LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01: General view at the launch of social shopping app Depop's 3-month pop-up at Selfridges on August 01, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Getty Images for Depop)

Old ‘Y2K Pinnacle’ wardrobes may be a gold mine, but sellers are turning away from Depop to make money from it

Like a lot of things, Mom was right. For ten years, she insisted that I keep most of my old clothes at her house in case they came back into fashion. Her thesis is that it costs nothing (unless you count the mental toll of being reminded of what Pyloch looked like in the 2000s) and that one day I’ll just have to “shop in the cupboard” to keep up with the latest trends .

Oh how I laughed. Of course, my most miserable outfit of the 2000s has been permanently banned by the fashion police.

But I’m glad I listened to my mom because she’s ahead of the curve and looking forward to the retro and sustainable boom that’s changing not only fashion but how young people today think about work and money.

There’s more than one reward I’ve gotten from my ’10s wardrobe (or “peak Y2K” as the kids call it). Items that no longer fit can be sold to the highest bidder on Depop, a clothing resale app, Take That from Wet Leg to eBay. If you don’t get that reference, you really aren’t its target market.

Depop was founded in 2011 during the Covid lockdown, when retail closures and a dormant labour market forced young people to use their imaginations. Millions are turning to a marketplace that combines the visual appeal of social media with the enticing opportunities of listing sites.

Such a proposal would appeal to both sides of the Gen Z ledger (90% of Depop users are under the age of 26). Young buyers who hate the homogenization of the high street can buy a unique style with impeccable ecological credentials on a budget. Sellers can profit by cleaning out their closets, selling bargains at local charity stores (called re-frugal) or even making and repurposing their own gear.

Sounds like a win-win situation. No wonder Depop has attracted 4 million active buyers and 2 million sellers. Some people make so much money on the platform (over $2,600, or £2,270 a month before fees) that they quit their jobs and become “bestsellers” full-time.

But Depop’s dream may not last. Users are waking up to a rapidly changing antiques market where price gouging, gentrification and corporate greed are becoming commonplace. Buyers and sellers alike are increasingly frustrated that resale platforms — like many products of tech capitalism — could be victims of their own success.

The biggest problem at the moment is the unreasonable markup. Sellers are now boasting on social media of selling clothes for £30 that were originally bought for a few pounds from charity shops, and worn items don’t always offer the discount you’d expect.

Not only does this undermine trust and distort value, it threatens to completely exclude low-income buyers from the antiques market.This retail bulletin Concerns were reported earlier this year that charity shops were starting to realise a return to frugality and charging more for sellable items – something I noticed on my own trips to charity shops.

Thank you charities for maximizing their income. However, low-income shoppers will have to accept the dangers of poor-quality fast fashion that is now clogging the tracks and cannot be sent away (hence why most of it ends up in landfills in third world countries field).

But a bigger crisis may be looming. Last year, Depop was acquired by U.S. e-commerce giant Etsy, which operates its own online marketplace for artisans, artists and antique sellers. Since it went public on Etsy in 2015, it has made some changes that have boosted profits but squeezed sellers. These include raising fees from 3.5% to 6.5%, as well as engaging sellers in off-site advertising (mandatory for some), allowing Etsy to get up to 15% additional discounts.

Nearly 30,000 sellers staged a week-long strike in April and encouraged consumers to boycott for a week. However, Etsy recently reported strong earnings for the second quarter of 2022, and CEO Josh Silverman said the changes had no discernible impact on its seller base.

Is this the future of Depop? Its current flat fee of 10% has caused dissatisfaction (especially since it has to use Paypal or Depop’s own payment system, which deducts another 2.95% plus 30p).

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But Depop appears to be a model of transparency next to Etsy, taking a 16.5% discount on items that ship with free £12 in the UK. This is not an all-in-one charge. It will only be resolved once you add up the listing, trading, regulatory and payment processing fees and any additional VAT they incur.

If Depop copies the playbook, it will put more pressure on sellers as shipping costs rise and buyers tighten their belts. The obvious response is to raise prices. But I can’t imagine that the market will bear this for long if quality second-hand clothing becomes a thoughtful purchase that only the wealthy can buy.

Maybe Depop can stay really cheap, trustworthy and…well…cool. But for young sellers, it may be wise to start diversifying their revenue streams now, rather than relying too heavily on tech platforms that may end up with more power than they expected.

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