How Vestiaire Collective is riding the resale wave in a pandemic
In Luxury fashion, distinctive styles are categorized through a medley of social status, personal preference, longevity and value. As we move along the 21st century, buying and selling of preowned luxury goods is gaining immense popularity, shaking off any negative connotations often associated with ‘second-hand goods. According to a study by Bain & Company, secondhand market for personal luxury goods has grown 9% per year since 2015.
But why the boom in recent years?
We see trends exploding on social media overnight. People are rethinking their wardrobes all the time.
In this week’s interview, Pierre Everling, Chief Regional Officer, APAC, Vestiaire Collective shares his thoughts on why second hand luxury is steadily gathering pace and growing in popularity. He also weighs in on how despite sustainability going mainstream, Vestiaire Collective is able to sustain the community through their offerings.
What are the top trends you are witnessing in the second-hand luxury products marketplace?
“We have recently released our first bi-annual fashion report "Smart Side of Fashion", which blends insights and data from our community with global intelligence and market research to understand how the circular economy has adapted, even in moments of profound uncertainty, and also shows how resale lights the way for a better future for fashion. Some of our key findings are:
Rise in vintage
The supply of new items continue to be affected by access - including delayed manufacturing, blocked supply chains, closed stores, and a reduced desire for ‘In Real Life’ shopping. Our community is looking to vintage pieces to slake their shopping thirst. With more time at hand, our community has more time to research overall purchases, and because they are buying fewer items, they are investing more time in each one.
It is evident with the ‘come back’ of certain notable stars including John Galliano’s sought-after RTW (+49% YoY increase in sales volume for vintage items from these brands) and the Ghesquière-era Balenciaga (+186% *Year-on-year increase in sales volume for vintage items from these brands).
Moreover, vintage is more affordable, comes with built-in exclusivity, and has the added bonus that it could be resold for a similar price - more if well-chosen and well looked after.
The COVID-19 crisis has thrown into sharp focus our effect on the planet, and after months of being locked up, the way we consume. An unintended consequence of the virus has been to accelerate conversations that were being held internally in the fashion industry around sustainability, circularity, environmental impact and responsible consumption. These conversations which have been bubbling under for some time have now been thrust into the limelight, and will only increase as the year unfolds.
We are seeing a rise in brands taking a step in the right direction and embedding sustainability in their designs. At the forefront of the movement, Stella Mcartney and Rejina Pyo, with 26% and 22% growth in volume of deposits. With tons of information on climate change and social impacts, luxury brands are under increasing pressure to respond.
Cashing in on luxury pieces
Impulsive shopping is likely to be replaced by carefully sourced items, with people reverting to purchasing more classic, well-made items that will stand the test of time style-wise, and prove to be savvy investments for the future. This trend is already visible in our APAC community, who have sought to cash in on their hard luxury purchases, with increased deposits of Rolex +373%, Hermes +48% volume in deposits.”
What creative solutions have you embraced to boost sales and facilitate engagement with your customers during the pandemic?
“For a start, community remains at heart of Vestiaire Collective. We have over 10 million members, from over 100 countries worldwide ranging from Europe to America to Asia Pacific, and it is of paramount importance that we deliver an environment that allows for maximum engagement.
With the rise of social commerce, social media has become an increasingly important tool for us to stay connected with our customers. During this time, we launched #homemadeby VC where we ask our community through Instagram what sort of content they would like to see. We received an overwhelming response asking to connect with team members at Vestiaire Collective. In turn, we launched a social media project where we profiled the closets of some of our colleagues.
We also launched a series of charity sales around the world as a means to give back to our community and to raise funds for those in need during the pandemic. International celebrities such as Kate Moss and Thandie Newton participated in our charity sale where proceeds of their items (including 100% of our commission) was donated fundraising efforts arranged by the World Health Organization.
We even ran an APAC version of the charity sale to help our local community and partnered with the Hong Kong and Singapore Red Cross.”
Why is there a transition from clicks to bricks amidst the so-called ‘retail apocalypse’?
“Vestiaire Collective started as and is still primarily a digital platform. The advantage of an online platform is that it has no space limit. At the same time, physical partnerships and collaborations with retailers is important because it creates physical touch points for us to engage with customers and educate them. It allows us to increase the visibility of our business and to show the uniqueness of our products while representing the parenthesis of our activity. Although, the current situation does not allow for more physical partnerships such as the one with Selfridges but who knows what the future will bring!”
In terms of sustaining your community - How can you integrate engagement through the app?
“The company launched over 10 years ago and at the time we disrupted the marketplace: we offered a trusted, inspiring platform where pre-loved goods can be shared. A safe global platform for the community to buy and sell top of the range and pre-owned luxury clothes and accessories.
Now, more than ever, we are listening to and engaging with our community. We have various features that have been launched and some which are work in progress that will help to 'gamify' the user experience on our app. Since the start of this year, we have released new app features that places our community at the forefront through:
- Newsfeed - buyers can follow their favourite accounts/sellers and be notified of their instant activity. It sieves through all the post to keep buyers on track with what matters most to them.
- Wish lists - mark certain items as your favorites and receive instant price updates once the seller drops their prices
- Alerts - Input all the criteria for your dream bag for instance or 'the one that got away' and be instantly notified the second anyone around the world lists this item for sale.
- Make Offers: buyers and sellers can engage in up to 3 rounds of price negotiations, at up to 30% off the listed prices.
- Upcoming Plans: Launch of buyer and seller chat - currently in testing phase but will be rolled out in HK (Asia) in the coming weeks or months
All in all, Vestiaire Collective is many things at once; a tech company, a fashion company and an answer to a more circular economy. Our focus is always on increasing awareness of the pre-loved community, be it through brick-and-mortar or online.”
Although luxury consumers are less likely to, at least for the time being, adopt the 'fewer, better things' mantra that environmentalists have been advocating over the past decade, they are definitely seeking out investment pieces. The heightened interest in the second hand luxury market seems to be fueled by the current economic cycle and a general shift in consumer sentiment. But unlike loyalty to a particular luxury brand, can consumers be loyal to just one platform? These marketplaces will need to reinvent themselves constantly to keep up with consumers wants and likes.
Pierre spoke extensively as part of the keynote panel “Aligning your community to your business objectives” on day 2 of the eTail Asia & ANZ Virtual Summit.
You can catch on-demand replays of the discussion here.