Will Levi’s Secondhand store give the brand a sustainable advantage?

Photo: Levi’s
Oct 06, 2020

Levi Strauss is a brand that has a reputation for staying true to its corporate values on sustainability and other social issues and using those positions as the basis for money-saving and -making strategic business decisions. The same is true for its latest initiative, an online store that features secondhand clothing that will be sourced, in large part, from its customers.

Levi’s Secondhand online store is billed as both a means to reduce consumption and environmental waste and to create a consumer-direct revenue stream for the brand.

Owners of previously worn Levi’s jeans and denim jackets can drop off their clothing at designated stores to receive gift cards for future purchases. The brand will then professionally clean the items before placing them in its inventory on SecondHand.levi.com. In the process, consumers and Levi’s will keep used clothing out of landfills while gaining a financial benefit in the process. The brand points to estimates that show 73 percent of all new clothes purchased wind up in landfills or being burned in incinerators.

According to Levi’s “Off the Cuff” blog, items such as 1970s bell-bottoms and low-rise jeans from the 2000s are suddenly back in among denim fans looking for throwback styles. By reselling these and other items, Levi’s customers become part of a movement to create positive change.

The brand has created a video to address the subjective changes in garment measurements over the decade, such as jeans that were listed as having a 29-inch waist in the nineties designated as 32 in today’s environment.

Levi Strauss is convinced that SecondHand represents a significant business opportunity for the brand. The brand’s chief marketing officer, Jen Sey told Vogue that nearly 60 percent of Gen Z consumers currently buy secondhand clothing.

“They love the hunt, they love finding a really unique item, and it makes it even better that it’s a sustainable choice,” she said. “Buying a used pair of Levi’s saves approximately 80 percent of the CO2 emissions, and 1.5 pounds of waste, compared to buying a new pair. As we scale this, that will really start adding up.”

ThredUP’s 2019 annual recommerce report forecast used clothing sales growing to $51 billion by 2023 as Millennials and Gen Zers buy secondhand items two-and-a-half times faster than older consumers.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you expect Levi’s SecondHand to do for the brand’s image and financial results? Does a brand selling secondhand clothing it originally produced have a sales advantage over retailer resellers in the same market?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"What's not to love? High quality vintage merchandise at secondhand prices can be a powerful lure."
"This is an idea that would not have made it past the suggestion box a couple of years ago, and here it is a full fledged emerging DTC business model."
"What’s also driving the shift to circular fashion? Charitable donations are down as eco-conscious consumers bargain hunt while trading cash in favor of tax incentives."

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30 Comments on "Will Levi’s Secondhand store give the brand a sustainable advantage?"

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Mark Ryski

Used clothing is truly a mega-trend and so any brand offering a second hand option may find some success — especially relative to competitors that do not. Levi’s Secondhand seems like it will gain traction for many of the good reasons noted. But while I appreciate Levi’s approach, the question is, how much success will Levi’s find here? It seems to me that the secondhand market works particularly well for premium goods, but I wonder how well Levi’s will do.

Bob Phibbs

Right on trend. Right on message. Right on marketing. Right on.

Cathy Hotka

What’s not to love? High quality vintage merchandise at secondhand prices can be a powerful lure, as TheRealReal and other outlets have shown. Good for Levi’s.

Shep Hyken

I can’t speak to the business model but as a consumer, nothing feels better – or fits better – than a well-worn pair of jeans. Secondhand clothing stores are successful. I believe there is room for branded secondhand stores, and Levi’s is perfectly positioned with a world-recognized brand to take advantage of the marketplace. The consumer who is cost-conscious and environmentally-conscious may find their favorite pair of jeans.

Dave Bruno

There is only good news here (except for the crazy re-imagining of sizes to accommodate our expanding waistlines!). Good for the planet, good for consumers, good for Levis, and also good for me, as apparently some of that “nostalgia” denim that I have saved from decades past is now on trend again!

David Naumann
David Naumann
Marketing Strategy Lead - Retail, Travel & Distribution, Verizon
1 year 10 months ago

Levi’s Secondhand online store is a smart strategy. The growth in consumer acceptance and demand for used clothing has been amazing. Many retailers such as REI and Patagonia are now offering used merchandise on their websites. Levi’s jeans are very durable and a worn look is often desired by consumers. Levi’s Secondhand store will be a welcome addition for Levi’s customers.

David Leibowitz

Good move by Levi’s to follow the market. Secondhand fashion will thrive – as I covered here.

  • By 2029, the resale and secondhand market is expected to be higher than all of fast fashion;
  • 50 percent more people went all Marie Kondo on their closets during COVID-19;
  • The secondhand apparel market will hit $64 billion by 2024;
  • 88 percent of consumers have adopted new thrift related hobbies during COVID-19.

What’s also driving the shift to circular fashion? Charitable donations are down as eco-conscious consumers bargain hunt while trading cash in favor of tax incentives.

Jeff Sward

This is an idea that would not have made it past the suggestion box a couple of years ago, and here it is a full fledged emerging DTC business model. It cultivates and builds brand loyalty. It doubly reinforces sustainability as an underlying factor in the brand promise. This channel may never fully replace the withering base that Levi’s now enjoys in mid-tier department stores, but it is building a new relationship with the customer with an eye very much on the future.

Richard Hernandez
Richard Hernandez
Director, Main Street Markets
1 year 10 months ago

I love this! I always wondered why they did not do this earlier. Definitely a smart strategy.

