We're a quarter of a century past the original Fendi Baguette heyday, and the fashion trend cycle now churns faster than ever, but the "It" bag, as a concept, is still as ubiquitous as ever. What's changed most of all is not the style, nor even the brands, but rather how we're buying — and, for the purposes of this story, selling — the bags themselves.
Today, there are far more ways to manage your handbag collection than there were even five years ago, with the most significant changes to the marketplace taking place on either side of the financial transaction. To acquire an "It" bag once necessitated a pilgrimage to the closest flagship store. And what if you wanted to get rid of it? That experience was even more rigid, landing you at the whims of a consignment boutique or Ebay.
The democratization of resale — and frankly, social commerce in general — has blown the handbag sector wide open, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. In 2021, the global luxury resale market reached an overall value of approximately $33 billion, and it's expected to top $47 billion by 2025. And while more options are great, they can make the task of reselling a bit daunting. An instruction manual would be nice, right? So we wrote one.
We surveyed the experts and broke down the marketplace into four broader buckets — online resale platforms, peer-to-peer listing sites, brick-and-mortar consignment and auction houses — with clearly defined pros and cons listed for each. It's enough to make you head straight to your closet and get a head start on that seasonal wardrobe clean-out. Why not extend the life of your "It" bags and recoup your investment while you're at it? Read on.
Step 1: Set your expectations, and understand the ground rules.
"The two factors all sellers have in mind are money and time," says TikTok creator Charles Gross, who's built a seven-digit following for his expertise in luxury goods. "How much will I get? And how long will it take to get it?"
Which do you value more highly, money or time? Answering this will enable you to select the resale experience that's most aligned with your goals.
"Some people going through a financial hardship may need to sell a few of their bags to make ends meet, and in that case, they would prioritize a faster sale over maximizing profit," says Celesta, a luxury-fashion commentator on TikTok who goes only by her first name. "If I'm selling something right now, it's because I want to get the most money back from that bag and buy something else later on. And in that situation, I wouldn't have an issue waiting a few months. It really depends on a person's experience."
Regardless of the intention behind your sale, your first step should be research. Start by understanding your bag's value: Look up previous sales of the same bag, and set a price range based on that sale history. This way, if a buyer comes to you with skepticism, you have receipts to justify your rate. And get ready to do just that.
"There are a lot of scams out there," warns Gross. "Finding a new owner to use and love your bag unfortunately comes with the risk of being scammed."
Next, take stock of the market: Is your handbag particularly hot right now, so much so that buyers may be persuaded to overlook any imperfections in quality? Ideally, sellers should sell pieces that are both in demand and in good condition, and though that need not always be the case, it's helpful to understand what kind of bags generate the highest ROI.
At Rebag, which pays sellers immediately for their goods, you might not get an offer if the platform has a lot of that specific item in stock. Charles Gorra, CEO and founder of the digital-first resale platform, explains that if there's enough wear and tear, the offer will be lower than for a bag that's in excellent condition.
"If the bag is highly coveted, or in high demand and low supply, it's more likely that our buyers will make a good offer that could even be more than the bag's original retail price," says Gorra.
Indeed, there's an opportunity to recover what you initially paid for, and then some. Gorra has long encouraged treating one's handbags like their stock portfolio, not simply in a cost-per-wear sense, but also in terms of value, and how that value may fluctuate in the future. In 2019, Rebag launched its own Comprehensive Luxury Appraisal Index, a digital tool anyone can use to instantly check the current and historic resale value of a specific luxury handbag.
Until the luxury resale industry is standardized entirely, however, it's on buyers and sellers themselves to foster an investment mindset from the get go.
Step 2: Pick a resale experience based on the priorities outlined above.
Luxury experts agree that the resale marketplace can be broken down into four separate buckets: two online and two offline. Each are specially suited for various types of handbags as well as selling experiences, with pros and cons for each. Here's where you should turn, depending on what you're looking for.
Digital resale platforms
Good for: An efficient and trustworthy sale
Options include: Bag Borrow or Steal, Fashionphile, The Luxury Closet, The RealReal, Rebag, Vestiaire Collective
There's a lot to love about luxury re-commerce platforms, which is why a new one seems to pop up every five-10 business days. For starters, they take care of much, if not all, of the legwork behind the scenes. But you do pay for the convenience in the form of fees, with different retailers setting different rates of commission.
The RealReal, for example, builds its commission structure around a rewards program: The more you sell, the more you earn — and the more benefits you receive. Commission rates are also set by demand: Sellers earn more for in-demand, high-value pieces, while lower-value items with less demand have lower commission rates.
"The best option for a quick and realistic sale is a resale platform," says Gross. "This option also lets you learn about the item throughout the process. The fees resale platforms take is well worth it, considering the risks of the other options."
In terms of speed, there are also variations within these platforms. Rebag and Fashionphile, for instance, pay sellers upfront, whereas The RealReal and Vestiaire operate on something closer to a consignment model, where you don't get paid until after your item has been listed and sold. That said, it's unlikely these platforms will accept an item they don't think will sell relatively swiftly.
By and large, such platforms also provide a functional, intuitive user experience, a benefit that's especially important for resale newbies. With just a few snaps of your iPhone and some basic information (if that — The RealReal takes care of the entire listing process), you'll have a quote and a shipping label ready to make a sale. Accessibility aside, not all platforms are created equal, and the higher-value your handbag, the more the differences between them may become apparent.
"Each resale site has a reputation," explains Gross, "and any infractions mar a site's image forever. Some are known to be wildly overpriced, which delays sales. Some have issues with authenticity. Some are oversaturated. And on and on."
