Lady magazines preach it all the time: Most of us wear 20% of the clothing we own 80% of the time. The reason we hold on to the stuff we never wear? It’s too much of a pain to get rid of.
Many donate old clothing to Goodwill (where it might end up disrupting the local textile economy in Africa). A subset of that group might host a clothing swap among friends. Fewer still haul regrettable splurges to a consignment shop, where they might get a tiny fraction of what they paid for that like-new pair of designer pumps.
The super ambitious spend hours taking photos of each item, then measuring, then creating an eBay or Etsy storefront to list everything in. Once that’s done, there’s the pain of going to the post office every time they sell something. Saturation in both of those marketplaces plus the cost of promotion means pricing for most clothing (vintage on Etsy, designer on eBay) doesn’t yield great margins. We live in a world where bricks and mortar eBay stores exist because people are too busy, lazy or confused to list their own stuff.
Threadflip is a new site designed to fix all of that.
The company emerged from private beta today with a $1.6 million seed round led by First Round Capital and Baseline Ventures with participation from Dave Morin, Forerunner Ventures, Greylock Discovery Fund, and Andreessen Horowitz Seed Fund.
It’s an online marketplace for used apparel with a focus on vintage and designer items. But everything about it, from what I can tell, is more user-friendly than the current alternatives.
For one, there’s the design. The site looks a little like Pinterest. Somehow all 8,000 of the items uploaded for sale by its beta testers are attractively photographed. It helps that you can import photos from Instagram, which will be made even easier once the company’s iPhone app is approved. In general the site is just prettier then eBay and more browsable than Etsy. Of course, if Threadflip wants to retain customers and avoid a one-sided marketplace, it’ll need to find a way to prevent listings from descending into Regretsy levels of quality as it grows.
The second element of awesomeness is Threadflip’s shipping service. Even with UPS’s printable postage and package pickup service, I always viewed shipping as the biggest hindrance to listing more items online. If it’s as simple and awesome as it seems, Threadflip’s solution might have me in virtual garage sale mode again. The company sends you a box, packing materials, and the postage information you need. Then you simply throw the item in the box and schedule a UPS person to pick it up.
The shipping solution, plus the emphasis on quality (and thus, higher price points) is partly why Threadflip is hoping sellers won’t flinch at the high 15% cut it takes from each transaction. The shipping services are included in that rate. And hey, if Threadflip means the difference between making $263 from a Marc by Marc Jacobs bag that sells for $310 online, or, say, making $50 in store credit from your local consignment shop which sells it for $90*, I’d say it’s a fee I’d happily pay.
For those too lazy even for that, the company is testing out a “White Glove” service, where users can ship an entire box of clothing to Threadflip, which will list, sell and ship the clothes for you. The first box is free, and White Glove sellers give Threadflip the discretion to sell what they can. If none of the items are up to par, the company simply sends it back or donates it on the seller’s behalf. There are clearly some scalability issues there, but founder Manik Singh told me they’re still developing out the best model for that service.
One way Threadflip hopes to keep its marketplace full of hungry buyers is through its recommendation and social engines. As with ShoeDazzle and other personalized shopping sites, Threadflip surfaces items based on your style preferences, as well as your size (since it’s mostly one-offs), and what types of things you “heart” in the store. It even uses Facebook connect to recommend friends for you to recommend certain items to. Later, the company sends a person to your house to do your taxes, renew your drivers license, and change the oil in your car.
Of course, Threadflip’s site hasn’t dumbed down every aspect of social shopping and online apparel marketplaces. It still needs to work on its pricing, which seems a bit arbitrary at the moment. The company is building a pricing engine that will tell sellers what, say, a like-new, two-year-old J. Crew dress is likely to sell for based on how old it is and how many are currently in stock, Singh said.