Discover more from Future Commerce
Season 1 Episode 6
December 7, 2021

Make It Once, Sell It 2,3,4 Times

Today Ingrid has a conversation with Wilson Griffin of Recurate to talk about why and how brands can take charge of their secondhand market capitalization while doing the most impactful thing a fashion brand can do where it's sustainability.

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This Episode Sponsored by:

Infinite Shelf - Chatdesk
Infinite Shelf - Opinew
Infinite Shelf - Givz

Today Ingrid has a conversation with Wilson Griffin of Recurate to talk about why and how brands can take charge of their secondhand market capitalization while doing the most impactful thing a fashion brand can do where it's sustainability. 

Can I gain value in this purchase? 

  • {00:06:00} “But I love the concept that you're sort of taking the brands away from this pattern of create something, sell something, create something, sell something. Where it's like, create something and then sell it. And then sell it again.” - Ingrid
  • {00:11:15} “So clearly, there is so much benefit to creating something once and selling it more than once. Dear CFOs, if you're listening, that's where your ears perk up. But now to the brand marketers and the people who are trying really, really hard to develop this unique brand connection with their consumers, here's another really rich place to mine for those moments.” - Ingrid
  • {00:16:38} “I mean, I just shared that anecdote, but also if a brand is going to encourage and promote resale on their site, that is such a vote of confidence from that brand that their products are going to last and are going to hold up. So it's just a subtle but really strong way for brand to stand behind their products and their quality. We also talk about this idea of sort of de-risking that initial purchase.” - Wilson
  • {00:18:22} “I am probably going to buy something new, but I'm going to pull the trigger even faster because I know that when I'm done with it, I'll be able to resell it.” - Ingrid
  • {00:26:41} “And so this one to one relationship and the authentication component, is also, I think, really important. Because me, if I'm buying something second hand, I want to make sure that it's real. And so the fact that you can only sell something from this history of buying it from the brand is a really big stop gap.” - Ingrid

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Ingrid: [00:00:06] Hello and welcome to Infinite Shelf, the human centric retail podcast. I'm your host, Ingrid Milman Cordy. When the topic of sustainability comes up in the context of retail, let's be honest, we get a little bit uncomfortable. And if you're in fashion retail, even more so. It's impossible to escape all the memories, all of those seasons, the collection after collection being designed, created, marketed and sold, never to be thought of again outside of your four walls of your, you know, New York City skyscraper where your brand headquarters are. But we know, we know somewhere all of these garments exist. We hope that they are being worn and loved year after year. But we also know that there are a lot of other outcomes that are far less romantic. One of the better outcomes is the resale market, a market that's worth about $36 billion as of 2020 and is estimated to grow to about $77 billion in just five years. The market is made up of companies like Poshmark, ThredUp, eBay. For the cool kids, there's Depop. For high end secondhand items, there's The RealReal. If that happens to sound like a lot of market value and growth opportunity and not a whole lot of competition, well, that's because the brands whose items are filling the carts are nowhere to be found at this party. That's why I had to invite Wilson Griffin, Co-Founder and COO of Recurate, onto the show today. We have an enlightening conversation about why, and more importantly, how brands can take charge of their secondhand market capitalization while doing the most impactful thing a fashion brand can do for it's sustainability. There are not a whole lot of topics that appeal to your CMO, your sustainability leader and your CFO. But this, this is one of them. Welcome, Wilson Griffin. I'm so happy you're here! So Wilson is the Co-Founder and COO of Recurate. Do you want to just tell everyone what Recurate does?

Wilson: [00:02:56] Yeah, absolutely. And again, just thank you for having me and really excited to connect with your audience. So Recurate is an eCommerce software. What we do is allow brands to activate their customers by launching resale programs directly on their eCommerce sites. So imagine the customer behavior of Poshmark or eBay and individual customers buying and selling directly to each other. We take that exact same customer behavior and we bring it back into the brand's environment where that original customer bought that item. They'll sell it through the brand and the resale buyer will buy it through the brand. And for us, this is sort of what we see as the next evolution of sustainable shopping.

Ingrid: [00:03:44] It's so, so cool. And there are so many things that I want to talk to you about this, both from like the consumer human perspective, but then also from decision makers. And so when I think about selling this in, I think about the impacts that it can have on our revenue streams. And there's definitely a conversation that is hosted with like our CFO about if I can write him a letter or her a letter about why this makes sense, you and I were talking about this a little bit earlier, and I just think that, wow, it actually just writes itself. Do you want to talk a little bit about why this is such a beautiful thing for financial minded folks?

