In With the Old
Forbes Indonesia|May 2021
Used clothing is the hottest trend in apparel, and big brands are happy to make the profits—but avoid the headaches—by outsourcing the grimy work to tiny Trove, which looks set to grow big.
Lauren Debter

The packages come every day by the hundreds, hauled in on pallets and torn open by a small army of workers. The contents are always a surprise. Somebody’s trash, treated like treasure. An Arc’teryx winter coat that no longer fits. Patagonia boots used to hike the Pacific Crest Trail last summer. A moto jacket from Taylor Stitch bought on a whim. Under the glare of bright lights, the crew notes peccadilloes—discoloration or pilling on a sleeve—and checks for authenticity. Once satisfied, they clean, photograph and prepare an online listing for each item.

The 80,000-square-foot warehouse outside San Francisco is the central nervous system for Trove, the big-brand reseller setting up shop at the crossroads of retail’s tumultuous present and potentially transformative future.

“It’s soup to nuts,” says Andy Ruben, 48, the nine-year-old startup’s co-founder and CEO, whose operation helps companies capitalize on used goods that their customers would ordinarily pawn at vintage shops or dump into landfills. “It’s resale in a box.”

Ruben operates behind the scenes to power resale offerings for Patagonia, REI, Levi’s, Arc’teryx, Taylor Stitch and Eileen Fisher. There’s more to come: The company says it’s in talks with 15 additional brands and is set to double revenue this year from an estimated $20 million in 2020.

Prince of Thrift

Trove CEO Andy Ruben says brands have no choice but to get into resale. “Not being in this space is a very risky decision, given the growth and importance of it.”

Trove handles the messy logistics of taking back merchandise and preparing it for resale, managing the online listings and shipping the merchandise in each brand’s own packaging.

It’s a one-stop-shop for retail’s unsexy new trend: used clothes. Secondhand products represent a $28 billion business that’s expected to more than double to $64 billion by 2024, according to ThredUp, a San Francisco–based online consignment company. It’s also where the next generation of shoppers are: Most Gen Z consumers see no stigma in buying secondhand, and 40% have bought used clothing, shoes or accessories, double that of Gen X and Boomers.

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