Jenna Starr inspects Louis Vuitton handbags on April 9, 2014...

Jenna Starr inspects Louis Vuitton handbags on April 9, 2014 to authenticate them and make sure they meet brand standards at the headquarters of The RealReal, a resale enterprise, in San Francisco. Credit: AP / Eric Risberg

Jenna Broems shops for clothes the same way she hunts for a new car: She considers resale value.

Broems, who lives in Stamford, Connecticut, only buys brands like Abercrombie & Fitch and 7 For All Mankind because she believes they will fetch the highest prices when she's ready to move on.

"I'm now walking in like 'What's the return of this? Am I going to be able to resell?' " said Broems, 38, a teacher who has gotten $2,500 from stuff she's resold on ThredUP, an online resale site for used clothes.

She's not alone. More consumers are considering the resale value when they shop for everything from jeans to handbags. The habit is, in part, due to a growing number of websites that make it easy for shoppers to buy and resell pre-owned goods.


It's the latest reflection of the tough economy. Buying used goods at consignment shops became popular during the recession when Americans were hurting for extra cash.

The habit has stuck during the economic recovery as people have gotten used to being able to wear the latest fashions without paying top dollar. Just as people lease a new car every couple of years so that they're always riding in style, they're reselling clothes as a way to trade up or splurge without spending a lot of additional cash.

The trend also is a consequence of the escalating cost of luxury. Rising prices of designer merchandise in recent years have tested the willingness of even affluent shoppers to pay full price. The price tag of a classic Chanel handbag, for example, is $4,900 this year, up from $2,250 in 2007.


The size of the resale market is small. About 10 percent of luxury goods -- including clothing, handbags, accessories and home furnishings -- are sold in the aftermarket, with about 1 percent of pre-worn goods sold online, estimates Forrester Research's Sucharita Mulpuru.

But data suggest it's a fast-growing area of retail: Shoppers seem to have resale value in mind. According to a survey conducted last year by market research firm The Intelligence Group's Cassandra Report, 44 percent of 900 shoppers between the ages of 14 and 34 think of resale value when they purchase things like electronics, furniture and clothing.

Shannon Dolan, who lives in San Francisco, said she'll buy a Louis Vuitton handbag over a Gucci one based on how much she believes it will command if she resells it.


"It absolutely changed the way I shop," said Dolan, who has made $10,000 on the online luxury resale marketplace TheRealReal by selling clothes. "I'm really thinking of the value and investment of some of the things I'm buying."

Resale sites have taken note. The sites marry the discounts found on online resale King eBay with tighter controls. Luxury sites such as Portero and TheRealReal, the largest seller of authenticated luxury resale goods with business expected to reach $100 million this year, have staff to make sure designer goods are authentic.

The sites also offer a faster way to sell than consignment stores, where shoppers can wait for months to have items sold and reap no more than 50 percent of the resale price. With the sites, items often sell within days, and shoppers get as much as 80 percent of the resale value.

Many of the sites also have their own resale guides. ThredUP is loosely calling itself a version of the Official Kelley Blue Book, referring to the online manual that offers resale values for cars.

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