Where Physical & Digital Thrive Together
Brick-and-mortar is dead! It’s the retail-pocalypse (retail-apolcalypse?)! Amazon is killing everything! The brick-and-mortar space is factually disrupted, due to more shopping online, the Herculean rise of Amazon, and a host of other factors. Honestly, it’s sad and nostalgic for a lot of millennials to walk into giant Sears or JcPenny’s stores, stocked with thousands of items and fancy displays, only to see one or two people milling about on a Saturday – that is if a millennial even has been to a Sears or JcPenny’s in the past few years. The truth is, disruption isn’t coming, it came. Now, the carcasses of some once great and mighty retailers are lying around, some simply gasping for their last breaths. Many pundits (and your friends on LinkedIn that are in commercial real estate) argue that brick-and-mortar is not dead, it is simply going through a metamorphosis. They say that the old ways of thinking of retail – giant stores that compete on who had the best deals and most products (think Sears or Toys ‘R Us) - are just evolving into a new way of thinking about retail. This new way is all about customer experience which requires fewer products and more opportunities for personalization. Rather than seeing the Internet as the enemy (again, think Sears and Toys ‘R Us), the new brick-and-mortar experience works with Internet, in a symbiotic relationship, not an adversarial one (think an Apple or Tesla store). The truth is, at the present moment, eCommerce still makes-up less than 10% of overall retail sales, so brick-and-mortar is far from dead. Still, the fact remains, disruption to retail came, and most retailers cannot just go along with business as usual.
While the verdict is still out on exactly how retail will evolve, there are industries where brick-and-mortar is clearly thriving, all while that same industry’s Internet business is rocketing to the moon. It is rare these days to hear about an industry thriving together both in the real world and on the Internet. To find such an example one has to simply look at the industry of clothing resale. Clothing resale, where people sell their old clothes to new customers (themselves or through a store) is growing according to some estimates at a rate that is 15 times faster than “new clothing” sales. As stated before, the growth is happening both in your own neighborhood and in your phone/computer. While the online clothing resale market is growing at an astounding 35% per year, the brick-and-mortar clothing resale industry is also growing at a healthy rate of 8% per year. When you think about it, the fact that this industry, both on and offline, is thriving actually makes a lot of sense.
“Millennials, a generation born out of the Recession, look for value, experience and quality. This includes bringing them online access to upscale vintage designer stores around the globe,” says Elise Whang, Founder and CEO of LePrix.com, a leading end-to-end eCommerce solutions platform for the $20B brick-and-mortar designer resale industry. “On top of that, millennials care about reusing and recycling and are aware of their carbon footprint. By buying and reselling clothes, they know that they can reduce waste.” In fact, according to Elise, clothing resale, considering both online and offline, is estimated to reduce textile waste in landfills by at least 50%.
What makes Whang’s LePrix.com stand apart in the resale of fashion space is that it is going offline to bring the resale industry online. LePrix.com says it is the only company that is laser-focused on bringing brick-and-mortar resale stores online with proprietary technology, allowing resale stores to move authentic, pre-owned merchandise like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Gucci online. “We are leveraging an existing industry and making it more efficient. This is one of our greatest strengths.” For Whang, LePrix.com is truly a story of the Internet meets the real-world. “Our secret sauce is our technology. We have more than 500 physical store partners that we have brought online, where they can sync their store onto LePrix.com and reach a global audience industry,” says Whang. “In addition to boosting revenue and opening-up a resale channel for our partner stores, we are saving stores an average of 250 hours a month to manage online sales.” With cutting-edge companies like LePrix.com, there is plenty of room to grow; according to Whang, the resale fashion industry is projected to grow to $50B in five years. Going forward, LePrix.com plans to use AI and image recognition to make it easy for stores to simply take photos of their resalable merchandise and automatically plug in information (size, brand, color, etc) to their LePrix.com account instantly through a single snapshot.
Many say that the future of fashion is circular – people will more regularly buy clothes, sell them, buy new clothes, sell them again in a virtuous cycle that is both financially-thrifty and economically-friendly. The clothes themselves will see an endless supply of owners, changing hands every few years, months, or perhaps weeks. For those believing in Tesla and Amazon Go as the future of retail and wondering if the Internet and brick-and-mortar stores can thrive together, it is definitely worth a look at the clothing resale happening both in your own backyard and in your phone.