American Eagle hopes to make secondhand apparel a primary consideration for shoppers

Photo (c) Kanawa Studio - Getty Images

Sustainability is a key component

If anyone has a crystal ball or knows a good genie, we’d be all ears. Consumer prices are all over the place from month to month – prices of new cars are up, prices of used cars are down, the cost of travel is up overall, but gasoline prices are down.

One consumer category that doesn’t get tracked a lot is apparel. But it’s evident that things are shifting there, too. As consumers become more conscious about the environmental impact of their purchases, secondhand shopping has emerged as a popular trend. 

“Data reveals that rising costs really are forcing consumers to rethink their habits — including spending and shopping — and many Americans are more likely to buy secondhand items than they were in the fall of last year,” said Nicole Mitchell, senior knowledge specialist on Dynata’s Research Science team. “This shift could potentially result in a positive trend for retailers looking to offer more sustainable options and grow their Gen Z and millennials customers.” 

There are a lot of Gen Z and millennials buying into the secondhand concept – 71% and 74% respectively according to Dynata’s Global Consumer Trends – and that very pivot point is something that American Eagle Outfitters is making a big bet on.

On Monday, American Eagle (AE) announced the launch of RE/AE, a resale shop of secondhand and exclusive vintage American Eagle (AE) clothing – items it curated itself and is making available to consumers at ThredUp.

Trying to distance itself from the eBays and Poshmarks of the world, AE said its new venture will enable it to deliver customizable, scalable resale experiences to shoppers as well as an augmented reality (AR) experience available on Snapchat showcasing its inaugural 200-piece collection, which includes jeans, jackets, mini-skirts, dresses, and accessories.

Mitchell said that sustainability is key for Gen Z'ers and millennials, and upwards of 60% in perceived value -- a fact not lost on AE. Throughout the site, shoppers will learn more about certain items' impact on secondhand sustainability.

How good are the prices and the quality?

When ConsumerAffairs looked at what RE/AE was offering in its resale store, the discounts on its “pre-loved” items are probably worth shoppers consideration. There were jeans at 52% off estimated retail, a skirt at 58% off, and a long sleeve blouse at 69% off.

The company said those discounted prices “represent the estimated original retail price of a comparable item of the same quality, construction and material offered elsewhere in new condition.”

AE is not alone

While AE’s partner in this venture, ThredUp, may not be a household name, it’s on the rise in the apparel secondhand market. Quietly, it’s signed up a who’s who of other apparel companies who see secondhand clothing as a safe bet given the current economy. Already signed up to use ThredUp’s resale-as-a-service platform are 40 brands including H&M, J. Crew, Francesca’s, Kate Spade, and Target.

There are two other secondhand platforms worth mentioning: Trove, which counts among its partners Carhartt, Patagonia, REI, Levi’s, Lululemon and Recurate, which has a partnership in place with Juicy Couture, Steve Madden, Michael Kors, and others.

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