Stores closed, tourism stopped and a looming economic breakdown are sending the fashion industry into a fight for survival. Vestiaire Collective may have the guide for that.

With a €59m funding round unveiled on Tuesday, the Paris-based platform for buying and selling second-hand clothes and handbags says it stands to benefit from the changes in consumer habits that are happening amid the Covid-19 crisis.

Vestiaire Collective says orders on its platform have rebounded to pre-coronavirus levels after an initial drop — and now surpassed them. Its orders in Europe in February were 20% above the average recorded over previous years for that month, and deposits of products for sale were up 33%, according to the latest data provided by its chief executive Max Bittner. Last Friday was its biggest sales day in company history, he said.

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“We’ve seen an increase in interest in accessible price points on the platform, along with a strong uplift in deposits,” says Bittner. “Consumers are becoming increasingly resourceful and looking to their wardrobe as a way to raise funds, and on the buying side they’re looking for quality products at accessible prices.”

The 11-year-old company raised from new investors, including Korelya Capital, Vaultier7 and funds managed by Fidelity International. Existing shareholders, including Eurazeo Growth, Bpifrance and Conde Nast, reinvested.

Within a general trend of declining revenue in the fashion space, consumers in confinement are shifting any shopping they do online. The coronavirus crisis is also accelerating the shift in spending habits towards cleaner products and purpose-driven businesses, and “growing antipathy toward waste-producing business models”, according to McKinsey. 

Those trends started emerging before the coronavirus outbreak, but they’ve amplified since, and only the companies that have adapted will survive. The consultancy estimates that if stores stay shut for two months, no less than 80% of publicly-listed fashion companies in Europe and the US will be in financial distress.

The post-Covid consumer

Store closings in capitals from Paris to Tokyo, limited international travel and consumers wondering about their own financial prospects have hurt sales in the past month at fashion and luxury giants. Many have also been forced to shut down production sites as confinement measures aimed at containing the Covid-19 multiplied.

LVMH, the world’s biggest luxury goods conglomerate and owner of makeup chain Sephora and brands including Louis Vuitton, has warned that its full-year earnings will be impacted — especially if life doesn’t return to normal by summer. The company said online sales have been accelerating, but it didn’t specify to what extent, as total sales fell 15% in the first quarter.

Consulting firm Bain & Company estimates sales in the luxury sector could fall by as much as 35% this year. 

The Covid-19 crisis will translate into heightened environmental, social, ethical and price consciousness among consumers, the consulting firm forecast recently in a report. The shift to online shopping is also likely to accelerate, it said.

“Fashion activists”

Created in 2009, Vestiaire Collective is part of the so-called “circular fashion” trend. Instead of buying new and throwing away, the idea is that consumers will invest in more durable, high-end products that they can wear for a bit and then sell to others.

The platform has nine million users in 90 countries, which it refers to as “fashion activists”. Each week, some 60,000 for-sale items are added to its platform, from running shoes to luxury handbags that go for €1,000 and more.

It’s not alone in tapping the second-hand fashion segment. Lithuanian unicorn Vinted and the UK’s Depop are also going after users who are looking to buy or sell used clothing. 

Vestiaire Collective had raised €160m in total before the most recent round, according to Dealroom data. It started talks in late 2019 for the round just unveiled.

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