Will a resale shop deliver bigger sales for Nordstrom?

Photo: Nordstrom
Jan 31, 2020
George Anderson

Secondhand clothing has found a home at Nordstrom. The department store retailer has launched a new resale concept — See You Tomorrow — online and at the Nordstrom flagship in New York City.

The resale shop, which is curated by Olivia Kim, vice president of creative projects at Nordstrom, features an assortment of apparel and accessories from brands that align with the retailer’s customer base.

“We want to provide a unique and elevated resale shopping experience that encourages a sense of discovery and provides access to the brands our customers know and love, while giving them a convenient opportunity to participate in the circular fashion economy,” said Ms. Kim in a statement. “We want our customers to feel good not only about what they’re buying, but how they’re buying it.”

The See You Tomorrow shop will be stocked with merchandise from the Nordstrom Quality Center, which receives and processes all returned and damaged merchandise sold in the retailer’s full-price department stores. Nordstrom will clean, repair and refurbish all items before displaying them to Nordstrom’s customers.

Customers can also participate by bringing their secondhand items to the Nordstrom flagship in New York City. In exchange for items accepted, Nordstrom will give customers gift cards good in any Nordstrom-owned stores or on websites. Nordstrom is planning to launch a program in the future whereby customers can mail secondhand merchandise. 

“In addition to providing customers more ways to engage with us, See You Tomorrow is another step we’re taking to actively support our commitment to sustainability,” said Pete Nordstrom, co-president at Nordstrom. “We’re excited to show our customers another way Nordstrom is striving to leave the world better than we found it and circular fashion is another piece to this puzzle.”

Nordstrom is moving into the resale space at a time when secondhand clothing is becoming more popular with consumers looking to save money and do something positive for the environment.

Accenture’s “13th Annual Holiday Shopping Survey” found that 56 percent of those surveyed would welcome receiving secondhand items as gifts. Separate research by Mercati found that 61 percent were comfortable receiving a secondhand item as a gift. Younger consumers were more comfortable receiving secondhand gifts than those 55 and older.

Nordstrom joins a growing list of apparel retailers including J.C. Penney, and Macy’s getting into secondhand sales. Those department stores are running pilot programs with ThredUP. The resale site’s annual report released last March shows that the clothing resale market has grown 21 times faster than new clothing sales over the past three years. Annual revenues are projected to reach $51 billion by 2023, up from $24 billion at present, as more sustainability-minded Millennials and Gen Zers make secondhand clothing a larger part of their wardrobes.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What are your expectations for Nordstrom’s See You Tomorrow resale concept? WIll secondhand items become a materially significant piece of Nordstrom’s and other legacy retailer’s sales over the next decade?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"This is a great way to solve the 30 percent e-commerce returns solution. And it drives in an aspirational customer. "
"Instead of See You Tomorrow, how about calling it Buy It From Us Twice?"
"I think they’re about to find out just how different the used business is. "

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18 Comments on "Will a resale shop deliver bigger sales for Nordstrom?"

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Bob Phibbs

I question both study’s findings and how the question was asked. If over half of people were happy to get secondhand gifts, garage sales would have become a franchise. As to will it work, it seems everyone is jumping on the bandwagon to find out.

Rob Gallo

Instead of See You Tomorrow, how about calling it Buy It From Us Twice? 🙂
I applaud Nordstrom for staying on top of changing consumer behavior and adjusting their offer accordingly. That said, I don’t see this as a significant portion of Nordstrom’s sales. I do think there are other pushes into sustainability that could be made including working with vendors to improve their processes.

Mark Ryski

I really admire Nordstrom’s entry into the secondhand market, especially from an environmental perspective. And it may be a way to win younger shoppers who can’t afford new product and are much more open to secondhand merchandise. However, it just feels like a disconnect from Nordstrom’s market position. Ultimately, the shopper will decide if this move is right. The important thing for Nordstrom’s is that they are making moves … and that’s smart.

Art Suriano

It’s hard to predict whether secondhand clothing is a fad or will be here to stay. For the time being it is becoming more popular, and it makes sense for Nordstrom to get into the game. The opportunity here for Nordstrom, who sells upscale merchandise, is to appeal to those who want to wear Nordstrom clothing and who may not be able to afford to buy the clothes new. And the customers bringing in their used clothes in exchange for Nordstrom gift cards, which means more sales for Nordstrom, makes this program a complete win-win for everyone involved. If promoted and handled correctly, this could be very successful for Nordstrom, even if secondhand clothing turns out to be a fad.

Bethany Allee

Based on the growth ThredUP has seen over the past year, the market for high-end secondhand items is extremely hot. Currently about 6 percent of the clothes in circulation are secondhand, this number is expected to more than double as it grows to 13 percent within the next few years. On a smaller scale, I’ve seen data that says the secondhand market is a revenue changer. YoY, the non-profit I work with, Dress for Success Austin saw 800 percent growth in our consignment sales. We sold the same type of goods at the same price points, didn’t change our promotions, and the market demand grew that much within the span of a year. Secondhand not only represents good value, it plays to the eco-friendly message many consumers now use to guide their consumption.

Richard Hernandez

So I remember when I was younger, I use to like to go to secondhand stores – I found a lot of cool cheap stuff that was still wearable. But I guess I would ask, does this concept cheapen the Nordstrom brand?

