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The 'closet-sharing' economy: Like thrift shopping without the effort

Caitlin McGarry | Jan. 20, 2014
Consignment shops? Too far away. eBay? Such a hassle. New sharing-economy sites let you buy, sell, and trade secondhand clothes.

closet sharing economy

As we pine for the warmer days of spring, we begin to resent the sweaters, coats, and boots that have crowded our closets all winter long. But you don't need to spend a fortune to refresh your wardrobe, thanks to clothing-resale sites. Such marketplaces represent the sharing economy's latest attempt at upsetting the established order.

The practice of buying, selling, reselling, and swapping clothes has been around for thousands of years—probably ever since human beings decided to cover their shame—but in recent years it has become a bit more sophisticated. First there were online clothing swaps, then Craigslist clothing sales and eBay auctions, and now sophisticated resale sites and apps that make me wonder how people dressed themselves in the pre-21st-century dark ages.

eBay can be a lot of hassle, and resale and consignment shops give you a paltry amount for your well-loved items. Retail-based sharing-economy companies have popped up (and promptly flamed out) over the past few years, but none have burst through to the mainstream. Which site will become the breakout star, the Uber or Airbnb of clothes sharing, swapping, and selling? A few services seem poised for prime time.

Buy, sell, trade
Used merchandise is big business in the United States, with 18,000 stores selling $13 billion worth of stuff each year. But those numbers count only physical shops, not websites and apps, which aren't exactly clamoring to disclose their active-user totals or their revenue numbers. One resale app, Poshmark, this week said that it has millions of users who sold more than 1.5 million items last year.

Poshmark aims to be equal parts ladies-only social network and e-commerce company, a style-centric version of Pinterest that lets you buy and sell clothes without ever leaving the site. It even has elements of Instagram: You can slap a filter on the photo of your shoes, for instance, to make it more enticing to prospective buyers, and you can "heart" or comment on photos you like.

If you just want to sell old stuff to make way for new items, competing resale site Threadflip eliminates all of the work—you send your item to the company (with a prepaid shipping label), and it photographs, lists, and sells your stuff as part of its currently free White Glove Service. Tradesy is another favorite, with a range of high-fashion and low-end items, and it looks more like a regular retailer than other resale sites do. Plus, Tradesy has a dedicated wedding section for bargain-hunting brides.

You pay a price for convenience, however. Threadflip takes 40 percent of each sale, Poshmark takes 20 percent, and Tradesy takes 9 percent. Threadflip takes an especially large cut because it does so much of the work for you.


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