What Luxury Brands Can Learn From Bicester Village’s Secondhand Success

Bicester Village has had no reason to change the way it operates for decades. As an outdoor designer outlet just a short train ride from the centre of London, it’s been a major shopping destination for Brits and tourists alike since 1995.

In fact, as the founding member of Value Retail’s eleven global shopping ‘Villages’, it has set the trend for world-class outlets in many of the world’s most important gateway cities; Paris, Shanghai, Milan, Dublin, Barcelona, Madrid, Brussels, and Suzhou, to name but a few.

Only, after a year of Covid-19 lockdowns and forced retail closures, Bicester Village is taking an unexpected leap into the world of pre-loved and secondhand fashion.

Shortly after non-essential retail was given the green light to reopen, Bicester Village launched two sustainable and charitable pop-ups; Brides Do Good (a donation-based bridal boutique) and Stella x Smart Works (a secondhand workwear and women’s fashion boutique), both of which raised in excess of £200,000 for Smart Works and Brides do Good, positively impacting thousands of women and girls suffering from unemployment, lack of education and child marriage.

With a proof on concept in the bag, Bicester Village then went on to launch a multi-space pop-up in collaboration with ‘worn.’—the re-commerce brand famed for providing access to some of the world’s most coveted items—over the Bank Holiday weekend.

The main store boasted previously waitlisted items from the likes of Prada, Isabel Marant and Gucci (all from recent seasons, all in excellent condition) while a smaller, higher-value curation of items were sold through the Village’s invitation-only ‘Apartment’, tapping into its VIP clientele.

The purpose, much like all of co-founders Lily Fortescue and Bella Bunchanan’s Worn outlets, being to remove the stigma around pre-owned items, and encouraging shoppers of all budgets to buy better, shop more sustainably and increase the life-cycle of their clothes.

And, by anyone’s estimates, such efforts are doing exactly that. Research from Luxe Digital suggests the luxury secondhand market is growing four times faster than the primary luxury market, at 12% per year versus 3%, meaning luxury resale already represents a $24 billion market.

Still, Bicester Village isn’t going full resale anytime soon. Recent additions to the outlet’s boutiques include Isabel Marant, Jil Sander, Spectrum Collections and Off White—all of which have helped dramatically increase footfall.

As so much of the Smart Works and Brides Do Good boutiques housed new and pre-loved pieces donated by brands themselves (including ME & EM, Whistles, Rixo, Lulu Guinness, Savannah Miller,Catherine Deane, Roksanda and more), however, there’s a clear incentive in keeping the sustainable ball rolling. If not taking a piece of the pie directly.

The durability and timeless nature of luxury goods makes them a phenomenal fit for the resale market, and brands have an interest in making sure that their premium goods are always displayed thoughtfully—even in the secondhand market.

Such pop-ups are proving the resale market is not only an opportunity for luxury brands to support long-term sustainable goals, but retain first-time buyers who may wish to sell secondhand items and ‘upgrade’ a first-hand good down the line.

To truly thrive, it may well be that luxury brands start to consider the life cycles of their products from their inception, and strategize for long-term profitability.

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