Ken Morris

I believe it is a great move by Nordstrom to win over a segment of shoppers who believe in sustainability and truly care about the planet. People make investments in clothing and can’t always afford full retail price. That is proven by the incredible success of off-price retailers like Ross and TJX. This move will allow people to mix and match their wardrobe with classic pieces and fast fashion or off-price finds to create a sophisticated look at a reasonable price. Department stores need to innovate to succeed in this new retail paradigm and Nordstrom is doing just that.

Dick Seesel

I know “resale” is a growing trend (partly in response to off-price stores), but this looks like a tacit acknowledgement by Nordstrom that its value equation is lacking. Not so long ago, there was more upper-moderate choice (especially in men’s) than shoppers can find today in a Nordstrom store, and I’m not sure the elevated price points have helped the brand over the long haul. The resale concept isn’t a long-term solution to Nordstrom’s nagging sales problems.

Georganne Bender

So in addition to gently-used secondhand clothing, See You Tomorrow will be stocked with returned and damaged/refurbished merchandise from the department stores? That’s what Nordstrom Rack used to be, minus the secondhand clothing part, it’s when shopping at Nordstrom Rack was fun.

I’m not sure that younger generations will buy into the concept of purchasing used goods in traditional stores. One of the reasons they shop at Goodwill and local resale shops is the thrill of the hunt. And because it’s affordable. Clothing at stores like The RealReal is not affordable; I don’t visualize it being a great deal at Nordstrom either.

I applaud Nordstrom for giving selling secondhand a shot, I am going to have to wait and see if this trend sticks.

Paula Rosenblum

This is a great way to solve the 30 percent e-commerce returns solution. And it drives in an aspirational customer.

Now that I understand it is mostly stocked with Nordstrom returns it makes all the sense in the world.

Ricardo Belmar
Ricardo Belmar
Retail Transformation Thought Leader
1 year 2 months ago

Paula, this reminds me of when automotive brands decided to start selling “Certified Pre-Owned” vehicles on dealer lots — as a way to distinguish and upscale “used cars.” Add in the e-commerce returns angle as you mentioned this really does seem like a brilliant way for Nordstrom to ride the trend.

Lee Peterson

I think they’re about to find out just how different the used business is. For starters, look at the way you acquire inventory. Traditionally they buy from vendors or make something themselves, but with used the idea of even having inventory and what it will actually be is totally random. Think of that alone: how do you know how much you’ll sell if you don’t know how much you’re going to have on hand?

My bet is they give up on this in six months.

Jeff Sward

Gotta give Nordstrom high marks for at least testing the concept. Resale and recommerce are no doubt going to find a niche. Where and how remains the question. I have visited a ThredUP shop at Macy’s and found it to be a bit of a shoulder shrug. It seemed like a slightly cleaned up version of SOS — stuff on sale. Random stuff. And I guess that’s the nature of the beast with a “treasure hunt” kind of appeal. There’s a level of curation and creativity that might work in Nordstrom. Otherwise ROR — Racks of Random — might work just fine in the world at large.

Cynthia Holcomb

“Curated by Olivia Kim.” “Processes all returned and damaged merchandise sold in the retailer’s full-price department stores. Nordstrom will clean, repair and refurbish all items before displaying them to Nordstrom’s customers.”

This is a no-brainer for Nordstrom. Sustainability reinvents returns. Second-life returns curated by Ms. Kim and merchandised under the quality and design standards of the Nordstrom brand is pretty darn smart! In my opinion, it flips the switch from secondhand shopping to frequent visits to See You Tomorrow for a treasure hunt. The Nordstrom mindset, its brands, and its attention to detail has reinvented returns into sales while giving Nordstrom customers the opportunity to participate in the “circular fashion economy” according to Ms. Kim. Brilliant, even if the circular fashion economy fades as a trend.

Patricia Vekich Waldron

Applause from me! I’m not crazy about the name “See You Tomorrow” but I’m a recommerce fan and believe it will give shoppers (some not currently Nordstrom regulars) another reason for shoppers to make a trip to Nordstrom.

Craig Sundstrom

“Circular fashion” …. uhm, OK. There’s such a thing as brand extension, which is normally a good thing, then there’s brand confusion, which is not. I see this being more toward the latter. Companies need to experiment, so I don’t fault them for this. And of course I could be wrong, but I just don’t see it turning into much.

Shikha Jain

Sustainability in fashion is a growing concern among all generations, but more so the younger ones. The combination of lower disposable income, environmental consciousness, renting and thrifting are likely what drives Millennials and iGens to pre-owned clothing. As the trend is likely here to stay, established retailers will need to start catering to the newer generations of consumers. Nordstrom jumping on the bandwagon as a masstige retailer (vs. more mass like Macy’s and JCP) demonstrates that the resale trend is making its way upmarket.

Cate Trotter

The positive stats around resale means that everyone is jumping on the bandwagon to try and get some of the benefit. This isn’t surprising — in today’s retail climate, some companies are grabbing onto anything that might help them stay in the game. With concerns about sustainability growing among shoppers, resale is a way for fashion retailers to make sure they maintain some skin in the game whether the customer is buying new or secondhand.

I doubt Nordstrom will be the last company we see incorporating secondhand into its stores. Making a success of it is another thing and we’ll see how Nordstrom does. I can see some possible disconnect between Nordstrom’s usual shopper and the secondhand offering, but as a way to bring in a new audience who may not have felt they fit the Nordstrom model, it might be valuable.

"This is a great way to solve the 30 percent e-commerce returns solution. And it drives in an aspirational customer. "
"Instead of See You Tomorrow, how about calling it Buy It From Us Twice?"
"I think they’re about to find out just how different the used business is. "

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