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The 'closet-sharing' economy: Like thrift shopping without the effort

Caitlin McGarry | Jan. 20, 2014
Consignment shops? Too far away. eBay? Such a hassle. New sharing-economy sites let you buy, sell, and trade secondhand clothes.

The companies have to make money to stay in business, of course, but some users have turned reselling clothes online into a career.

"You'll find women who use the app just to shop for great deals on clothes, women who use the app to sell unwanted items in the back of their closets, women who are looking for new streams of revenue to pay bills or tuition, or create revolving closets--selling items they are over to make room and income to buy new ones," Poshmark CEO Manish Chandra told TechHive. "Some women have even become full-on closet entrepreneurs and use the platform to start their own self-sustaining businesses, earning up to six figures a year."

Those women must be reselling Louboutins on a regular basis to rake in such a large income, but anything's possible.

An old-fashioned exchange
The sharing economy typically encompasses platforms that allow users and providers to buy and sell goods and services—not really true, old-fashioned sharing. But Jared Krause decided to get back to basics with TradeYa, a bartering site that launched around the time of the CES trade show earlier this month. Yes, bartering.

Krause worked with social scientists to figure out if online bartering would work. So far, so good. Users post items they want to get rid of, and if you want what they have, you can click the item's "want" button. The person who posted receives a notification about your interest, and then browses your discarded items to see if you have anything desirable. That person can then propose a trade. This arrangement sounds like it could go very badly, but Krause says people usually play fair when they barter.

"People don't end up offering stuff that is disparate in value," Krause told TechHive. "We were worried people were going to post broken VCRs. We had almost none of that. Everybody knows that nobody wants their broken VCR. If you post your broken VCR, you're not going to get a trade for it."

Electronics are hugely popular on the site, but the second biggest category is--you guessed it—women's fashion.

TradeYa isn't the only clothing-swap site around. While TradeYa's approach is pretty hands-off, Swapdom plays referee by setting up multiple-person swaps. You tell the site what you want and what you have to offer, and the site finds other users to get in on the action so that everyone gets a fair deal.

Bib + Tuck is more of a high-end fashion-bartering site, though currency is involved—sort of. You list your item and set the number of Bib + Tuck bucks you're willing to accept. You rack up bucks by listing your own stuff, so bucks are like digital dollars that users pass around the site—and you can't cash them out.

Fashion is well on its way to becoming the next sharing phenomenon. After all, anyone with a sibling can tell you there's nothing better than raiding someone else's closet. (Apologies to my own sister.)


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