E-Commerce Marketing & Branding

Sustainability and the Trend Toward Fewer Better

We all know the landscape of retail is changing. The trends are clear: sustainability is in, fewer is better, and astute consumers want higher quality goods that will last.

In a recent podcast episode of Future Commerce, the hosts touched on luxury goods reclaiming their second-hand market.

The example they used was in fashion, noting that customers were moving away from fast fashion retailers like H&M and toward spending more on quality items from high end brands like Louis Vuitton.

REI Enters Second Hand Market Online

Just one day prior to listening to the aforementioned podcast, I received an email from outdoor retailer REI. The overall focus was branded used goods, available at a notable discount off new pricing.

They are dubbing this section REI good & used, and their messaging is simple yet effective: The power of one: One less piece of gear in our landfills. One more chance at adventure.

However, the question remains: Will the price discounts be enough to sway consumers to the used goods market when they are unable to see the condition of the actual item they are purchasing?

My gut says yes.

Outdoorsy types tend to have a sustainability mindset, and those conscious of budget are likely to be swayed by the brand cache of REI. It’s a niche that suits the brand well. Pushing the environmental factor should play right into their hands, too.

Nordstrom Enters the Used Goods Space

Prior to moving to Texas a month ago, an article popped up in my LinkedIn feed about Nordstrom entering this space, too. Here’s the official press release from their corporate site for their re-sale brand See You Tomorrow.

They’re dubbing it re-commerce.

The release gives insight into how Nordstrom and others plan to and are managing the back-end and logistics questions that inevitably will arise in the previously-loved market where used items may show wear, contain dirt, or have highly limited quantities due to scarcity.

Nordstrom has partnered with Yerdle, a technology and logistics start-up company, to power the backend operations of the resale platform including cleaning and repairing of product, inventory processing and fulfillment, pricing and authentication of certain luxury designer items in partnership with Entrupy.

Yerdle also works with REI and Patagonia, among others in the re-sale space.

Fewer Better IRL

This trend toward Fewer Better is not new. It is an idea that’s been around for ages, and it’s one potential cornerstone of the minimalist mindset.

For consumers who are steadfast to living within their means and maintaining a certain level of quality and durability, while keeping their life simple and stuff minimal.

Note: I wrote *most* of the above this line back February.

Obviously, with exponential growth and impact of COVID-19 on the way we do business, the landscape has changed.

So, what now?

If anything, my gut tells me that we will see a growing dichotomy between the Fewer Better and Stock Up trends. On one hand, many will trend toward the latter, scooping up necessities by the handful (they’ll be the same who are hoarding toilet paper and canned goods right now).

On the other hand, I believe many will open their eyes to the fact that Stuff and Too Much Stuff are synonymous. The immediacy of the economic crunch we are facing is likely to have an impact for years to come, well beyond COVID-19.

Back in 2016, IKEA Executive Steve Howard talked about Peak Stuff. It’s likely that concept will be accelerated in the aftermath of COVID-19.

What we’re experiencing now reminds me of Dee Williams and her journey towards a truly minimalistic life in a Tiny House:

After a medical emergency led her to the age old realization that life is short, she re-assessed her priorities and decided that her friends, family and community deserved more of her time than her four bedroom house.

While Williams’ journey was on the extreme end, and the show Hoarders covers the polar opposite, the area between will likely see growth on both ends over the next few years, and this is where companies like Nordstrom and REI will see growth.

People will still want higher quality goods, they just may not be able to afford new. They want the experience of shopping at name brand companies, they will just be more selective in what they choose.

We will see a return to consumerism in the aftermath of COVID-19, and it’ll be interesting to see what trends are accelerated and what new trends arise.