Clothing resale apps like Mercari, Poshmark and Depop are hotter than ever. Just ask celebrities like Olivia Rodrigo or everyday sellers like Haley Burson.
Late last year Burson, a former Poshmark power user who flipped yard sale items during college, found herself with spare time on her hands during the pandemic and a backlog of stuff to resell. So she got to work listing items she no longer wanted. By June, the Seattle resident had earned nearly $1,500.
"I have a pretty insane closet, and I use the apps for decluttering because I know I'll make money off what I'm getting rid of," she says.
Burson takes her side hustle seriously, brainstorming strategies, compiling seller stats and breaking down her business every month on the blog Clotheshorse. But clothing resale apps are built for casual users, too — people who want to score a few bucks for their old T-shirts with nothing more than a few taps on their phone and a trip to the post office.
Tasha Lewis, associate professor of fiber science and apparel design at Cornell University, says younger buyers and sellers in particular dominate the apps. They appreciate the environmental friendliness of recycled clothing, and they're not scared to type in their card number on an iPhone like an older, less internet-savvy customer might be. There's an economic motive — most teens can't afford fancy clothes and could use extra cash — as well as the fact that the apps are designed like social media services. Put simply: They're accessible, easy to use and just plain fun.
"Thrifting had its own adventure to it, when you go in the store and look through a rack," Lewis says. "Having that online now is a more intense experience than brick and mortar. The social interaction is higher, and the barrier is lower."
All of these factors add up to one massive trend. According to a 2021 report from thredUP, another online resale service, some 33 million people bought secondhand clothing for the first time last year. As a sector, secondhand clothing is on track to reach $77 billion by 2025. And when celebs like Rodrigo are using the apps to offload clothes they've worn in music videos, you know they're doing something right.
But how can a seller figure out which clothing resale app is best? How are they different? Should you use Depop, Mercari or Poshmark?
Here's how the apps stack up.
For PayPal sales, sellers will also pay a 3.49% plus $0.49 transaction fee in the U.S. For Depop Payments, which lets sellers accept Apple Pay, Google Pay, credit card and debit cards, sellers will pay 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction in the U.S.
Demographic: Depop has more than 30 million users, according to its website, and they're mostly young: Nine out of every 10 active users are under 26 years of age.
Burson can personally attest to the fact that Depop caters largely to Gen Z. She’s found success selling “weird, niche, vintage stuff,” cat T-shirts and ‘90s clothes there. Depop's website also identifies streetwear, one-of-a-kind and Y2K as hot categories. As such, Depop is full of professional sellers and flippers who are opening their own mini vintage stores.
"You have to have what Gen Z wants for Depop to work for you," Burson adds.
What sets it apart: Depop is allowing sellers of all ages to create mini fashion empires.
"Our platform enables anyone who wants to clear out their wardrobe or even build a creative business, in a simple and easy to use way," Depop says. "Our inventory is truly unique, and we work hard to keep it that way by partnering with forward-thinking global fashion brands, charities and influencers to offer our community reworked, vintage or more responsibly manufactured items that you can’t get anywhere else."
Fees: It's free to list on Mercari, but once an item sells, Mercari takes 10%. Mercari also charges 2.9% plus $0.30 fee for payment processing.
Demographic: According to Mercari trend expert Tiffany Olson, the platform has over 50 million downloads in the U.S. and sees roughly 350,000 new listings every day. Hot items include vintage home decor, handmade items, Squishmallows, board games and and trading cards.
"Mercari is made for the casual seller where anyone can sell almost anything from vintage finds to everyday items," Olson says. "You can be successful on Mercari without being a professional seller or an influencer with a social following."
Burson says Mercari is a good entry-level resale app because it’s not time-consuming or hard for amateurs to use. Plus it has tools like smart pricing, which automatically lowers items’ prices to help them sell faster.
“Mercari is very no-nonsense. There’s no following other people, no sharing other people’s closets — you literally post something, you put it there, it sells or it doesn’t,” Burson adds.
What sets it apart: Mercari prides itself on its technology, including the aforementioned smart pricing and image recognition, which allows people to search using just a photo of a something. Olson says the marketplace "leverages the latest in AI to make the selling process a low-lift experience and helps serve as a guide through that process to anticipate users' needs and make it as easy as possible."
Fees: It's free to list on Poshmark, but once an item sells, Poshmark takes a cut depending on how high the price is. Under $15, the fee is a flat $2.95; over $15, the fee is 20%.
In addition to free credit card processing, Poshmark provides sellers with pre-paid, pre-addressed shipping labels. However, Poshmark holds payments in limbo until the buyer gets the order. Sellers can then request a check or direct deposit with the earnings.
Demographic: LyAnn Chhay, senior vice president of community, says Poshmark has more than 80 million registered users across the U.S., Canada and Australia. As of September 2020, about 4.5 million sellers were considered "active." The community has generated over $4 billion in gross merchandising volume (aka sales). Chhay says a Poshmark sale happens every second in the U.S.
According to Burson, Poshmark tends to target millennials and moms. Burson sees pencil skirts and blazers sell well there because customers are generally in the workforce looking for office wear.
What sets it apart: Poshmark is all about the social angle. Instead of being purely transactional, Chhay says, it wants to capture that quintessential mall feeling — "the spirit, opportunity, excitement, friendship and style" of shopping. To do so, the platform facilitates events like Posh Parties, or in-app shopping events; PoshFest, its annual conference; and Posh N Coffee, mentorship sessions.
It's working: Poshmark saw more than 30 billion social interactions in 2020 alone.
"People are liking, engaging, commenting, buying and selling at a massive velocity," Chhay adds.
This can be both a pro and a con, depending on what kind of seller you are. Burson points out that Poshmark's highly social nature often gives an advantage to influencers with large followings or people willing to invest a lot of time, which can make it difficult for casual closet-cleaners to break through.
What about other clothing resale sites? Or, like, regular consignment stores?
You're right — Depop, Mercari and Poshmark aren't your only consignment options.
You may want to look into Vinted, a European marketplace recently valued at $4.2 billion, or Tradesy and The Real Real, both of which focus on luxury items. If you want to avoid having to deal with listing, shipping and customer service, you can fill up a Clean Out Kit and have thredUP handle it all. Instagram stores like @anxietymarketplace are solid options, as are more traditional resale opportunities on sites like eBay, Etsy and Facebook Marketplace. And, of course, there are traditional consignment stores.
Which resale route is best depends on what you're trying to sell and how much effort you're willing to put in. It's up to you to decide which secondhand service fits your needs.