Walmart is Entering the Used Clothing Industry
As companies like Rent the Runway and Stitch Fix continue to experiment with the rental and subscription box model for affordable and sustainable clothing options, Walmart has taken a different approach. In an attempt to maintain profitable momentum during the current economic crisis, Walmart has chosen to diversify their fashion sector by tapping into the resale market. In a new partnership with ThredUp, one of the largest online clothing resale businesses, Walmart shoppers have the option to browse second-hand clothing with the added free shipping on $35+ purchases. As more businesses capitalize on the sustainable and economical advantages of resale, this strategy is a clear indication that when given the opportunity for partnership, resale businesses have real opportunities to scale and profit.
The partnership is strategic because of Walmart’s cornerstone mission - everyday low prices. As second-hand clothing is significantly less expensive than its originally marked, this gives shoppers who might already be shopping thrift stores for value opportunities easier access to them. This is also a clever opportunity for Walmart to bring in names that otherwise wouldn’t sell their product at the value-based retailer. On www.walmart.com/thredup, brands like Coach, Michael Kors, Neiman Marcus, J.Crew, and even Zara are listed. It will be interesting to see as this business scales if Walmart will face pushback from the brands it lists.
Coming from a person who is a sustainability advocate, this seems like a positive partnership as it promotes the scaling of sustainability and gives it a wider, more accessible platform. However, oftentimes second-hand stores are based in good-will initiatives like donating surplus clothing or donating proceeds to charities. I fear that as corporations take inspiration from this partnership in efforts to scale resale, they lose some of the charm and purpose that many second-hand stores are based in. Additionally, it would be interesting to see how other resale brands moving forward seek opportunities like this to scale. As it stands, one of the biggest challenges with online resale is bringing inventory online. As most local thrift stores often rely on their community to bring it business, perhaps partnerships like this, as well as other online resale platforms like Poshmark and Depop, will inspire brick and mortar thrift stores to move online.
Though I am personally wary when large corporations take on initiatives for profit that are originally initiatives based in sustainability, from what I can gage this has thus far been a positive partnership. It proves that sustainability is scalable, and emphasizes the importance of closing the loop in terms of repurposing clothes that otherwise would contribute to landfill.
BY Adi Shoham