How retailers are keeping the thrill of discovery in secondhand shopping

From thredUp and Goodwill to small local stores, resalers are finding new opportunities to engage customers

The joy of discovery that comes from shopping has been lacking these days. Instead, we’ve been focusing our efforts on gathering the most basic of needs. Apparel shopping has been profoundly impacted, and vintage and resale have had an even bigger hurdle. With early warnings that touted the virus’ ability to live a long time on plastics, cardboard and the like, consumers not only began wiping down ecommerce packages; they also became wary of taking castoffs from others into their home.

CDC guidance (released May 20) has since said COVID-19 wasn’t easily spread by touching surfaces. With that out of the way — and with some innovative ideas out there — vintage and thrift retailers are finding new opportunities to stay engaged with customers who can’t come into their stores.

Finding Your Good, run by Goodwill of Greater Washington, includes shopping and styling tips for those new-to-you finds. Its social media accounts include details on authenticating high-end bags, tips for reorganizing closets and conscious consumption.

thredUp hosted a virtual panel discussion on what life looks like now. It also teamed up with Reebok to extend the lifespan of the brand’s items. Consumers could order a Clean Out Kit and turn used clothing into cash, shopping credits and earn Reebok UNLOCKED loyalty points. It was an in-the-moment response to something consumers were all doing — cleaning closets — and one that has a post-COVID life.

Poshmark donated to organizations that were desperately in need, like food banks and Doctors without Borders. OfferUP, which also donated to local organizations in Seattle and Miami, helped customers navigate the issue of meeting in person (with guidance on how to ship items) and how to conduct a no-contact pickup.

Splendor Revival, a vintage store in Columbus, Ohio, found a way to stay afloat by offering a monthly subscription box of handmade, small batch items. Each box had a theme and might include a hand-painted mug and curated selection of tea, for instance. In addition to helping the store survive, the program had the ability to help sustain other local businesses, artists and makers.

All of these are proof that retail innovation continues — and might just provide a way forward.

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