The coronavirus pandemic has totally changed the retail industry. Physical storefronts have been shuttered for weeks, with brands pivoting entirely to e-commerce in order to keep their businesses afloat. Retailers are under pressure to push sales to bring in desperately needed revenue. But amid mass layoffs and economic uncertainty, marketing to consumers in the middle of a pandemic is tricky. People generally want to support retail and low-wage workers whose jobs are in peril. But at the same time, shoppers are just as likely to have less money to spend right now.
It’s a tough spot for all involved. The resale world is facing the same stresses, in addition to having to address concerns that COVID-19 can live on — and thus be passed through — used and pre-owned items. It’s a stigma that could significantly affect the future of the resale industry. But is it warranted?
“It is safe to shop resale, if you’re taking the right precautions,” Anna De Souza, chief stylist at the resale app Mercari, tells Bustle. “In fact, it might be preferable to shop from an independent, hobbyist seller than from the big box stores that employ hundreds, if not thousands, of employees, as touch points are minimized.”
If you’re choosing to shop resale these days, here’s a rundown of everything you need to consider.
Should coronavirus live on packages or clothing items?
Most resale companies are instructing sellers to be more proactive about cleaning and disinfecting items. “While the risk of transmitting the virus through physical items remains low, Mercari asks sellers to clean and disinfect any item they are selling or have just purchased,” De Souza says.
It’s important to use common sense and take precautions no matter what end of the buyer-seller spectrum you’re on.
“The virus lives on cardboard for up to 24 hours, so simply waiting to open your package once it arrives, or disposing of the box immediately, can further safeguard you,” De Souza explains. “Wash garments in the hottest water recommended for that fabric when they arrive and wipe clean any other items like shoes, purses, etc.”
How are resale companies ensuring consumer safety?
Winmark Corporation — the parent company for popular resale stores like Plato’s Closet, Once Upon a Child, Style Encore, and Play It Again Sports — is currently introducing different tactics to reduce the risk of transmission through the products they’re reselling.
“Our franchisees continue to be creative on how to support our communities,” says Renae Gaudette, president of franchising at Winmark Corporation. “Curbside pickup is just one avenue that has evolved in light of COVID-19 to help keep our customers safe, and yet still allow our franchisees to support our customers, and in turn for our customers to support our small business community.”
What are the ethics of purchasing or selling resale right now?
Shopping resale is sustainable and better for the environment, as reusing or repurposing a product means you avoided needlessly buying something brand new. But in the age of the coronavirus, there are other factors you should think about before adding anything — new or used — to your cart.
“Consider personal, sustainable consumption patterns overall before you purchase anything resale right now,” advises Jenny Isler, assistant director of facilities and sustainability at Clark University. “What do you need, really? Perhaps sustainable consumption is less about, ‘Can I buy stuff?’ — from a thrift store or any retail outlet — and more about, ‘What do I need, what can I make, can it be repaired, is there a substitute I already have, can it be borrowed so I am using the service of the item (as in a book from a library)?’ Those questions about lifestyle are coming up as we shelter in place.”
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