Thrift team is recruiting interesting sellers to populate the resale platform. Courtesy

And just two months out from the festive season, with holiday shopping already underway, consumers have new reasons to make secondhand their first choice. More than 77 percent of American adults plan to buy “at least” one pre-owned item between October to December for a total of $69.2 billion, up 24 percent over last year’s comparable period, Mercari found in its new “Secondhand Holiday” report. Most plan to nab clothing (43 percent) and home décor (32 percent) through resale channels this holiday, according to the digital marketplace, which conducted the study with London consultancy GlobalData and Zogby Analytics.

The stigma around secondhand is hardly what it once was, thanks to platforms like StockX, Goat, The RealReal, ThredUp and Poshmark steadily normalizing resale, especially among teens through thirtysomethings. Nearly 45 percent of Gen Z adults (18-to-24-year-olds) and 49 percent of the millennial/Gen X bracket (25 to 44) intends to gift a resale item, and roughly 57 percent of these consumers claim they’ll “proudly share” the present’s origins, the report said.

Consumers might also embrace resale in order to sidestep the well-documented supply chain mayhem embroiling ports nationwide. About 10 percent of prospective resale shoppers cited first-market supply challenges as a reason for perusing pre-owned goods, equivalent to an estimated 20 million resale consumers who could drive a projected $7 billion in secondhand holiday sales, Mercari noted.

Even Facebook Marketplace, which connects users buying and selling new and used goods, has documented a 60 percent uptick in interest around apparel, the platform said last week when announcing new features like expanded shipping coverage.

Urban Outfitters Unveils Nuuly Thrift As
Courtesy

Stores have been briefed about Nuuly Thrift so that associates are “up to speed” when consumers walk in hoping to use their Nuuly Cash. And resale could someday command a brick-and-mortar presence for Philadelphia-based Nuuly, which could launch its own shops or forge a “partnership” via its sister brands’ established physical footprint, Gallagher said.

“We know that our customer is evolving,” she said. “Whether they want to buy things that are more economical or more sustainable, giving that flexibility is really critical.”