Wilson: [00:04:26] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Typically when we're engaging with the brand, we start the conversation by doing some research, and we can go to that CFO and we can say, "Ok, we scraped some data. Here's how many of your products are selling today on second hand markets, and you have no idea who those buyers are, who those sellers are. You don't have access to all the rich data that would come from those transactions. Everything from what is the average resale price point on these items to how long do my products last? When do people tend to decide that they're ready to move on from them?" So we just see resale as a tremendous opportunity to expand price access, bring more people into the brand, offer just a unique, different, new value proposition and way for customers to engage and just creating more touchpoints between the customer and the brand. And then probably most importantly, for that CFO to do so in a way that's profitable, that actually adds to top line revenue. These are sales and transactions that otherwise you wouldn't be executing, and we're bringing them right back to you.

Ingrid: [00:05:43] Yeah, it's like, there's this party happening where people are buying your brand and you are not even invited to the party. So why don't you just host the party on your own site? And then you learn from the data and all of those, of course, like important things. But I love the concept that you're sort of taking the brands away from this pattern of create something, sell something, create something, sell something. Where it's like, create something and then sell it. And then sell it again. The CFO person has been potentially one of the bigger people that can benefit the most, but also haven't necessarily seen the value. And I think there's also the concept of what sustainability means to a consumer too right? So let's think about the typical stereotype of someone who cares about sustainable products. And to me, if I'm being just really, really real, it's someone who has the means to be able to care about sustainable brands and being able to care about paying a little bit more for a better quality. And so Recurate can help people who can't necessarily afford to spend money on a more sustainable brand for that first purchase, but can definitely be part of sustainability and value in that repurchase.

Wilson: [00:07:11] Yeah, yeah, there's so much good stuff in that question, but yeah, it's a privilege for a customer to be able to make their purchasing decisions, not just based off of cost. And we want to support brands that are making great, high quality, long lasting products with good supply chain practices. We want to reward those companies and brands by giving them an opportunity to sell that product that initial time, but also to sell it again at a lower price point. And then to your point, that offers an opportunity for a customer who may not be able to afford that brand new to buy a sustainable, high quality product, maybe at a price point that they otherwise wouldn't be able to. So we really see it as a win/win, both for the brand as a reward for operating responsibly and making quality products, and then just a massive opportunity to get their products into their closets of more customers and just be accessible and relevant for a broader swath of potential buyers.

Ingrid: [00:08:24] Totally. And so how did you... Let's back up one hundred feet, and just figure out like, how did you start Recurate? What inspired you? Where did you come from? How did you get to now?

Wilson: [00:08:38] Yeah, yeah. So my background is in sustainability. I worked for Gap Inc, the parent company for Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta, et cetera, in a sustainability role. And there's so much great work being done at a company like Gap Inc, but also across the industry on making products better and more sustainably, more efficiently. And I think that that's incredibly important, exciting work, but it is very incremental. How can we continue to make the products that we make and do it a little bit more efficiently? And that's very commendable. And I think it's great. And what we do at Recurate is we take that more sustainable product and then we sell it multiple times. And that is the opposite of incremental. That is allowing a brand to manufacture something once and monetize it two, three, four times. And that's really when you start to think about sort of the revenue compared to the manufacturing impact of a brand or a supply chain. The best way that you can sort of affect that ratio is by selling things multiple times, but only manufacturing them once.

Ingrid: [00:10:05] Totally.

Wilson: [00:10:06] I became really excited about this idea and from my background working for a brand, to me it seemed inevitable that brands were going to see this customer behavior of buying and selling second hand, and they were going to say, "Hey, wait a second. All these other marketplaces are engaging customers, my customers with my product, and I want to figure out a way to take that in-house."

Ingrid: [00:10:35] Right.

Wilson: [00:10:36] So we started re curate, and that's really how we see ourselves as a resale, as a service for our brand partners, giving them the technology, the tools, the strategy, the knowhow so that they can launch these resale channels and build bigger, better, more sustainable businesses.

Ingrid: [00:10:58]  [00:10:58]That's incredible. I'm actually so sorry, Chris. This is where I'm going to interject. I'm going to like re restart the podcast from that end part. So like, pretend I didn't ask you any of the other questions because I want to lead up to the CFO thing. I just FYI, so I'm just going to now respond to what you just said and then start. It over, so. [00:11:17] Well, that's incredible, I think there's just so much that I want to pick up and pick apart from this, and one of those things trigger... One of the things that you just said triggered something for me, which is about the potential for having a community that is connected to your brand that is beyond just that first transaction. So clearly, there is so much benefit to creating something once and selling it more than once. Dear CFOs, if you're listening, that's where your ears perk up. But now to the brand marketers and the people who are trying really, really hard to develop this unique brand connection with their consumers, here's another really rich place to mine for those moments. And not only are you connecting with your brand, but you're also having this real education perspective of like what people are selling, how frequently they're selling it, why they're selling it, and this whole party is happening kind of without you in the Thredups of the world and of the Poshmarks of the world and Buffalo Exchange, all of those places. But now if you host it, man, that's like the brand connection and then first party data, all of these lights have just turned on for me. Do you see that? What do you think?

