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Lululemon stretches into $30 billion resale market

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Another apparel retailer is reselling used customer merchandise, but this time with a charitable twist.

Specialty activewear retailer Lululemon is piloting “Like New,” a trade-in and resale program that directly reinvests profits to support sustainability initiatives. The trade-in program launches as a pilot in California and Texas in May, then expands into a resale program in the same markets in June.  

Starting in May, Lululemon customers in California and Texas can begin to trade in used Lululemon clothing in “like new” condition in one of the retailer’s 80-plus participating stores or by mail, in exchange for a Lululemon e-gift card. When the online resale program begins in June,  100% of profits will be reinvested into sustainability initiatives, including circular product design, renew and recycle programs, and store environmental programs.  

Lululemon is partnering with branded “recommerce” platform Trove to obtain support with resale technology and operations. The retailer said that all trade-in products will be cleaned using state-of-the-art technology.  Product that does not meet quality standards will be recycled through Lululemon’s longstanding partnership with reverse logistics provider Debrand.

Customer feedback will be collected throughout this year’s pilot to inform future scaling.

Like New is part of Lululemon’s Impact Agenda. Released in Fall 2020, Impact Agenda outlines the retailer’s vision to minimize environmental impact and contribute to a better world. The development of products with sustainable materials and end-of-use solutions are central to the multi-year strategy.

“Lululemon is actively working to help create a healthier future, and we are focused on meeting the goals detailed in our Impact Agenda, including making 100% of our products with sustainable materials and end-of-use solutions by 2030,” said Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald. “Our Lululemon Like New and Earth Dye initiatives are both meaningful steps towards a circular ecosystem and demonstrate the sustainable innovation underway in product development and retail.”

Buying used goods — or "thrifting" as younger consumers call it — is increasingly popular with Gen Z. "Thinking secondhand’ is becoming second nature to teens, according to Piper Sandler’s 41st semi-annual “Taking Stock With Teens” survey.  Forty-seven percent of teens have purchased secondhand items and 55% have sold used items. Thrift/consignment stores ranked No. 10 as teens’ favorite brand/retailer, compared to No. 23 in the spring 2020 survey.

According to a report from Jefferies, the resale market generates nearly $30 billion in sales annually in the United States.

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