Re-commerce: A Primer

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

It seems that the term “re-commerce” has been popping up everywhere recently. We’re excited to see the interest around this emerging aspect of sustainability, so we thought it would be helpful to provide an introduction to the topic for those who are new to it.

What is re-commerce?

Re-commerce is a general term used to describe various approaches for keeping products in use longer through secondary commercial transactions. In other words, re-commerce represents an opportunity to monetize the continued use of a product. The four most common approaches are resale, rental, repair, and repurpose.


Resale is simply the buying and selling of secondhand products. This form of re-commerce is currently the most popular among consumers. According to First Insight, 84% of consumers used resale to purchase secondhand products in 2021 (up from about 60% in 2019). Historically, this type of re-commerce took place via local thrift stores, garage sales, or similar efforts. Several years ago these activities began shifting to online marketplaces such as eBay, Poshmark, and Depop. As the popularity of resale soared among consumers, brands such as Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, and Levi’s, began offering their own resale marketplaces as an alternative to the marketplaces, often offering special incentives for sellers and unique offerings to buyers.


Rental entered the scene more recently than resale, and has been steadily rising in popularity. According to First Insight, 11% of consumers used rental services in 2021. This approach to re-commerce involves renting clothing directly from individual owners or from the brand itself. Rent-the-Runway was a trailblazer in this space, but has since seen a rise in competition from companies such as My Wardrobe HQ and By Rotation. Some brands have introduced their own rental services, most notably Urban Outfitters’ Nuuly.


Repair has been part of our social fabric for centuries. Unfortunately, as incomes rose and clothing became cheaper, throwing away repairable clothing became more convenient than repairing it. In no small degree, this shift is responsible for the environmental tragedy we find ourselves facing today. Certain brands, such as Patagonia and Red Wing Shoes, have long offered repair services for their products. However, while there has been some effort to expand this approach, particularly by new or small brands, this area of re-commerce could benefit from further investment and innovation.


Repurpose is still largely viewed as an art form, but it is nonetheless, a form of re-commerce. Repurpose involves turning secondhand items that were originally designed for a certain purpose into something completely new. Until recently, this form of re-commerce was embraced primarily by independent artisans who created unique pieces. However, several brands have emerged in recent years whose entire design and manufacturing philosophy is centered on repurposing, including Re/Done, Preloved, and Antiform. While not happening at scale yet, repurpose offers something inherently unique and generally of higher value that other forms of re-commerce. It is for that reason that a luxury brand such as Coach introduced its own repurpose program, and why we expect this area of re-commerce to continue to grow quickly.

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The Again Co.

The Again Co.

Helping to make products more sustainable through re-commerce.