Wilson: [00:12:33] Yeah, that's such a great question, Ingrid. And we've seen such rich data come through for our brands, everything from how long customers hold on to things to what the resale value is. And then the point about community is such a good one, just one little anecdote. One of our brand partners is Peak Design. They do high end camera gear and bags. One of their previous customers listed literally one of the first products, a first generation product that Peak Design had manufactured. He was a documentary filmmaker, and he listed this product, and I don't remember the exact words, but said that it hurt him inside a little bit to be parting with this item, but that it had taken him all over the world, that he had gone to Africa multiple times on film shoots. This was his bag. In his listing, he included sort of what his filmmaker carry package was and everything that he stuffed in this bag.

Ingrid: [00:13:34] Oh I love that.

Wilson: [00:13:35] He included a photo of him out in the field using the bag. And it was just like you couldn't write a better ad for the brand or the product.

Ingrid: [00:13:46] Right. Totally.

Wilson: [00:13:46] And hey, this is a professional who use this for 10 years, loved it. So there's things like that that just can come out through these resale channels by giving your customers a voice and an opportunity to share those types of stories. And then hopefully, some aspiring filmmaker saw that and was like, "I want that bag. I don't just want any bag. I want that bag." So I think, yeah, so cool. So we get really excited about those aspects. But you know, there's more technical things too, like how to zippers and buttons hold up over years? How long do men aged 30 to 45 hang on to a pair of jeans before they decide they want something else? And we can really get pretty specific at a product level, a demographic level on how these customers behave.

Ingrid: [00:15:40] So fascinating, especially in a world where the privacy concerns are super, super high, just creating a world in which genuinely you're just mining your own data and like rich user generated feedback and content, and all of those things. Just like the fact that you're able to enable that for brands is so cool. And that's truly just a byproduct of the ability that they're able to actually tout that they're being more sustainable, not contributing to climate change and all of these things that truly I think everyone cares about now. I think we've maybe hopefully gotten to a place where it's no longer just this like niche world. I think like each generation, certainly Gen Z, but also all the way through have like learned to care about this in a new way that I just think is going to be totally to your point, earlier, just the future. It's going to be an element that you use to filter what brands you want to have a relationship with.

Wilson: [00:16:48] Yeah, yeah. And there's also just some really interesting marketing opportunities, but authentic ones that come out of this. I mean, I just shared that anecdote, but also if a brand is going to encourage and promote resale on their site, that is such a vote of confidence from that brand that their products are going to last and are going to hold up. So it's just a subtle but really strong way for brand to stand behind their products and their quality. We also talk about this idea of sort of de-risking that initial purchase.

Ingrid: [00:17:27] Oh yeah.

Wilson: [00:17:29] Someone's going to pay three or four hundred dollars for an item, that's a big outlay for a lot of people, for most people. But if at the same time they can go into the resale market and see that item selling for two hundred dollars after it's been used for a year, that completely changes the math in their head of how much they need to pay for this.

Ingrid: [00:17:53] Definitely.

Wilson: [00:17:53] They know, "Hey, when I'm done with it, I'll be able to get 50 percent, 60 percent of the value back out of it." And all of a sudden, it's just a much different sort of mental calculation to have them make that purchase.

Ingrid: [00:18:07] Oh, for sure. And I think, you know, you're definitely going to get the people who are like, "Why would I buy it new when I can just buy it resold?" Which is fine, but that person was probably already going to buy it resold anyway. They were just going to go somewhere else, and now you can actually host that transaction anyway. And so, yeah, I think for me, at least, like when I'm going to spend an investment on a particular item or something like that because of the story and the connection to the brand and the fact that I trust that they are actually creating something that is ethical in all of the different ways, and I think we should talk about that too, I've made this decision to partner with this brand. I am probably going to buy something new, but I'm going to pull the trigger even faster because I know that when I'm done with it, I'll be able to resell it.

Wilson: [00:18:54] Yeah, yeah.

Ingrid: [00:18:55] Yeah, that's so cool.

Wilson: [00:18:56] Absolutely.