Kai Clarke

The secondhand store for Levi’s will simply add to its image and produce an even greater demand for their products from customers who cannot afford (or do not want) new Levi’s clothes.

Suresh Chaganti

My eyes have certainly been opened to secondhand shopping. Only the other day, I went to Plato’s Closet – a secondhand store. It was my first time at any store of that kind. It is seen as cool and hip. The trend of re-commerce certainly seems to be gaining traction. How sustainable — no pun intended 🙂 — it will be remains to be seen.

Neil Saunders

Resale is a massive growth area and is being driven by many consumer trends, including a desire to be sustainable. I think Levi’s will do well in this area, especially as many of its products have longevity and heritage. As for an advantage over general resale players, that really depends on what consumers want. If they are looking specifically for denim or Levi’s then they will no doubt migrate to Levi’s offer. However a lot of resale customers like a wide array of choice across categories which is why so many of the generalist platforms that sell many brands are doing so well.

Rodger Buyvoets

If Gucci’s partnering with The RealReal is any indication of how the resale market is booming (this really disrupts the luxury sector!) then it’s no surprise other retailers are quick to follow. The brands that don’t commit to a real sustainability effort will have a hard time with both their image and financial results — I can really only foresee good things for Levi’s new way forward.

Raj B. Shroff

Seems like a smart move for the brand’s image and jumping on the trend at a time when many are financial constrained. As for helping its financial results, it is not clear if there would be a huge impact, trends have shifted toward leisure wear and the secondhand market seems to be a big winner with a small group of shoppers.

The advantage they have over other resellers could be breadth of assortment and ease of access versus others who might have better curation but less to choose from and could be hard to access online. This could also help them jump on trends faster as the audience for this might be trendier folks looking for unique styles. Glad to see them putting forth this effort.

Ben Ball

Like everyone else, I like this idea. The primary beneficiaries are going to be skinny young guys and girls. I can’t remember the last time I wore out a pair of Levi’s before I “out grew” them.

Georganne Bender

Levi’s jeans are one of the things in this world that get better with time. This is a super smart move.

Bindu Gupta

Great initiative by Levi’s! I can see competitors following suit given the increased demand for secondhand clothing plus the heightened need to build trust with consumers.

Gene Detroyer

This is fun. It speaks much more to image than bottom line, but it’s a big time boost for the Levi’s image. It is absolutely perfect.

Yes, the young people love this stuff. The other day my granddaughter was wearing one of my old lacrosse jerseys from more than 50 years ago.

But, I do have to smile thinking about my jeans becoming second hand. When I am finished with them they are destined directly for the trash.

Lee Peterson

I’ve said a few times on RetailWire that the used business is a lot harder than retailers think but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Levi’s. For the simple reasons that a.) it’s a uniform product and b.) everyone has it! The idea of a single brand with a limited but very popular (classic) selection plays really well for used. So I think they’ll do well, but I don’t think it will move the big corporate needle. It’ll be a great brand boost and in a limited way, do very well, but I wouldn’t expect hundreds of used Levi’s stores any time soon.

Brandon Rael

We all know the power and authority that brands have when they go direct to consumer. Couple that with social responsibility, sustainability, environmental consciousness, and being on point with the emerging resellers market and Levi’s, with their Levi’s Secondhand initiative, may just have a winner on their hands!

This clearly resonates with the Millennial and Gen Z demographics, as they are far more interested in conscious consumption than prior generations. They also enjoy the thrill of the hunt, especially for products that are authentic, and have a story and history to make them truly unique, vs. the over-commercialized and produced products.

Bravo to Levi’s!

Cynthia Holcomb

Quintessential, only the rarest breed of brands have the authenticity to resell secondhand clothing decades later. Very smart, very relevant, very cool.

Ed Rosenbaum

Good for Levi’s. Finding a new way to do business is always a good thing. This might delay new jeans sales from the buyers of secondhand ones. But that will be limited.

Mary Henslee
1 year 10 months ago

This trend is perfect for Levi’s, which has always been one of the most in-demand brands in vintage stores. And buying direct from Levi’s assures the customer that they are getting an authentic item, not a counterfeit knock-off. I had feared that concerns about buying used clothing during a pandemic would kill this sustainable trend, but I am very glad to be proven wrong.

Phil Rubin
Phil Rubin
Founder, Grey Space Matters
1 year 10 months ago

Levi’s started pivoting to the customer 5ish years ago and the results are obvious. While staying true to the brand, they have done a series of smart things, recognizing the value in their heritage not just for the business, but for customers. Given that apparel is one of the worst industries in terms of its environmental impact, this is smart. Given that extending the lifecycle of goods, whether through resale or rental, is increasingly not only accepted but expected, it’s even smarter. For all. Except for competitors.

James Tenser

Great story about a great brand. I wish I could get my hands on the Levi’s denim jacket I wore in high school and college (albeit in a larger size!). Took me years to break it in thoroughly, sew on patches, and permeate it with concert smoke.

Looking over the site, I realize the current definition of “vintage” begins two decades after that jacket became too snug to wear. I guess I was a sustainability pioneer — I handed it down to my sister, who also wore it for years.

While I’m not so certain Levi’s Secondhand can count on a very large supply of quality merchandise, I love what it says about the company.

Mel Kleiman

WIN, WIN, WIN. WIN. This is a win for the consumer. A win for Levi’s. A win for the environment. A win for everyone.