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THE REALREAL: REVOLUTIONIZING RETAIL
Have you ever owned a luxury good item that is no longer in style or no longer fits you? The RealReal is the perfect online and brick-and-mortar marketplace to sell (and buy!) authenticated luxury consignment.
In 2011, Julie Wainwright started The RealReal, working from her house and visiting consignors in a U-Haul. Julie Wainwright is definitely a female entrepreneur to keep an eye out for; Graduated from Purdue University, Wainwright is an early tech entrepreneur and e-commerce pioneer. In 1997, she headed up Reel.com, an online video site, before taking over as chief executive of Pets.com in 1999. In the wake of these failures, Wainwright discovered the idea for The RealReal.
Julie Wainwright’s idea for the company came about when she watched a friend spend “$5,000 in 20 minutes” in the consignment section of a store. She then saw an untapped business opportunity within the consignment industry. At the time, established consignment businesses such as GoodWill sold various qualities of goods. No specialization existed within the consignment industry, which ultimately gave Wainwright a perfect business opportunity: Wainwright established an e-commerce portal exclusively for pre-owned luxury and high-end designer goods where customers could completely trust its authenticity.
In order to achieve this goal of authenticity, The RealReal has a strict and lengthy process to ensure fake products never make it onto their site. Unlike most resale companies, The RealReal takes possession of all items and physically evaluates every item for authentication. Before they are accepted for consignment, all items are put through a rigorous authentication process by a trained team of luxury experts. This team of in-house experts including gemologists, horologists, and luxury brand authenticators who inspect thousands of items every day, ensuring everything they sell is 100% authenticity guaranteed. This aspect of The RealReal has transformed the company. A scrappy startup that started at Julie Wainwright’s dining room table evolved into a company with millions of consignors, employees, and shoppers.
In its first 2 years (2011-2013), The RealReal sold over 250,000 items, with between 60 to 70 percent of the profit going back to the original owner. Today, The RealReal has over 7 million subscribers and reports revenue of $500 million. The RealReal now has four retail stores in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, along with 10 Luxury Consignment Offices across the country. Most importantly, The RealReal has shifted the attitudes of consumers in the fashion industry, who are now willing to buy consignment luxury goods.
Consumers are beginning to understand the true resale value of high-end products while also recognizing The RealReal’s positive impact on the environment. The fashion industry is one of the world’s top-polluting industries at a time where climate change is already threatening the planet. Consignment softens the impact of luxury goods on the environment, and therefore The RealReal is playing a tremendous role in reducing the fashion industry’s problematic footprint. The RealReal has even developed a first-of-its-kind sustainability calculator to quantify their environmental influence. Thus far, The RealReal’s contributions have saved 608 million liters of water and 13,300 metric tons of carbon. It is awe-inspiring how The RealReal is helping to combat these issues in a fashion-forward manner.
Julie Wainwright and The RealReal serve as great examples of positivity within the business of fashion. Wainwright’s perseverance and success as an entrepreneur along with The Real Real’s impact on the environment sheds light to new endeavors within the fashion industry. Wainwright herself serves as a role model for aspiring businesswomen and entrepreneurs pursuing a career in the fashion industry. Her strive to create an impactful and successful online marketplace attests to the fact that you should never give up on your hopes and dreams. Moreover, The RealReal giving back to the environment through sustainability efforts is a new and powerful force within the realm of fashion. These efforts can power a new environmentally-friendly movement within fashion business around the globe. The RealReal has inspired many young entrepreneurs to chase their dreams and still manage to give back to the environment.