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Dec 14, 2020

How Online Resale and Consignment Retailers Transformed the Secondhand Market

Known as re-commerce, resale and consignment is continuing to capture the attention of online shoppers everywhere. Read how it is changing the way consumers participate in the secondhand market.

By Dorea Novaez, Contributor @ Endear

What dot-com bubble superstar eBay started, The RealReal has redefined for a new generation. Whether you are a vintage fashion connoisseur, thrifty shopper, eco-conscious consumer, aspirational designer customer, or a combination of any of the aforementioned, the modern landscape of resale and consignment options is a fashionista’s playground. And it’s all accessible at the click of a button.

In the early 2000s, eBay was the original hub for vintage and resale clothing, connecting buyers and sellers in search of one-of-a-kind items. In recent years, an increasing focus on sustainable consumerism and accessible luxury coupled with ubiquitous mobile internet access has given rise to a flurry of online fashion resale and consignment offerings. This tech-enabled transformation of the secondhand market has certainly drawn a lot of attention from consumers searching for deals, steals, and unique finds, but has also proven a lucrative new revenue stream in the fashion industry.

What is the difference between resale and consignment?

So the terms are often used in similar contexts, but what exactly is the difference between resale and consignment? For the end buyer, nothing really. But on the back end, there is a distinction. 

Resale. A reseller buys an item outright, letting the original owner walk away with the cash in hand before knowing whether or not the item will sell to a third party (the end buyer). Because there is always some risk involved for the reseller in these instances, the original owner may be offered less in exchange for their item.

Consignment. When it comes to consignment, a store or online retailer will sell the item for the original owner but does not offer cash up front. Once the item sells, the retailer will take their agreed upon cut out of the selling price before paying out to the original owner. This involves less risk for the retailer, so while the original owner has to be patient when it comes to cashing out, they may fetch a higher price for their item in the end.

Each model has its pros and cons to weigh for both parties involved. Consignment is typically more common for higher priced items - think high-end handbags and jewelry - but sometimes a reseller might be willing to pay cash upfront for goods they know are in high demand.

4 Examples of Online Resale and Consignment Retailers

Find out who is leading the revolution in the re-commerce space.

The RealReal

One of the most prominent luxury consignment retailers of the moment, The RealReal launched in 2011 as an online marketplace for secondhand luxury goods. In the years following, they have also expanded into brick-and-mortar retail. With a team of professional authenticators backing up each item, The RealReal has taken a great deal of uncertainty out of buying used luxury items online, making it easier for both buyers and sellers to transact with confidence. Whether you are looking for apparel, handbags, jewelry, or home items, the site has fresh listings everyday.


Dubbing itself the world’s largest online thrift store, ThredUp offers a wide range of price points from mall brands to designer items. With this varied assortment, the site appeals to both budget-conscious buyers and those looking for hidden gems without the physical toll of digging through endless Goodwill racks on a Saturday afternoon. Previously a resale model, ThredUp now operates on a consignment basis.  Request a clean out bag and it’s easy to sell off your unwanted items for site credit, cash, or even a charitable contribution.


Buy, sell, or exchange. Launched in 2014, this popular luxury reseller focuses on handbags and accessories and has both an online and brick-and-mortar retail presence. Getting your hands on classic luxury handbag styles or the latest trendy accessories below retail price has never been so easy. Want cash for your closet clean out? Rebag offers easy quotes via mobile app. And once an item passes a standard quality check and authentication process, Rebag offers payment upfront for the item. As a known and trusted third-party reseller, Rebag offers a seamless and secure process for both buyers and sellers.


Curated, quirky, and unique. Depop is a resale clothing app that allows independent users to set up their own selling pages with the goal of making fashion more diverse and less wasteful. It is community oriented and the DIY aspect of each seller’s page gives it a unique and varied feel you won’t get on other sites. Whether users are looking to recycle pre-loved items, or flip thrift store finds, or simply buy, the options are endless and ultimately in the user’s control.

What does this mean for modern retailers?

So what does the resale and consignment boom mean for your business strategy as a retailer? Here are a few things to consider:

Use outside platforms to move dead stock and excess inventory

Some retailers may find resale and consignment outlets useful to sell off dead stock and over stock rather than continuing to take up valuable space in inventory or the selling floor.

Offer closet clean-outs to make room for new items

Whether you are actively involved in said clean-outs or just an advocate for a periodic purge, having some resale and consignment options to recommend to customers will put more money back into their pockets to apply to future purchases. Let them know what to expect and you can build trust,  furthering the relationship even more. 

Incorporate resale/vintage items into your offerings

Whether you pursue a partnership with an existing company/service or choose to establish your own program, resale and consignment offerings can attract new customers to your store and enhance revenue streams from existing customers. Handbags and jewelry are often popular items to consider as they retain their value well and are not size dependent.

Whether you're considering this route or your business is already selling one-of-a-kind, limited quantity, or specialized products, it’s important to ensure you are equipped with the right tools and technology to connect with potential customers who will find the most value in an item. Endear’s centralized messaging, personalized lookbooks, and unified CRM capabilities offer a range of resources to help ensure you can find the right customer for every item and build loyalty through relationship-based selling. For more information, check out our homepage.