Ingrid: [00:18:57] One of the things as a consumer that I witness in people who I really think are really smart and are values oriented people, but they have been trained, and I have been trained, to assume that fashion should be inexpensive. And there's like the Zaras of the world and H&M and all the sort of fast fashion places. I happen to really love Old Navy. And so on the surface, when I see something cost x amount, I'm like, "Oh wow, that's a great deal. Of course, I'm going to buy that." And I feel like I'm sort of winning in this game. But then now that I understand a little bit more about how it got to there to that price, I actually think twice now. And so I imagine there's an element of that in terms of creation and the types of brands that you partner with that understand the actual like other elements that cause something to be so low in price that if we just spread a little bit more awareness to why something is that low in price, especially to the people who want to be more thoughtful consumers, they would never buy that shirt for nine dollars because there's just no way that that shirt that was nine dollars was created in an ethical manner.

Wilson: [00:20:16] Yeah. Couldn't agree more. And you know, at some point, brands competing at that degree on price is really a race to the bottom because at some point it's going to reach a point where the price does not actually encompass the raw materials and the labor and the transportation and the environmental impact that came with manufacturing that product. And I don't know if we've reached that point yet with certain products, but for me, as a sustainability advocate, that's a really sort of scary proposition. So I couldn't agree more on that. And we do see resale as a way to give customers some of the benefits of "fast fashion." Selection and being able to turn over their closet more frequently without the guilt that comes along with buying new items super cheap that maybe you don't actually feel that good about buying, but the price is kind of like too good to pass up, and we really hope that resale can be an alternative to that. If younger customers want that turnover and that frequency in their closet, and they want products that sort of have a story behind them, we see resale and used items, and this has played out in vintage for years as a great way for people to get that feeling without necessarily the environmental impact of purchasing new products and in crazy volumes.

Ingrid: [00:21:57] Yeah, oh man. So all of the variety and none of the guilt.

Wilson: [00:22:02] Exactly. That's what we're hoping to create. And for our brands too, to incentivize them to make those high quality products that are made to last and will maintain their relevancy. We hope that it's sort of a reinforcing cycle that as customers become more comfortable buying and selling second hand, brands are further incentivized to make sure their products lasts and have timeless designs, and they'll just sort of keep building on itself.

Ingrid: [00:23:38] And brands can just, if they're hosting it, man, they could just make it so much easier too. In the package that they ship to you, they can just give you the bag or whatever that you'll end up selling it back into or selling the last thing that you bought. So there's like even a loyalty and retention component here where it's like, yeah, it's probably time for a new vegan leather jacket, so let's take your old vegan leather jacket and then sell it and so you get the new swag. The person who maybe wasn't able to afford that jacket to begin with can now afford it. And you've made all of these transactions not only easier, but also more profitable.

Wilson: [00:24:16] Exactly, exactly, and we also think about sort of three stakeholders that we see ourselves having, and that's brands number one and then buyers and sellers. So our brands are our customers and our brands' customers. And a few things about our product that I love is we can allow people to sell an item directly from their purchase history. So imagine that you decide you want to sell something. In 2019 you had to say, "Ok, I'm ready to part with this. Where do I want to sell it? What is it? How much do I price it for?" You have to make all of these decisions, and it's completely up to you as a customer to decide when, where, and how you want to sell that item. Whereas when we work with a brand, we can add a button directly from your purchase history. So you go to your account at one of your favorite brands. You see that you purchased X Y Z product and there's a "sell used" button next to it. You click that. We already know what you paid for it, when you bought it, what size it is, what color it is. We don't need to ask you for any of that. So we can reduce a lot of that friction and make it easier for someone to sell an item. We could also even prompt you. We could reach out and say, "Hey, Ingrid, there is an item that's sold out new. We know you bought it six months ago. We hope you love it and you're wearing it every day. But if you're not, there are people out there that are looking for it."

Ingrid: [00:25:44] Yeah.

Wilson: [00:25:44] "So if you're not using it, now's the time to pass it on." And then for buyers, we can give them a combination of that information from the seller, current state, what does that product look like now? Pair that with the original brand description, original brand imagery, so we can elevate that buyer experience compared to a third party marketplace. And then obviously we do all of this in the brand's ecosystem. So they benefit as well. So that's sort of how we think about the experience component of it and what we can do to drive those previous customers to come back and continue using the platform and continue engaging with the brand, buying, and selling. So that's our vision for the future.

Ingrid: [00:26:30] That's so brilliant. And it's like the way that we've optimized the whole checkout experience and the shopping online experience. You can optimize the resale experience and frankly, like, that's a headache as someone inside of a brand that I just don't want to have. And the fact that you guys could come in and help and just like out of the box solution, that for me just makes it that much easier. The other thing that I was thinking about is, you know, with these items, there's typically a gray or a black market where people are selling fraudulent things and things like that. And so this one to one relationship and the authentication component, is also, I think, really important. Because me, if I'm buying something second hand, I want to make sure that it's real. And so the fact that you can only sell something from this history of buying it from the brand is a really big stop gap. I'm not going to get that on ThredUp or Poshmark.