With competition still hot in the online resale market, most platforms are racing to get the most, and the best, inventory. There's always got to be something for everyone, which, of course, bodes as well for sellers looking to offload their handbags as it does for buyers. And with supply chain challenges crippling retail supply, Celesta speculates online resale demand will only continue to grow.
Peer-to-peer listing sites
Good for: Recouping the most of your initial purchase, if you are willing to put in the work
Options include: Depop, eBay, Mercari, Poshmark, StockX, ThredUp, Tradesy
If you're deterred by the fees that allow for resale platforms to be as convenient as they are, peer-to-peer listing sites — made up of communities of individuals who sell new and secondhand pieces, like luxury handbags — may just be for you. In fact, if you're prepared to work for it, you may be able to avoid extra third-party charges altogether.
"Listing sites allow sellers to keep the most profit, but you're doing all the legwork and taking all the risk," says Gross. "You have to photograph, accurately list and competitively price your item. Then there's interfacing with potential buyers, some of whom might have dishonest intentions. If your item sells, you have to handle delivery (shipping or in person), returns and exchange of money."
Just as each listing site caters to a different clientele, their commission structures vary just as widely. Sites like eBay take out some of that burden, but with a fee. The e-commerce giant charges two main types of selling fees: an insertion fee when you create a listing, and a final value fee when your item sells.
For all sales under $15, Poshmark takes a flat commission of $2.95, and you keep the rest. For sales of $15 or more, you keep 80% of your sale and Poshmark's commission is 20%.
Meanwhile, ThredUp's commission fee ranges from 20% to 90% of the selling price, and the seller's payout depends on the cost of an item. At the end of the day, though, these sites likely still offer the highest return over a resale platform.
"If you do your research, take good photos and are okay with high risk and potentially waiting [for the handbag to sell], it's worth it," adds Gross. "You could list your bag on a classifieds site, deal with all the incoming inquiries and filter out the scam offers, sell the bag and ship it, keeping all the profit. But what are you losing in time that makes up for the increased return?"
So, what kinds of handbags perform especially well on listing sites, and may make it worth your while to give them a shot? When it comes to peer-to-peer marketplaces like eBay or Poshmark, Gross is especially bullish on hyper-trend-aligned or niche Y2K-era bags, like Núnoo's blinged-out mesh carrier or Coperni's ovular top-handle.
"Make a listing and share your passion for the bag," Gross suggests. "You're more likely to find an equally passionate buyer."
Good for: A convenient exchange, and particularly appealing for hyper-luxury
Options include: Retailers vary based on region, so do your homework. But if you're in New York or Los Angeles, What Goes Around Comes Around has built a strong reputation over the years.
Enter brick-and-mortar consignment, which brings the hard-won expertise of digital platforms like Fashionphile and Vestiaire Collective offline and into a physical retail space. While there's certainly something to be said for handing your expensive bag over for inspection in-person, be prepared to experience some of the same challenges — like steep consignment fees and inconsistent timelines — that you would online. With the traditional consignment structure, your bag is put in the store's inventory and you don't see any money until they sell it, however long that may take.
This isn't always a bad thing. Heather Hurst, a Washington, D.C.-based creator who posts under the handle @pigmami, tends to gravitate toward in-person consignment stores, which, on the whole, are generally easier and more trustworthy than a listing site on which you interact with your buyers directly.
"The turnaround is pretty great, and you don't have to do much of the legwork in terms of photographing, writing descriptions and measuring," says Hurst. "All of that is pretty time-intensive, and I think for a lot of people, a barrier to selling their old things. On these platforms, there's a lot of opportunity for people to lowball you or not provide payment, and these are issues the store would handle for you."
In New York City, in-person consignment and resale is booming, if only because space constraints all but mandate that residents clean out their closets. At ultra-luxury retailers like What Goes Around Comes Around, Designer Revival and Encore (which has been open since 1954 and boasts customers like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis), buyers and sellers are treated appropriately luxe, as they hand-off their Chanel flap bag or browse the five- or even six-digit Hermès. (The Himalaya Birkin 35, for example, can retail for literal millions and millions of dollars.)
"If I'm dropping $30,000 on a bag, I want to go into the store," says Celesta. "I want to look at the details. I want to see if there's anything that would catch my eye that sometimes you don't see online."
Good for: Extremely rare, extremely valuable (and extremely expensive) items
Options include: 1stDibs, Christie's, Sotheby's
If you're a person who's looking to sell a handbag in a professional auction, especially those that include a physical auction block, I'm wondering what you're doing reading this instead of sunbathing on a yacht in Sardinia or some place.
"Auction houses often take the highest fees, and you're again most often looking at a consignment structure," says Gross. "I would only opt for this option if you're selling a collection of extremely rare and extremely valuable items. Otherwise, you're taking on huge fees and in some cases, waiting until your item fits into an auction on their schedule."
Step 3: Get out there, and keep your eyes peeled for the next big thing!
You've done your homework, established your objectives and identified the outlet that's best suited to help you achieve your goals. By our estimate, you're all set to sell. But because the luxury resale market is evolving so quickly (it's expected to increase roughly 42% between 2021 and 2025), you may want to switch up your methodology in a few years.
One development Hurst is keeping her eye on is social selling, in which individuals leverage their digital followings, no matter the size, to sell items directly.
"I've even sold some designer items on my Instagram Story," says Hurst. "People have trust in me from watching my shopping habits and learning where I shop. They know who they're buying from."
No matter the method, and no matter how much blood, sweat, tears or commission fees the reselling journey may take, sellers can take comfort in knowing there will always be someone on the other side of the transaction who will love your handbag all over again.