How recommerce is taking on the holiday gift market

Given inflation and climate crisis concerns, resellers are encouraging customers to consider gifting secondhand this year.
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5 min read

The spirit of capitalism Christmas is in the air. And while the holiday season has traditionally been peddled as a time to buy shiny, new gifts, the recommerce industry seems optimistic about its prospects this year.

Companies like thredUP, Poshmark, and Recurate are rolling out holiday campaigns encouraging people to shop their used and upcycled collections, citing affordability and sustainability as reasons why consumers should choose to buy secondhand.

Lerzan Aksoy, interim dean and professor of marketing at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, told Marketing Brew that with inflation this holiday season, “getting more affordable, recycled, reused products will be one way to alleviate that pain that people are experiencing in terms of affordability.”

But with other retailers unveiling holiday deals for new products and a possible stigma around gifting used items, how is the recommerce industry getting its message across?

What’s old is new (to you)

Erin Wallace, VP of integrated marketing at thredUP, told us that the company plans to run discounts and promotions throughout December but also wanted to do something different.

“This year, with record-high inflation, everyone’s feeling the challenge to really scream at the top of their lungs, ‘We have value. We have sales.’ It’s a noisier time than ever,” she said, adding that as a reseller, “that value proposition isn’t particularly new and unique for us.”

To help set itself apart, thredUP released an upcycled holiday collection on November 15. The Full Circle Collection—with 1,000 items ranging from $10 scrunchies to $600 coats—was made in collaboration with Zero Waste Daniel and Fran Drescher, whose character in the show The Nanny was the inspiration for some of the looks from the collection.

According to Wallace, 2,000 pounds of fabric were used to make the collection—the vast majority of which came from items that she said “couldn’t be resold.” Because every piece is made from different materials, each will be unique, which Wallace said is another potential selling point as a gift.

“Historically, it’s more challenging for people to think about buying secondhand as holiday gifts,” she said. “That stigma is quickly changing, but I think this is really the first time we put together a collection that’s truly giftable for anyone.”

Make it a day

This year, Poshmark decided to create its own holiday, Secondhand Sunday, in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It’s the brand’s “first concerted effort to change the cultural conversation around the way people think and gift during the holidays,” according to a statement provided by Poshmark attributed to its CMO Steven Tristan Young.

Young told us that, according to Poshmark’s own research, while 92% of people said they are open to getting secondhand gifts, only 33% said they would shop secondhand for gifts today. He said Gen Z is the most receptive to the idea, with “55% saying they are likely to buy secondhand for friends and loved ones this holiday season.”

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As part of its promotion, Poshmark will offer giveaways and promotions on Secondhand Sunday, as well as offer buyers and sellers the opportunity to win up to $1000 in store credit in the days leading up to it by doing things like buying or listing an item.

Young said the hope is for people to buy at least one secondhand gift this year, noting that certain used categories “rise to the top” when it comes to gifting, like books, home items, jewelry, and watches.

“Affordability, sustainability, and discovering one-of-a-kind luxury or vintage items are among the reasons people turn to resale,” he said. “These aren’t mutually exclusive, and we are highlighting all of these benefits in our campaign.”

Don’t forget the brands

Karin Dillie, VP of partnerships at Recurate—which works with retailers on their own resale channels—told us that embracing secondhand can help brands reach customers that otherwise may not be able to afford them, and without “degrading their full-price offering” with sales.

“Historically, brands have just discounted [products] in order to get those new customers if they can,” she said. “This is a different way to get those new customers.”

Among Recurate’s partners, Dillie said, “What we’re seeing more and more, particularly around the holidays, is, ‘How do we make it as easy as possible to get products up on the site for people to buy?’” She said one brand they work with, Peak Design, is encouraging customers to list items before Black Friday by offering payouts in the form of store credit that will exceed the amount the items sell for.

She added that other brands Recurate works with, like Steve Madden and Michael Kors, have also incorporated resale into many of their communications with customers for the first time this year and will continue to do so through the holiday season.

One potential complication to giving secondhand? Claire Tassin, retail and e-commerce analyst at Morning Consult, told us it can be “a little tricky when it comes to gifting, because you can’t necessarily just exchange [or] get someone a gift receipt” for the product, as is the case with Steve Madden’s Re-booted line, which is final sale.

The good news? You can always try to resell it.

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