BOOM: Upcycled / Pre-Worn Clothes and the MULO Brands That Sell Them
Buying pre-worn clothes is nothing new. But it’s now in style for a variety of reasons.
After all, places like Goodwill have been around since 1902 and have more than 4,000 locations. In the 1960s and 70s, hippies and their wannabe equivalents flocked to army-navy and other surplus stores to buy jackets, overalls, and other trendy used items.
But the traditional “thrift store” is not the only type of multi-location (MULO) retailer today.
The stigma of wearing clothes and accessories worn by other people has subsided. In fact, the thrift store industry grew by close to 10 percent last year and has grown to a whopping $14 billion in revenue.
And brick-and-mortar MULO consignment and resale brands are also booming.
The differences between consignment, thrift, and resell retailers are:
- Consignment stores give the original owner of the items a percentage when the clothing (or other goods) ultimately sell. They can easily return inventory to the original owner if it’s not moving off the racks or shelves.
- Thrift stores are usually associated with a church or charity (and are regulated by State law). They are non-profits (like Goodwill or Salvation Army retailers). They accept donations from consumers and then use the profits for their causes.
- Resale stores pay upfront for inventory and keep the profits.
And the resale and consignment businesses are big businesses today! Thrifting is also alive and well as the era of consumerism wanes.
Research shows that the new generation of shoppers is comfortable with wearing pre-worn clothes. In fact, they are more aware of the environmental impact of upcycling than previous generations. According to a recent ThredUp study, 83 percent of Gen Z has shopped at a resale store.
Sometimes referred to as “zero waste” apparel, pre-worn clothing gives people an opportunity to own high-quality things at a fraction of the cost and with a benefit to the planet.
Among the MULO brands that are tapping into this huge market are:
- My Sister’s Closet (consignment): Primarily located in Arizona and California, they have ten locations and carry everything from couture to Western wear and household goods.
- Plato’s Closet (resale): The huge retailer (475+ locations) was ranked the #1 teen retail franchise.
- To Be Continued (TBC) and Resale Revolution (resale and consignment): Focusing primarily on designer brands, the company has locations in Texas, California, and Arizona and will buy high-end handbags on consignment.
- Buffalo Exchange (consignment and thrift): The brand (which sells both new and has 41 stores in 15 states was founded in 1974. They give back via donations to a variety of charitable causes.
- Clothes Mentor (resale): In its 150 locations across 30 states, this MULO women’s clothing brand has its own app, which is becoming increasingly popular among shoppers, so they can spot new designer items as they come into inventory.
- Once Upon a Child (resale): The brand has 400 locations and is part of the same entity that manages Plato’s Closet, Style Encore, Music Go Round, and Play it Again Sports. We focus primarily on fashion in this article, but resale, thrift, and consignment apply to other retail categories too.
- Style Encore (resale): The 58 locations sell current styles of clothing, shoes, jewelry, handbags, and accessories.
- Uptown Cheapskate (thrift): With about 100 locations, this “kid to kid” retailer has donated nearly $700K to child-related charities.
- Crossroads Trading (resale): As its name implies, the 34-store brand lets shoppers buy or sell clothing directly or get credit for a trade-in.
Most of these MULO brands have incorporated technology into their models, creating online shops to augment in-store sales. Some have loyalty programs to encourage repeat shopping.
The “used merchandise store” of days gone by has been replaced by a huge network of shoppers and MULO brands (including national franchises) who believe in the circular economy and wear their unique finds with pride!