REI has refreshed its used gear website with new brands and more product categories, plus a series of member-to-member gear swaps and a team of employees dedicated to getting lightly used products into the mix.
On average, products from REI.com/used can be had for up to 65% less than buying the same items new, according to a company press release. The company said that mid-weight down and synthetic jackets are its most-sold used items, and women's apparel is the most popular category.
The outdoor retailer first launched sales of used gear last fall but has also sold lightly used product (returned under its 100% satisfaction guarantee policy) at in-store "garage sales" for years, the company said.
REI is just the latest retailer to realize how e-commerce leads to sales of used apparel and gear.
Because the company's original "garage sales" were relegated to stores, their assortment and customer reach were limited to each location's geography. Launching the effort online last year expanded both, and its beta test in the first 10 months "has been successful beyond all expectation, which tells us there is an inherent appetite for high-quality, lightly used product at lower price points," Peter Whitcomb, REI's director of strategy and leader of the co-op's used gear efforts, said in a statement.
It's not a channel to be taken lightly. The total U.S. apparel resale market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 13% from $18 billion in 2016 to $33 billion in 2021, according to Coresight Research. Secondhand apparel site ThredUp calculates that the resale retail market is on pace to reach $41 billion by 2022, with 49% in apparel, according to its own report released earlier this year.
So-called "re-commerce" upstarts are growing 20 times faster than the broader retail market and five times faster than off-price retailers, which offer a similar treasure hunt, according to Coresight. Clothing, shoes and accessories currently make up 49% of total U.S. resale sales, Coresight said.
Running its own page dedicated to resale offers REI key benefits, including mitigating the expense associated with the rise in returns that is also precipitated by online sales, and it's also a way to maintain control of its brand, according to business-to-business marketplace B Stock.
Plus, consumers not only appreciate the discounts inherent in buying used goods, but also the sustainability aspect, B Stock notes. REI is amplifying that selling point, which fits squarely with its environmental ethos.
"As long as people are enjoying the outdoors, they'll need gear to power their adventures," Greg Gausewitz, REI's manager of product sustainability, said in a statement. "If you're an outdoor enthusiast looking to reduce your environmental footprint, you can approach this from both ends: by looking for more sustainably made products at the outset, and by getting more life out of existing products by purchasing used gear."