How Millennials and Gen Z Are Making Money off the Resale Market

Bree Person, a 22-year-old SUNY Purchase senior, understands the challenges of being a cash-strapped college student.

“I know what it’s like to [not be able] to afford different things,” she said. As she prepares to return to campus this month, Person — like many of her millennial and Gen-Z cohorts — will utilize various resale sites and technologies as a means to discover unique product and make extra money.

According to a 2017 annual report by fashion resale website ThredUp, the market is valued at $18 billion. Style, value and convenience are all factors behind the resale industry’s boom, particularly among the college crowd. “We are in the middle of a retro style period where the authentic product of prior decades is sometimes more desirable than recent interpretations,” said Jeff Van Sinderen, an analyst with B.Riley & Co.

ThredUP's first store in San Marcos, Texas in June, 2017.
ThredUp opened its first store in San Marcos, Texas, in June.
CREDIT: Courtesy of ThredUP

In addition, accessibility to luxury product at lower prices draws in college students, typically shopping on a budget, and entices them to both shop and sell on luxury consignment websites such as The RealReal and ThredUp.

Kathleen Weng, VP of merchandising for ThredUp, said it offers price points accessible to virtually everyone. “Everything is up to 90 percent off, with shoes starting at $2.99. ThredUp Luxe brands are at a higher price point while remaining a relative steal,” Weng said.

Like ThredUp, the RealReal’s inventory of designer labels also covers a range of price points that appeal to a wide demographic. An on-trend pair of slides from Maryam Nassir, under $300, will be featured next to an equally relevant pair of Chanel slides for double that, according to the company.

While a $300 price tag might seem unfeasible for a college student, when these young consumers shift to the role of seller, they generate income that enables boundary-free shopping. “I’ve been using Poshmark for about three years. It brings me a lot of money if I’m in between jobs for the summer or even if I’m on campus and low on cash,” Person said. “I can make almost $300 in a week if I put out really good clothes that I saved from years ago.”

Union & Fifth pop-up shop in Walnut Creek, California.
Union & Fifth is hosting its first pop-up shop in Walnut Creek, Calif.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Union & Fifth

Poshmark, which co-founder Tracy Sun describes as “the go-to shopping destination for millennials,” has more than 2 million “Seller Stylists” and is the largest social marketplace for users to buy, sell and share their fashions all through a mobile app.

“Teens and college students are drawn to the marketplace because it’s a social shopping experience, unlike shopping in a mall or a typical e-commerce platform. People engage with each other on the app through likes, comments and shares, similar to that of a social network, making it a community-driven social shopping platform,” said Sun. By utilizing a customized interface, the shopping app provides personalized product suggestions that many resale platforms are exploring.

EBay, for example, which boasts 171 million active buyers, 1 billion live listings and 370 million app downloads, recently announced its upcoming “Image Search” technology. “If a consumer comes across a cool sneaker, they can take a photo or use an existing photo from their camera roll of an item they want to purchase and enter it into the search bar,” said Victoria Perry, eBay’s DMM of fashion. “EBay will then surface listings that are a close match or visually similar so users can purchase.” The e-commerce giant also implements more than 19 social channels to engage its audience.

While the social component is a key sell for millennials and Gen Zers, some secondhand businesses have found that dabbling in brick-and-mortar also yields positive results. Union & Fifth, a donation-based nonprofit secondhand website, is currently hosting its first pop-up shop in California. “It’s interesting because the older teens and kids going back to college are out shopping with their moms,” said founder Christena Reinhard. “Things that don’t move online are moving very quickly in person, and the Seychelles shoes have been the perfect example.”

Resale’s Young Voices

Leila Roker
Leila Roker
CREDIT: Courtesy Image

Leila Roker, 18, American University of Paris 

Preferred sites: “Poshmark  or Depop. In a couple of weeks, I’m going to try a good, old-fashioned yard sale, cutting out the middleman.”

Most expensive resale: “The most expensive thing I’m ever going to resell will be in my yard sale: Yves Saint Laurent sneakers.”

Shoes on her resale list: “Some from Urban Outfitters, and others are from Rag & Bone, YSL, Cole Haan and Kenneth Cole.”

Delilah Silberman
Delilah Silberman
CREDIT: Courtesy Image

Delilah Silberman, 18, Bennington College 

Preferred sites: “I use Depop, an app. It’s the easiest because it’s all through my phone, and you can also put a link to Depop through Instagram. I’ve sold [clothes] through Facebook groups, too.”

Most expensive resale: “Right now I’m reselling my prom dress for $100, and I got it on sale for $150.”

Shoes on her resale list: “I have these Dr. Martens that I’ve never worn and just stuff I will never use in college. I want to purge my wardrobe and start new.”

Bree Person
Bree Person
CREDIT: Courtesy Image

Bree Person, 22, SUNY Purchase

Preferred sites: “Poshmark. Snapchat is another. If you leave your settings on public, different people will message you. Snapchat also has a new section where you can send and receive money.”

Most expensive resale: “My dresses or my jumpers that I get from Urban Outfitters … some of it can go for like $70 or maxi dresses usually for like $45.”

Shoes on her resale list: “Platform sneakers from Bolton’s. They were just $10, so I’m trying to sell them for like $40.”

Want more?

Expensive Shoes Resell Faster Than Expensive Handbags, The RealReal Reports

Online Thrift Superstore ThredUp Takes On Brick & Mortar, Will Open 5 ‘Smart’ Stores

You Can Now Shop DJ Khaled & His Son Asahd’s Closet

Access exclusive content