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Goodwill, the Original Thrift Store, Goes Digital

The non-profit will start posting high-value merchandise on shopping app OfferUp in an effort to compete with online resale platforms like The RealReal.
Goodwill store in Lafayette, Louisiana | Source: Shutterstock
  • Chavie Lieber

NEW YORK, United States — Goodwill, one of the stalwarts of the secondhand shopping economy, wants a bigger piece of the digital resale market.

The nonprofit has teamed up with OfferUp, an American mobile marketplace for buyers and sellers to list its merchandise on the platform, in the hopes that Goodwill can nab some online sales that are helping fuel the $24 billion resale industry.

Thrifters have long considered Goodwill stores a destination for treasures. The company, which receives mounds of donated clothes, shoes and home goods and sells them in over 3,300 stores across the US and Canada, generated $4.29 billion worth of retail sales in 2017. The proceeds go toward maintaining the store network, sorting donations and other expenses, including the salaries of over 100,000 employees, many of whom face barriers to employment.

But despite a name that’s synonymous with secondhand to many shoppers, Goodwill has seen some of its customers migrate to online start-ups like The RealReal, Tradesy, ThredUp and Poshmark. The RealReal recently filed for IPO, and reported revenues of $207 million, which was up 55 percent from the previous year. It might pale in comparison to Goodwill, but The RealReal has earned a reputation for selling designer goods, while Goodwill is typically associated with cheap finds. A partnership with a popular digital shopping app like OfferUp aims to reverse this characterisation.

About 100 Goodwill stores are going to start working with OfferUp, including in New York, San Francisco and Detroit, among other cities. In addition to OfferUp’s platform, Goodwill is also using Upright Labs, which works with inventory control. Joseph Jarroush, Goodwill’s vice president of retail operations in New York and New Jersey said the store associates are focusing on higher-value items, like luxury goods, but will also be posting furniture, clothing, and collectables.

"We sell all of the same brands as those platforms do, like Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Givenchy, and Gucci," said Jarroush. "We compete with The RealReal every day and have been looking at different avenues to make consumers aware. The partnership with OfferUP will give our listings a national audience."

OfferUp, which launched in 2011, is the fourth-most popular shopping app in Apple’s store, behind Amazon, Wish and Walmart. Like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, it allows local sellers to list their products and either arrange for the buyer to pick up their purchase, or arrange shipping through the app in exchange for a cut of the sale. OfferUp has 44 million monthly active users.

Natalie Angelillo, OfferUp’s vice president of community, said the partnership came about after Goodwill store associates started using the app on their own to move product from their stores and noticed how that brought more customers into the shops. Most of the time, she said, Goodwill products on OfferUp sold within 72 hours.

Goodwill has taken other steps to compete in the booming resale market. In October, it started working with the authentication company Entrupy to authenticate its luxury products. Goodwill has an e-commerce site of its own, and posts products on eBay, but Jarroush is counting on the OfferUp partnership to grab more customers — specifically, millennials, which OfferUp says is half its user base.

“The RealReal and Poshmark have come out of the gates hot, but we’ve been around for 100 years,” he said. “Plus, as other companies grab a piece of the pie, the pie only gets bigger for us.”

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