On­line thrift shop ThredUp ex­pands into Canada

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - LINDA NGUYEN

Af­ter op­er­at­ing in the United States for nearly a decade, on­line thrift store ThredUp is ex­pand­ing into Canada and set­ting its sights on shop­pers who want to stay stylish but save their dimes.

Some re­tail ex­perts cau­tion the com­pany may find it dif­fi­cult amid the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity and pro­lif­er­a­tion of char­ity-based or­ga­ni­za­tions and re­tail­ers who al­ready ap­peal to the bud­get-con­scious with a store where you can ac­tu­ally try things on.

But ThredUp co-founder and CEO James Rein­hart says when the San Fran­cisco-based com­pany re­searched the Cana­dian mar­ket, it found signs of “pent-up de­mand” from con­sumers who wanted an eas­ier way to shop for used cloth­ing and ap­parel.

“I al­ways thought that ThredUp was not solv­ing just a U.S. prob­lem,” he said. “It’s re­ally a FirstWorld op­por­tu­nity, so the abil­ity to ex­pand to other coun­tries was some­thing we re­ally wanted to do.”

The com­pany, which was founded in 2009, says it’s on track to sell more than 10 mil­lion items this year.

The web­site spe­cial­izes in used women’s and chil­dren’s ap­parel, shoes and hand­bags at up to 80 per cent off the new re­tail price.

ThredUp buys its in­ven­tory from peo­ple who send in bags of un­wanted cloth­ing, which the com­pany re­views and then no­ti­fies the sender about how much they are will­ing to pay.

The com­pany be­gan ac­cept­ing Cana­dian or­ders last month and, if all goes well, Rein­hart says it would like to have distri­bu­tion cen­tres in Western and East­ern Canada so it could be­gin ac­cept­ing items from Cana­di­ans. It also would like to open an of­fice in Toronto, where one of the com­pany’s co-founders and chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer is from.

Re­tail an­a­lyst Sally Se­ston says ThredUp will face stiff com­pe­ti­tion in Canada from shops such as Value Vil­lage, Sal­va­tion Army, Plato’s Closet and Once Upon A Child and will also have to fight for shop­pers’ dol­lars with re­tail­ers such as Win­ners and Saks Off Fifth, which sell new cloth­ing for less than the sug­gested re­tail price.

ThredUp es­ti­mates that the ap­parel re­sale mar­ket is worth $18 bil­lion in the United States, with ex­pec­ta­tions it will bal­loon to $33 bil­lion within five years. Se­ston fig­ures the Cana­dian mar­ket is worth about 10 per cent of the United States.

“Peo­ple who are go­ing to shop at a qual­ity re­sale cloth­ing store are more about the fi­nan­cials of be­ing able to dress and look cur­rent on a very re­stricted bud­get,” said Se­ston, a prin­ci­pal at Re­tail Cat­e­gory Consultants.

“By bring­ing it on­line, it elim­i­nates the stigma of walk­ing into a sec­ond-hand store to buy things.”

Re­tail ex­pert Mau­reen Atkin­son says that shop­pers may be lured to ThredUp by the prospect of find­ing a bar­gain, but they will have to do the math, in­clud­ing cal­cu­lat­ing ship­ping and any other charges, to see if a pur­chase ac­tu­ally ends up be­ing a good deal.

“Eco­nom­i­cally, if I can get a new T-shirt from H& M or For­ever 21 for $10, and ThredUp is go­ing to charge me $5 for a sec­ond hand one — is the value there?,” asked Atkin­son from J.C. Wil­liams Group.

Al­though the com­pany’s big­gest cus­tomer base may be those hunt­ing for a bar­gain, the en­vi­ron­ment-friendly as­pect of reusing cloth­ing will also hold ap­peal.


A worker ex­am­ines clothes at a ThredUp distri­bu­tion cen­tre in Cal­i­for­nia.

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