With the brands shoppers are looking for and Instagram-ready service, online consignment retailer thredUP brings a luxury experience to bargain secondhand shopping. In this episode, President Anthony Marino joins Retail Gets Real to talk about how thredUP is blazing a trail in the $24 billion secondhand market.
Marino spent seven years working for Richard Branson at the Virgin Group, where he’d specialized in taking industries that had been “left for dead” — airlines, banks, trains, telecommunications — and making them “sexy with substance,” he says. “When I saw what thredUP was trying to do with secondhand, it felt like a chapter out of the Virgin Playbook.”
With 30,000 new arrivals every day and 100,000 items being processed, thredUP is no small operation. At the beginning, the company handled inventory by hand, taking photos with cell phones and uploading them to the website. The challenge was getting over “that bridge from a manual operation where we were handcrafting the processes,” Marino says, “to one where we were then automating the processes and software, to one that we were then automating in hardware.”
The company’s distribution facilities have conveyor technology that can handle more than 2 million items on hangers and process and fulfill orders within 60 seconds. “We take hundreds of millions of photographs every year across 35,000 brands,” Marino says. “There are people involved, and there are cameras and computers involved.”
The thredUP experience isn’t confined to digital; “thredUP IRL” locations offer services including returns of online purchases, styling appointments and special events. The company has five stores in California and pop-up stores in department stores throughout the United States. “A lot of retailers have a different mindset today than they had five years ago,” he says — they’re thinking creatively about their space and looking for different sources of content. Offering secondhand brands the store might not carry could add value, Marino says, “especially if that content is clothing that attracts a younger customer, and especially if it’s clothing that can be refreshed regularly.”
ThredUP’s research shows that people would buy more from their favorite retailers if they also sold secondhand; the market is projected to reach $50 billion in five years. “When you look at the people who are shopping secondhand, it’s across all age groups,” Marino says. “It’s people who love brands. They love deals. They love to have fun. A big part of our product strategy is to make the experience fun.”