Photo by David M. Benett/Getty Images for Depop


How Will Coronavirus Affect Online Secondhand Shopping?

Poshmark, Depop, The RealReal, and more are working hard to encourage customers to keep buying and selling

The fashion industry is facing a crisis due to coronavirus. Brands like Gucci and Versace have canceled their destination Cruise 2021 runway shows, the Met Gala has been indefinitely postponed, and stores around the world have shut down their brick-and-mortar outposts until further notice. Meanwhile, secondhand retailers face an additional challenge during this pandemic.

Online platforms like Poshmark, The RealReal, and Depop heavily rely on its loyal community of users and are now in the position of assuring people that it's still safe to be buying and selling during a time when social distancing, quarantine, and isolation have been essentially mandated by the government.

In order to do this, these companies have mapped out initiatives to ensure that health and safety are top priority, hoping it will assuage any potential concerns from customers and encourage them to maintain a "business as usual" attitude.

Depop, The RealReal, ThredUP, and Poshmark have all released statements to inform its users of the changes they're facing during the pandemic. The RealReal has closed its four brick-and-mortar shops, as well as its 10 luxury consignment shops, and instead is offering virtual appointments for those who still wish to consign. Depop and Poshmark have announced pickup options for those who wish to stay at home while continuing to sell and ship items.

"As things keep changing, we'll continue to do our best to evolve our efforts to support the needs of our Depop entrepreneurs as they need us the most right now," said Marie Petrovicka, Depop's International Vice President, to NYLON. "We've already begun creating focus groups with members of our community, and brainstorming the ways in which we can help them navigate the next couple of months more easily and, most importantly, safely." In addition, Depop has launched a dedicated help center on COVID-19, including daily updates by territory, essential safety guidelines for sellers, and tips on how to communicate to buyers about shipping issues.

It's perhaps due to these efforts that some companies, like ThredUP, have actually seen an increase in people listing items for sale.

"We've definitely seen an uptick in clean-out as customers use their time at home to get organized," said ThredUP's Natalie Tomlin. "Taking on the task of cleaning out your closet can help you feel productive and create a space that feels orderly when the world outside is chaotic."

Safety and cleanliness have also been addressed, since COVID-19's ability to live on surfaces, and for how long, has been a worldwide concern, whether people are shopping or not.

"As with all retailers, there is very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days at ambient temperature (based on the poor survivability of coronaviruses on surfaces, according to the CDC)," The RealReal wrote in its updated FAQ page. "Our warehouse teams steam clean fine jewelry and watches, heat steam ready-to-wear, and wipe down accessories and handbags. We have also increased janitorial staffing and cleaning frequency throughout all of our facilities, including our warehouses."

One thing these companies lack control over is shipping delays. Many have cut staff and rely on sellers to ship their own items, which may take longer because of shelter-in-place orders. Poshmark is working on extending its shipping window while Depop has encouraged sellers to communicate early on if they expect any delays in their shipments.

While many use these platforms to make a quick buck off of the occasional gently used item taking up space in their closet, these online retailers also serve as a space for entrepreneurs and power sellers who make a living off of their own small (and often scrappy) businesses.

"Through virtual events and resources to encourage our community, we're committed to supporting the 60 million small business entrepreneurs across the U.S. and Canada who rely on Poshmark every day," said Poshmark's Senior Vice President LyAnn Chhay.

The recent pandemic has resulted in the indefinite shutdown of businesses across the country, but online secondhand retailers are using the time to not only reassure customers that it's still safe to shop, but necessary.

We are shining a spotlight on some of the millions of small businesses now challenged by COVID-19. This is part of an ongoing commitment our parent company, Bustle Digital Group, is making to support small businesses throughout the entire month of May. Tell us about your favorite small business on social media using #SmallBusinessSalutes.