• Sadhana Cardozo

How Selling “New to You” Online Brings Out The Best In Us

The audience for thrift shopping used to be limited, but Poshmark, an online fashion marketplace headquartered in Redwood City, California, has reinvented this space.           

Thrift stores have been around for years, but they always existed on the relative fringe of society. Historically, thrifting necessitated shifting through a dearth of unlabeled clothing items spanning many generational trends, a practice reserved for hipsters or vintage-fashion junkies, a niche group of savvy shoppers who knew exactly what they were doing. Entrance into this group and thrifting in general was a daunting endeavor. Admittedly, thrifting has become more popular in recent years as sustainability has entered the fashion forefront, encouraging the upcycling and re-circulation of clothing rather than the purchase of new pieces. But the gradual growing popularity of thrifting or even sustainability cannot alone explain how Poshmark, started just nine years ago, managed to take the thrift store model, put it online, and accrue over 50 million active followers across America.

One conspicuous reason for Poshmark’s success is the fact that it offers nearly any clothing item or accessory you could conceivably want on sale because the items purchased and sold in Poshmark’s marketplace, though often brand new with tags, have been purchased before. By fostering the re-circulation of clothes, the company is also sustainable. Whether you want to peruse a variety of vintage tees, or there’s a specific Reformation dress that you have had your eye on for months but avoided purchasing, Poshmark has a discounted version that you can feel good about buying. To make matters more affordable, if you like multiple items from the same seller, Poshmark encourages you to request a bundle, where you purchase several items from the same seller at an even more discounted rate than those item’s individual listing prices.

This combination of sustainable, abundant options at favorable prices has another advantage: it has reinjected style with individuality. One problem with modern fashion is that as brand-name items have come to dominate the market, individuality has suffered, replaced by conformity. Just walk out onto the street - you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone wearing bold patterns, colors, or other attention-eliciting details. It’s like everyone on a college campus in California is perpetually wearing the same outfit: converse, lululemon leggings, and a hoodie.  Okay - maybe I exaggerate. But that does not change the fact that Poshmark is doing a damn-near-perfect job fighting homogeneity by encouraging users to browse a variety of options rather than purchase one brand-name item. Even if you search for a specific piece on Poshmark, the item you want is often unavailable in your size or desired condition, or you at least have to search through many listings to find it, inevitably getting inspired by those other listings. Shopping on Poshmark is more difficult that merely going to a website, finding the desired item, and purchasing it. But in making shopping more difficult, Poshmark has made it more thoughtful and creative as well. Though exclusively online, Poshmark more resembles an in-person store than an Amazon-style huge database, encouraging you to expand and challenge your traditional style by limiting availability of the most popular items and providing more niche pieces. 

Poshmark’s unrivaled popularity can also be attributed to how it has transformed shopping into an adrenaline-ridden, driven experience. Each listing on the Posh website is unique and in most cases, only one of the listed item is available for purchase. So it is not uncommon for a seller, just minutes after listing, to become flooded with comments from prospective purchasers competing to secure the coveted item. This sense of competition appeals to both those who love thrifting and those who love shopping at brand-specific stores. The thrill is in the hunt - there is generally only one unique item for sale, so the shopper is energized by the race to grab it. This mirrors a technique long-deployed in the shopping world - established companies deliberately supply less of their most sought-after products to create a gotta-have-it mentality. Poshmark has elevated this practice to an art form.

The brand has further strengthened its following by hosting Posh Parties where Poshers can invite friends to partake in buying and selling pieces that fit within an innovative theme like Everything Petite or Best in Jeans. And unlike other online fashion re-sale marketplaces like thredUp or the RealReal, Poshmark allows sellers to sell directly to consumers, eliminating the time lag that occurs with thrifting. Posh items may be one of a kind, but unlike thrifting, they are usually current; they are items from brands still popular today that people got rid of not too long ago. Not everyone has the individuality (or desire...we don’t judge!) to wear a pair of ‘70s disco flare pants on the daily, and with Poshmark, no one has to. Poshmark lets each shopper strike her own balance between individuality and conformity. In doing so, it has made its mark on how the fashion world will define posh in the future.

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