J.C. Penney on Thursday said it will begin selling secondhand women's fashion from ThredUp in 30 stores as early as this week.
Curated seasonal assortments of used handbags and women's apparel from ThredUp will be found in 500-to-1,000 sq. ft. spaces in select markets, according to a company press release.
The news comes one day after Macy's announced a pilot with ThredUp concessions in 40 stores nationwide.
ThredUp's brick-and-mortar strategy appears to be centered on partnerships with major retail chains. In addition to Macy's and now J.C. Penney, the secondhand apparel purveyor sells clothing through Stage Stores.
Like Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette, who told analysts on Wednesday that ThredUp will help the retailer offer labels it doesn't normally sell and is a way to attract younger customers interested in the value and sustainability interest in buying secondhand, J.C. Penney Chief Merchant Michelle Wlazlo noted the rise of resale in her statement Thursday.
A great majority (64%) of women last year bought second-hand fashion or "are open" to it, up from 45% in 2016, according to ThredUp's most recent resale report. A quarter of department store shoppers also buy used goods, ThredUp found, with enthusiasm found among shoppers of all generations, with 33% of millennials, 31% of baby boomers, 20% of Gen X and 16% of Gen Z buying used fashion.
"There's an emotional thrill that comes with finding one-of-a-kind secondhand product for much less," Wlazlo said. "While there are more secondhand shoppers than ever before, we'll continue to test and evaluate how this resonates with customers. We're excited about the prospect of creating a new in-store experience that makes high-end brands attainable, as well as catering to eco-minded consumers who want more sustainable options in their wardrobe."
Penney has another key partnership that has buoyed the struggling discount department store for years now — its Sephora concessions, usually placed in the middle of its stores, is among its most successful sales areas.
Women's apparel, by contrast, has been a weak spot. Under new CEO Jill Soltau, a merchandiser herself, the retailer once again has a chief merchandising officer, after cutting the position two years ago, and in recent months brought on former Guess General Merchandise Manager Victor Ejarque Lopez to tackle the category. The retailer has failed to regain its footing in women's apparel even after a drastic reset in 2017 when it swept away most of its offering just before the holidays.
The ThredUp play is a rare innovative move from Penney, but GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders isn't sure it can handle it well, saying that most of its stores "are in no fit state to facilitate growth," with their ranges and environments "all at odds with exciting and enticing customers."
"There are some signs that JCP wants to change this, such as its moderately reformatted stores in Texas where it is trialing new ideas," he said in emailed comments. Another is the partnership with ThredUp, he said, but warned that "the impact of this is somewhat undermined by the fact Macy's is also teaming up with thredUP. But these things are small scale and we believe some bigger, bolder initiatives — such as high profile launches of own-brand ranges — are needed to move the dial."