One of the big movements we’ve seen this year has been around sustainable consumption. There are companies whose entire product line centers around this (Package Free Shop) and there are companies who offer a new way to consume that in turn promotes sustainability. Resale and rental are two such methods (more on this in our June monthly newsletter). Resale is no longer associated only with second-hand vintage products or thrift stores, it is now accepted and thriving with luxury goods.
The RealReal, the largest online resale marketplace for luxury goods, went public last month. They recently opened a store on the Upper East Side where you can shop a selection of their merchandise and bring in your own items for consignment. The store on Madison Avenue offers a well curated selection of their luxury products across apparel, handbags, shoes, jewelry / watches and furniture. The curation of products is very clearly geared to the Madison Avenue crowd (if you have any doubts about where you are, the diamond display in the center of the room is a helpful reminder). By nature of the product being second-hand, each item is quite literally one-of-a-kind which keeps you engaged and interested while browsing. The merchandise in store is constantly changing (60% of their products are sold within 30 days) which encourages you to come back and see what’s new. While I had always heard about how high quality the RealReal merchandise is, seeing it first hand showed how unique and impressive the selection is.
Perhaps we didn’t make the best first impression by snapping a picture while walking in. But instead of gently reprimanding us, the store associate was quite harsh (no, we didn’t have permission from corporate) and continued to watch us while we explored the store. Setting aside this interaction, clearly they are doing something right in this regard because they have such a loyal community: 53% of their sellers are also buyers and ~80% of GMV is recurring. That being said, I find it ironic that as a “modern luxury” brand, which typically stands for inclusivity, the RealReal felt so exclusive. Had we gone to their store downtown it may have been a different experience but perhaps they should try to make this store feel welcome to everyone.
The Upper East Side location is designed to blend in with its neighborhood. Whereas the Soho location carries a whole selection of designer sneakers and athleisure, this store was more heavily weighted towards elegant women's wear and designer heels. The store didn’t feel overwhelming and chaotic in the way you may expect from a resale store, it was very much a luxury experience with items carefully spaced out and displayed around the first floor. On the second floor you can bring in your own items to be reviewed and authenticated for potential consignment. Now that you’ve cleared out your closet and filled your bank account, good luck heading downstairs and not starting the cycle all over again.
The RealReal has executed impressively on a great concept and their loyal following is testament to that. While the company is part of a modern movement, the Upper East Side store itself did not feel approachable and inclusive in the way we have come to expect from modern brands. That being said, the merchandise they carry is unique and exciting enough that I would definitely want to return. Perhaps next time though I will try the Soho location.
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