Commentary

Will Nordstrom Add Anything New With Its Used-Clothes Model?


With so many retailers moseying into used-clothing sales, it’s tough to imagine how they’ll all capture consumers’ attention. But Nordstrom’s introduction of See You Tomorrow, in partnership with Yerdle, may have some built-in style advantages -- maybe even enough to ease some of re-commerce’s biggest problems.

Nordstrom is offering used items both online and at its new New York City flagship. And although there’s already a bewildering sea of resale out there, See You Tomorrow is starting small.

It’s curated by Olivia Kim, vice president of creative projects at Nordstrom, the style-maker behind its many pop-up shops, too.  See You Tomorrow  promises a collection of “thoughtfully edited” pieces from highly coveted brands, an experience that “encourages a sense of discovery.”

It’s too early to tell, but a strong point of view might be the difference-maker. Right now, the RealReal and Fashionphile, which partners with Neiman Marcus, are ahead of Nordstrom in serving the growing stampede for luxury goods sold online. ThredUp -- combining ecommerce with small retail shops within stores like Macy’s and JC Penney -- and competitor Poshmark both offer millions of ways shoppers can feel happy about getting a good deal and helping the environment.

But I’ll go right ahead and say the unpopular thing: Buying used clothes is still way too hard.

Yes, I admire all those thrifters and influencers showing off their finds. But for many of us, it’s hit or miss. Of course, lightning can strike, whether it’s a Burberry cardigan or a value-priced parka. Every time you slip it on, you feel equal parts fashionable, frugal and climate warrior.

But more likely, you wait several days for pants that are a little rump-sprung, sweaters with baggy elbows or a perfect dress that’s just too small.

I’m upbeat about the resale market, long-term. Today’s consumers are so motivated about lessening fashion’s impact on the planet that they’ll suffer through the inconveniences. And retailers and D2C brands alike will find better ways to serve them.

Wells Fargo’s forecast that the $24 billion resale market in will continue to grow at about 15% a year, compared to 2% for the overall market of about $400 billion, is compelling.

But stores and e-tailers have much to learn, and I suspect Nordstrom will offer plenty of lessons. To start out, it’s stocking up with items returned to the store that it will clean, repair and refurbish. New Yorkers can also bring their used items in, and get Nordstrom gift cards in return. It also plans an online intake program that starts soon.

The retailer  alsiso using the shop as another way to highlight brand partnerships, starting with Ganni, a Danish brand. And it’s even feeding people, with an in-store café serving sustainable market items, including juices, salads and grain bowls.

For now, we’ll see how well Nordstrom can do in making the resale experience feel inherently rewarding, rather than like a musty good deed.

2 comments about "Will Nordstrom Add Anything New With Its Used-Clothes Model?".
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  1. Ron Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, February 3, 2020 at 5:19 p.m.

    The cost/benefit model for retailers selling used clothing is not apparent to me. Perhaps it is viewed as a way to build traffic as the customers supporting this concept will have to visit the store often to find something they like in their size and at a price they will pay. However, this market niche is not apt to be a good prospect to buy new merchandise from the store. 

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 3, 2020 at 8:10 p.m.

    Unless the resales are at bargain prices, people will move on. Shoppers know prices and quality for the price and there is no haggling at the stores. Handbags may do better. Lord and Taylor is selling Louis Vittone second hand bags and they don't sell new bags of the same brand which,come to think of it, may be a clue to may help resales. 

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