Is The RealReal Dead?
I used to be obsessed with The RealReal. Here’s where I’m shopping instead.
I remember when I first heard of The RealReal. A magical marketplace promising high-end fashion finds hiding in plain sight just waiting for me to snatch up. There was a point when I definitely logged more screen time on the TRR app than on Instagram.
I’d scroll through their endless stream of finery for hours, curating my search filters, and piling up aspirational pieces in my saved items that I’d never actually buy. But that was the fun of it, the joy of discovery. I’d swoon over rare vintage finds and reminisce when I scrolled past a sneaker I’d coveted back in 2013. And there it was, on a shelf in a warehouse somewhere ready to ship to me.
While I own a number of treasured TRR finds, I barely think of it now. What once was a revolutionary player in the sustainability game now seems like a means for people to keep up their overconsumption. All while justifying designer splurges with the fact that they’ll make some of their money back when that direct deposit from TRR hits on the 15th of every month.
And I’m not the only one who thinks The RealReal has lost its luster.
In the early days of The RealReal, they were a digital solution. Then came the flagship store in New York. Then more NYC locations. After its IPO in 2019, things only got messier and messier. In the span of just a couple of years, they opened 13 more stores, making 16 retail spaces in total. TRR has expanded to Los Angeles, Greenwich, Connecticut, and Austin, Texas — any big city known for its shopping.
This made shopping and selling items infinitely easier. And so came the floods. The site was soon inundated with more inventory than they could deal with. And with their quantity rising, their quality slipped. The standards for what they accepted was way lower than in the early days, leading to well-photographed clothing which were truly on their last legs.
And then the horror stories. People were shipped the wrong items. They were also exposed for a flood of fakes clogging the feed. Not very Real Real of them.
The most shocking: one person discovered a pair of worn underwear in the pocket of a recently purchased parka. Gross. Perhaps Parka-gate was the last straw. Or perhaps the platform has just lost its glow.
It’s certainly losing money.
In 2022, The RealReal announced it was on track to be profitable by 2024. Over the past year, its shares have plummeted at a loss of 80% of their value. They reported a net loss of over $50 million in a recent quarter.
So, to deliver on their promise, they’re downsizing. The company stated in a recent SEC filing that it plans to lay off 230 employees and close four stores this year. That’s about 7% of its workforce. So, say goodbye to the San Francisco and Chicago flagships, as well as two stores in Atlanta and Austin. Some of its consignment offices are also on the chopping block, as are its office spaces in NYC and San Francisco.
But as The RealReal shrinks, consignment stores aren’t all dead. Maybe the fall of this giant will make room for more consignment opportunities in the luxury resale space. I’ve experimented with local consignment stores, plus other digital platforms and I'm here to tell all the former TRR addicts that there is hope!
In fact, many of the more niche sites offer better deals, and a better overall experience. Plus, with sites that connect you to the sellers and the buyers, it makes for a more personal interaction. Your clothes hold memories. They’re reflections of who you are. Rather than handing them off to a pushy consignment agent (who else has started screening those calls from TRR?), you can be sure your items are going to a good home. And as a buyer, you can screen your purchases and ask more questions.
Here are my favorite consignment platforms for all my needs:
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