There have been many changes to the retail sector in the last 12 months since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Not only have brands and customers moved online, leveraging technology to continue to drive connections and sales, but in being home all the time we’ve also become more conscious about how much ‘stuff’ we own and what to do with these belongings that are no longer needed. Enter the resale retail and consignment sector!
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Carolyn Thompson, the CEO of Resale Global about the impact of the pandemic on small retailers and resale companies. It’s an interesting perspective on a part of the economy that was hard hit by the pandemic and also on how consumer trends and habits are evolving as a result.
Practically everyone in the National Capital Region has either shopped at a consignment store or sold some of their old, no longer wanted threads on consignment. Aside from those stores opening the door for people to purchase brands that they may love but otherwise be unable to afford, they also have a positive impact on the environment – stopping the cycle of continuous consumption and eventual disposal of products that fills our landfills and threatens the planet.
And while these shops are vital parts of their local communities and essential beacons of sustainability along the main streets in small downtowns across America – many are hurting right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But they’re not alone. Many other small retailers have felt the sting of “safer at home” orders, social distancing and reduced occupancies that have resulted from the ongoing pandemic. While, conversely, some larger, multinational retailers are doing better than ever before.
What has the past year done to small retailers and resale companies? What do they have to do to compete with the larger companies in the marketplace? And will consumer habits ever return to what they were prior to the pandemic?
To get answers to these questions, ACG has invited a group of retail and resale experts to join them for a panel discussion entitled, “Retail–Resale: the Fastest-Growing Segment During the Pandemic.”
In advance of that discussion, we sat down with a resale expert and one of the panelists, Carolyn Thompson, the CEO of Resale Global. During our discussion, we talked about the trends that are driving the resale industry today, the technologies enabling resale companies to compete during this incredibly difficult time, and what the future looks like for resale companies.
Here is what she had to say:
Carolyn Thompson, CEO of Resale Global
Corporate Growth, Capital Style (CGCS): Can you tell our readers a little bit about Resale Global? How did the company get its start, and what does the company do?
Carolyn Thompson: Resale Global provides software as a service (SaaS) for the consignment industry, and allows individual, small consignment, resale, and thrift stores – as well as multi-location resale chains – to enable online shopping as an add-on to their current stores. Our unique, simple data entry process gives them access to single-entry cross-posting of their items to eBay, Facebook, Amazon, and other marketplaces.
By utilizing the Resale Global SaaS solution, they can still sell things in their store, but also have listings for their offerings on other online platforms. This can essentially double their reach and business.
CGCS: How big of a market is the resale market? What trends are currently shaping the industry?Carolyn Thompson: It’s projected to be around a $64 billion industry by 2025. And that’s largely being influenced by consumer habits.
People are spending more time shopping online. There are fewer stores open because of increasing rents. Of course, COVID-19 closed down a lot of stores. And consumers have increasingly become empowered to post and resell their own items. So, there has been a huge contraction in the number of consignment stores that are out there.
However, while people are empowered to resell things themselves, there are still a lot of people that don’t want to be bothered with taking pictures and posting their own items for sale. And that’s the void that consignment stores fill. They allow people to just drop things off and have someone else sell them for them.
CGCS: Why was Resale Global’s solution needed? What challenges are resale companies – consignment and thrift stores – facing that your solution helps them to overcome?Carolyn Thompson: COVID changed everything. Stores being opened and then closed on a regular basis, not being able to have as many people in the store shopping. That really affected a lot of resale companies – a lot of them closed because they were only brick and mortar stores and they did not pay attention to their online presence. They thought of themselves as curated, unique boutiques serving a local market, but when that local market fell apart, so did their business.
They just didn’t have the foresight to get software and put their inventory online so that people could buy it through online sales.
The people who pivoted and realized that they needed to change as times and business changed – and there’s a chance that things don’t go back to how they were – those were the ones that set themselves up for continued growth and success.
Let’s be honest, nobody goes to an indoor mall and walks around for two or three hours a day – even without the COVID pandemic going on. But people will spend two to three hours per day shopping online. So stores that have not embraced the idea that they can sell more online with just as much effort are the ones that are – and will continue – to suffer in this new retail and resale environment.
And there are a number of shopping, retail and resale trends that should make these companies optimistic. There are hundreds of thousands of these stores around the globe for a reason.
Resale is a key factor in sustainable shopping and a valuable tool for people that believe in sustainability and keeping things out of landfills. Some people are very passionate about recycling and reusing items. Those trends are all positive ones for the resale industry.
CGCS: When we think about retail and fashion/clothing as industries, we don’t necessarily think of the DC metro area. Why was Northern Virginia – and not LA or NY – the place you chose to start Resale Global?Carolyn Thompson: Believe it or not, Resale Global is one of three companies in the resale industry that’s headquartered here in the National Capital Area. Part of that is most likely due to the incredible talent pool that’s available here – companies operating in this area have access to an amazingly skilled and knowledgeable workforce.
Virginia, where we’re headquartered, is a technology hub, which makes it a very attractive region for technology entrepreneurs. But it also has a very large and established resale industry. If you walk through Old Town Alexandria on a Saturday afternoon, you’ll notice a large number of consignment shops and thrift stores. This area has a very vibrant resale industry.
All of those things, combined, make this a great place for a company like Resale Global to operate. But the largest factor for choosing this area was that it’s my home. And home to several of our board members and investors.
CGCS: This week, you’ll be joining a number of retail and resale experts to discuss the state of the industry in 2021. What can attendees expect to learn from your panel discussion?Carolyn Thompson: I think they can expect to learn what a large impact resale is having on the retail industry. In fact, larger retailers are even creating their own resale divisions because it gives them the opportunity to better control their brand and brand value.
They’ll also learn more about the trends driving the resale space and why there’s so much demand for resale companies. It’s not dissimilar to people buying and selling a car. when you’re done with the car, you probably have a car that’s still useful. It can be resold instead of thrown out. That’s true of many other, different items as well.
Finally, they’ll learn about the new technologies that are helping resale companies compete today. Resale is something that has been going on for a long time, but now, we have the technology to allow resale companies to compete. Using AI and other tools to help them with pricing. Getting their items pushed out to multiple channels and marketplaces. For small businesses to compete, they need these new technologies.
Tools like ours allow small resale companies to compete in a global marketplace more efficiently and effectively without losing their local presence.
This article was originally published on Corporate Growth Capital Style on February 16, 2021.