Wilson: [00:27:30] Yeah, exactly. And even beyond that, every product that's listed by a seller has to be approved either by the brand or in some cases, the brand gives that responsibility to us at Recurate. So every listing, we're going to look at those photos, we're going to look at the description. We're going to make sure that the condition level that you selected makes sense for what we see. And it's only after someone reviews and approves that listing that it's available for purchase. So that's a huge protection for brands. And then beyond that, our sellers aren't paid out until that product is delivered to the buyer, and the buyer actually has three days to confirm the condition that they received that item in matches how the seller described it in their listing. And it's only once the buyer confirms that condition that we release payment out to the seller. So it's another huge check on behavior and just making sure that our sellers are being honest and that buyers can have confidence when they make that purchase, that it's going to match up with their expectation.

Ingrid: [00:28:37] That's really cool, and it's a service that I think also makes it a lot easier. But one thing that this comes to mind for me is. I think that humans and this is probably where I probably differ from, there's probably half the people that think this way and half the people think the opposite way, and I'm fully aware of that. I tend to think that in my experience on Earth, that humans are actually really good and that the majority of fraud or using the system for evil and not good are usually few and far between. And the amount of good that can happen from this, even if it's 80 percent or 90 percent, is infinitely better than the 10 percent or whatever of people that are going to probably not get away with it but attempt to do something outside of what is expected. I think that there's... We go out into the world every single day as individuals and we trust the people around us. We trust the cars that are driving by. We trust the person that is making our food at the restaurant. There's just to be human is to enable this level of trust that I think that when you start talking about some of these controls, that rightfully so you've built in. And I think that makes it a lot more turnkey for brands to invest in something like this, but in general, I'd be curious and you probably have some experience in the data of like how many times you've actually had to step in and regulate a problem. Is my world view wrong or not is what I'm asking you. Wilson? {laughter}

Wilson: [00:30:10] Yeah. Yeah, well, according to our data, your worldview is right.

Ingrid: [00:30:15] Yay. I love validating my own view. {laughter} No...

Wilson: [00:30:18] Everybody does. So less than two percent of our transactions to date have been disputed.

Ingrid: [00:30:27] Wow.

Wilson: [00:30:28] So a dispute for us means that that product has been delivered to the buyer and the buyer says, "No, this did not match what the seller claimed." So we are incredibly proud of that stat, and I think it speaks to our product and we have a customer service team. So I think largely that just has not been an issue. And I think the other thing that we see with our brands and I think this is an advantage of a brand community is that a lot of times these people love the brand and they want to give the fellow brand aficionado a great experience. And when these people, they're in the same community, especially with some of these, a brand like Peak Design, they're all either really excellent amateur photographers or professional photographers. And they want to be honest with each other. They're putting themselves in the shoes of the person on the other side of that transaction, and they know how they would want to receive an item. So they're well packaged, sellers are honest, and when you actually take a step back and think about it, that makes a lot of sense to your point. Humans are, I agree with you, generally good. But also we're even taking it one step further, and we're looking at a community of like minded people that have chosen to engage with the same brands. I think it's even one step beyond that and treating each other well.

Ingrid: [00:31:58] And through the brand is the bigger thing, right? Because then you're sort of creating again, the parties happening, you're just not hosting the party and you should, and it makes it a lot easier. And so I realize that I'm this has become an infomercial for Recurate. But that's mostly just because I'm so stoked.

Wilson: [00:32:13] I'm OK with it.

Ingrid: [00:32:14] I'm sure. I'm sure. But really like, I think that for my listeners, you're here because you care about people and you care about commerce, but you also know that there are people that are all on both sides of this infinite shelf, right? And so I think Recurate is so cool because it takes all of these really human components to the commerce world and just creates not only this great place to make money, but also this great thing that can help the world. I think it's so brilliant.

Wilson: [00:32:44] Yeah, yeah. Well, I appreciate you saying that. We're incredibly excited about the future of this space and customer sentiment and the way the brands are starting to really sit up and take notice. And I mean, put yourself in the brand shoes and imagine typing in your brand in Poshmark and seeing all of those products sell. And then we try to come along and say, "Hey, we can help you bring all of those back, and we can help you do it better and deliver an amazing experience for those folks. So I appreciate you saying all those kind of things. And yeah, I couldn't agree more.

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