At a trade show that’s supposed to celebrate the new, the hottest marketing trend this past January was the old.
The industry’s “Reconomy” Bingo card is packed: Reuse. Recycle. Repair. Rent. Reclaim. Repurpose. Recraft. Renewal. Resale. Recirculate. Recovery. Refurbish. I mean, really.
As consumer awareness of landfill waste increases, and costs for used processes and programs decreases, more used gear will be sold in more locations.
- Globally, 150 billion garments are produced each year, of which 30% of the clothes are never sold. Fast fashion is the worst, with 50% of garments disposed of within a year. Closer to home, Adidas alone makes more than 400 million pairs of shoes every year.
- The average number of items in consumers’ closets decreased by 17% from 2017 to 2019
- According to thredUP’s 2019 Resale Report, the U.S. resale market is projected to be $28 billion by 2023, with just under 50% annual growth.
- Over the last three years, the Resale Reconomy has grown 21 times faster than the retail apparel market.
In the outdoor industry, all the major players with a direct to consumer platform have a Reconomy Recommerce program. There’s The North Face Renewed, Patagonia ReCrafted, Arc’Teryx Rock Solid, Cotopaxi The Repurposed Collection, and Toad&Co The Renewed Workshop, to name a few.Additionally, The Renewal Workshop is repurposing and reselling brands including Pearl Izumi, Ibex, Nau, Icebreaker, Prana, Eagle Creek, Timbuk2, and Osprey.
REI now has a used gear store on its website, and geartrade.com—the industry’s original peer-to-peer recommerce marketplace—has new owners, new investment, and new ideas for the platform.
Customer demand for used or repurposed gear will continue to increase, and they will expect every brand to offer used or repurposed lines in addition to the shiny new stuff. Not just expect it, but I imagine they will demand it.
As fashion brand consultant Ana Andjelic noted, “Not long ago, wearing real fur was a signal of wealth and status. Now, it’s a signal of ignorance.” Outdoor industry manufacturers and suppliers are in a race against the clock to make sure that their brand-new waterproof-breathable jacket doesn’t get dagger glares instead of appreciative glances.
Fabric and material suppliers are making huge leaps in the amount of recycled materials and technologies used to manufacture the raw ingredients, so there is progress in new manufacturing as well.
But people pay for status, which is one of the factors that can ensure these Reconomy programs are themselves sustainable and profitable. To own a limited edition used or repurposed piece of gear, such as those found in Patagonia’s ReCrafted program, is a sign that a person is more in touch with the brand than those “regular” customers, which reduces the status of a “regular” customer. Which is amazing—and profitable.
Another thing to keep an eye on as the category matures and the amount of used pieces increases, is the risk of the trend creating new sustainability challenges as items are revived or made resellable. The impact and footprint of the amount of energy, chemicals, transportation, and labor practices will create new challenges for benefits at scale.
In an industry that designs and builds gear to perform and last decades, the most sustainable thing we can do is use the gear for the entirety of its natural life through care and repair. The second most sustainable thing a customer can do is adopt or buy a piece of previously used gear.
It’s great to see the industry embrace and invest in this critical initiative. In the next year or so, the outdoor Reconomy will be booming.
—Mike Geraci is principal of Geraci & Co., a brand strategy and communications group in Jackson, Wyoming.
This story comes from the just released Post Show edition of The Daily. Read the whole thing and catch up on everything that took place at Outdoor + Snow Show 2020 here.