(This story was updated on 7/28/2023).
Keeping used gear in play is one of the best ways the outdoor industry can achieve sustainability.
But figuring out how to do that is a challenge, one that Aaron Provine, president of Geartrade, has willingly undertaken.
“There are so many products that are bought every single year and only get used a couple of times,” he said.
“Gear just piles up and piles up and you tell yourself you’re going to sell these skis, these boots, this pack. You come back two or three months later and you’re like, ‘Man, I thought I was going to sell that.’”
To tackle that, Provine launched the Geartrade Consignment Service in 2021 after 18 months of research and development.
Geartrade won a 2023 Outdoor Retailer Innovation Award for its national “re-commerce” consignment service.
The marketplace for previously owned outdoor gear and apparel includes free shipping and an in-house concierge service that receives, evaluates, photographs and posts all products on behalf of the seller.
“For the outdoor industry to achieve the goal of a fully circular economy – one in which every product made is used to its fullest potential for its complete lifespan – it is essential to have a healthy and growing community of used gear buyers and sellers,” said Provine.
Provine started his career at Backcountry.com in 2005 and worked there for 14 years before departing as the vice president of hard goods and merchandising.
The concept of reselling gear appealed to Provine as a way for the outdoor industry to lead sustainability initiatives.
“One thing that continued to come up was people just have a lot of stuff in their closet,” he said.
Although some people make money selling items on websites such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace, or Craigslist, Provine’s idea was to make it easier and “just get stuff out of their house.”
“Number one, you don’t have to meet anyone in a parking lot,” he said. “Number two, we are solely focused on outdoor gear. We know good outdoor gear when we see it.”
The third point — other mainstream platforms sell everything to everybody, but focusing on this outdoor gear niche helps the customer know that the Geartrade site will have curated products.
How it Works
To sell an item, a customer uses the Geartrade.com website to order a shipping label and a box that can even fit the awkward shape of gear such as skis or a snowboard.
The customer drops it off at a FedEx location and the items arrive at Geartrade’s warehouse in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The company verifies that the item is in good shape and safe, then catalogs and photographs it.
“We write copy for it, we market it, warehouse it, ship it,” Provine said. “All the bells and whistles. Trying to make the service a frictionless experience.”
A piece of gear can be self-listed or sold on consignment.
When self-listed gear sells, Geartrade takes a 15% flat fee, plus a 2.9% processing fee. Items that sell for $2,000 or more have a fixed selling fee of $300, and items that sell for $25 or less have a selling fee of 20%.
The consignment rate depends on the price of the item. The higher the value, the higher the rate. Consignors selling items for $565 or more can earn up to 70%.
Geartrade keeps a checklist of outdoor brands it accepts.
It rejects any products that could be a safety liability, such as climbing ropes or harnesses, or items that can’t be indemnified.
That means the manufacturer will support the product as safe to use. Typically, brands will indemnify a product for around 10 years.
For example, if ski bindings can’t be indemnified, Geartrade will remove those and just sell the skis.
The gear is given a recommended market-value price based on comparable items within Geartrade’s database.
The customer can adjust the price for 30 days before the company takes over and moves it.
An algorithm also helps to adjust the price of the item depending on several factors, including seasonality and the age of the gear.
The customer has 180 days to sell the product. If it doesn’t sell, the customer has the option to have it shipped back, donated or recycled.
Geartrade also takes on the risk of payment processing.
“It’s really built around service and trying to give both buyers and sellers a unique experience that allows them to both be happy,” Provine said. “You’re not going to get ripped off.”
Bart Schaneman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.