Buying new clothes for kids can turn into a huge monthly expense. Our 12-month old has grown so fast that it’s a rarity if he wears anything more than three or four times.
Thankfully, we have a strong local support network of friends and family, and we know a lot of people in our own age group that have recent babies. This is how we get most of our clothes, toys, and even used furniture. In turn, we swap many of the used baby clothes that our son no longer fits into with those who have younger kids.
I guess this is the unspoken rule of parenthood. Karma, if you will. You get and you give, and the whole process just rinses and repeats.
Now imagine if someone took the same idea, formalized the process, and took it to a national scale. That’s exactly what the people at ThredUp have done.
ThredUp is an online clothing swap service that leverages the power of the Internet to bring parents together, eBay style, and provide a forum for exchanging unused clothing. Brilliant!
How Does it Work?
The site is based on swapping identically sized boxes of clothes. To receive a box, you browse and select the box you want. The descriptions are great, allowing you to sort clothes by sex and size, and then see the brands, types of clothes, and other details about what’s in the box.
Users are ranked based on the boxes they’ve shipped out using a star and comment system, so you can see who you’re dealing with at a glance.
You click “order” and you’re on your way. The cost to get a box is $5 plus shipping, which is just over $10 for the standard USPS box. That’s about $15 all together. Most of the boxes I looked at contain about 12-16 pieces of clothing, so you’re going to average about $1 per piece.
In turn, after you select your first few boxes (or even before), you’re asked to package your own boxes to send to others. This part is completely free—you receive 10 boxes to start with your free membership, and the other person pays the shipping charge. You’re then rated based on the quality of the clothes you sent.
A Brief Interview with ThredUp CEO, James Reinhart
James, who calls himself “Chief Knitwit,” was kind enough to share a few minutes of his time with me and answer some questions about the company. Here’s what he had to say:
1. Clothes swaps are already an awesome money-saving concept on a local level. What gave you the idea and motivation to take this to the big leagues?
I was staring in my closet one day and realized I didn’t want to wear a thing in it. The clothes hanging inside were my size and style – but I was just bored with everything in there. I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to swap closets for a day? Exchange all my clothes, for another guy’s wardrobe with the same size and style. Future thredUP co-founders Oliver Lubin, Chris Homer and myself got to thinking about second-hand market inefficiencies. Why was there no easy way to exchange clothes you don’t want, for clothes you do want? And what about kids? They outgrow up to 40 clothing items every 3-6 months. Lightbulb!
We decided to build a swapping platform for moms – an easy way to exchange all those outgrown kids clothes, for the next size up. We found that while parents love local swap parties, they often provide a limited selection and require lots of work. Not to mention, the parent with the oldest child always walks out empty handed, simply giving clothes away for free. thredUP couples the simplicity of traditional “hand-me-downs” with a massive online market. Over 50,000 parents have joined thredUP to connect and swap kids clothing (and toys!) online.
2. Can you talk about some of the ways you keep the quality of swapped clothing high for users?
Quality is actually less of an issue than you’d think! When you receive a box of clothes, you review it (eBay style). I was surprised to learn that 95% of boxes reviewed on thredUP have been rated 3 or 4 stars (out of 4). In other words, 95% of people who have swapped, were satisfied with the clothes they received. ThredUP really isn’t about strangers swapping (as many swap, buy, sell sites are) – it’s a trusting community of like-minded moms.
Aside from box ratings, thredUP monitors quality in a few other ways:
- Every sender has a rating (an average of box reviews provided by other members). You know that 3 and 4 star senders have sent high quality items in the past. 1 star members, however, have a much harder time getting their boxes picked – the system self monitors in that way.
- the thredUP team randomly picks boxes for quality checks. You never know if your box will be selected for a quality check, so it’s important to follow the Golden Thred rule: send only what you’re willing to receive.
- if you receive a box of items that are too worn, stained or torn, our customer service team will credit you appropriately
We don’t tolerate bad behavior – receive 1 star rating once – you’re warned. If you receive multiple 1 star ratings, you’re banned from swapping.
3. Your site markets itself to Moms. As a Dad, I’m a little offended. Seriously though, who have you found to be your target audience–younger or older parents? Do clothes for babies or older kids swap more? How do you plan to expand your reach in the future?
I’m also a dad (of a 6 month old) and swap at least once a week on thredUP! However, 95% of our swappers are busy moms, looking to save time, money and the environment – so we tend to speak to that audience. thredUP facilitates swapping for ages 0-12, and there are many boxes of clothes to choose from in each size. If we are running low on any particular size, we offer “low supply credits,” we pay swappers to list boxes in those sizes.
Our goal is to have this swapping platform support any parenting related gear. Why? Because anything parenting related is eventually outgrown – you don’t need it anymore, and you need something new. If it fits in the thredUP box, it swaps!
4. You have a large community excited about your site. What are some of the best ways you’ve found to grow and feed that community?
Our swappers are our #1 brand advocates – the majority of our user growth has come from word or mouth and direct invitations sent from the site. In an effort to promote this further, we recently launched a “Give $5, Get $5″ referral program. Essentially we allow customers to send a $5 swapping coupon to friends. If a friend decides to use the coupon, the original customer will also receive $5. It’s our way of saying thanks for spreading the word.
We also have a very active community facebook page. Our swappers are consistently chatting about boxes on the site, sharing parenting advice, and getting new members up to speed. We consistently leverage our facebook community to get feedback on new features and updates. We poll our fans on anything from a new tag line, do launching thredUP-for-toys.
5. Have you found that everyone on your site “swaps,” or are there also people who just like to share their old clothes without asking for any in return?
Most of our users complete full swaps – both picking and sending boxes of clothes. However, thredUP meets the need of 3 different types of consumers. Parents who are looking to save money love thredUP for the price point – $5 + shipping for a full box of clothes (or toys). Busy parents who need to save time love thredUP because you can swap from home, thanks to our home pick-up and delivery option. Parents who want to ‘go green’ love thredUP because it’s now easier than ever to share what you already have, cutting down on both waste and consumption. Whatever kids clothing “problem” you have (and we know you have one!) thredUP can solve it.
I hope this short interview gave you a bit more insight into this new company! I definitely appreciated James taking the time out of his day to share such detailed answers with us.
My free boxes arrived from the USPS about 5 days after I signed up for the site, and I’ll get started by sharing a box of our son’s old clothes with someone in the community. We’ll then test the other side of the equation by ordering a box of 18-month stuff for the summer!
Check out ThredUp and let me know what you think! I think this has the opportunity to really take off.