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Rental and resale

Learning more about rental and resale retailers as a way of classifying fashion retailers.

Most retailers sell new fashion merchandise; however, a number of retailers rent or sell previously worn and/or previously owned fashion merchandise. Rental and resale fashion retailers are a growing category of retailers, as options for consumers grow and are accepted.

Rental services

The sharing economy refers to the practice of sharing goods and/or services between private individuals, either for free or for a fee. When applied to the fashion industry, the sharing economy has resulted in increased rental services for apparel beyond men’s tuxedo rentals. Growth in apparel and accessory rental companies is reflected by companies such as Rent the Runway, Le Tote, The Ms. Collection, Bag Borrow or Steal, and Gwynnie Bee for women’s apparel and The Mr. Collection ( and Fresh Neck ( for men.

Because of the success of these rental companies, fashion brands such as Ann Taylor and Express also allow customers to rent merchandise through their subscription services. These services allow customers to rent a limited number of items for a set monthly fee. Once customers return the items, additional items can be rented with unlimited exchanges. Customers can also purchase the items after they try them.


Selling merchandise a second time is referred to as resale. Resale fashion retailers include those who are engaged in re-commerce, consignment, and charity/thrift stores. Re-commerce is a general term used to describe the process of retailers buying used (pre-owned) merchandise from consumers and then reselling, recycling, or reusing the merchandise. Re-commerce fashion retailers include those who purchase used fashions by the pound; those who buy and resell speciality products, such as medical scrubs or performance apparel; and those who purchase and resell luxury brands.

Consignment is used by resale fashion retailers when the seller of the used fashion merchandise (consignor) contracts with a consignment retailer (consignee) to sell the fashion products for them, taking a percentage of the sale as their fee. Some consignment shops combine re-commerce and consignment strategies for acquiring merchandise. Consignment is most often used for vintage clothing, evening wear, and luxury brands. RealReal, a consignor of luxury fashion brands, also provides authentication of the product.

Resale fashion retailers also include thrift stores that acquire merchandise through donations and then resells the merchandise at very low prices. For example, Goodwill Industries International has over 3,300 brick-and-mortar retail stores, as well as an online auction site composed of merchandise donated to the organization.

Through its thrift stores, Goodwill Industries International provides job training and skill-building opportunities.

Online thrift store thredUP Inc. collects pre-owned merchandise from consumers who ship their clothing to thredUP. Sellers can either “donate” their merchandise to a nonprofit or sell the merchandise to thredUP for site credit or cash payout.

Now that you’ve expanded your knowledge on rental and resale retailers, you may proceed to the next step, which will cover general retailers such as supermarkets, hypermarkets, convenience stores, and warehouse retailers.

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Introduction to Fashion Brand Marketing and Retailing

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