ECA columnist Glynn Davis meets Andy Ruben, founder & executive chairman of Trove, a branded fashion resale platform…
Can you tell us a little about Trove?
Trove is the market leader in branded resale for world-class brands like Canada Goose, Lululemon, Patagonia, REI, Levi’s, Arc’teryx, Allbirds, and more. We power brands with scale, profit, and customer experience through our Recommerce Operating System.
For the first few years, the company was called ‘Yerdle’ and was essentially an online marketplace to barter items. However, as the marketplace grew, I knew it wouldn’t achieve our ultimate objective of creating a more circular commerce model. We were already working with brands but as part of the broader marketplace rather than through their existing storefronts. After much thought, we decided to take the company in a new direction, where we began to work directly with brands to resell their products. We knew that beloved brands who made incredible products would be the future winners of this changing landscape.
We started with Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, and REI, and spent the next three years working side by side to understand how Trove’s technology could unlock their success. Focusing on these three brands to start helped us put in the amount of time and thought needed to build out the complete circular shopping platform and experience. Currently, we work with 12 world-class brands including the most recent.
What were the key drivers for creating the business?
Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, right behind the oil industry. After years of leading sustainability at Walmart I was inspired to start Trove to figure out a way brands could grow their businesses without net new production. While we have made progress in reducing the carbon intensity per item, we are producing twice as many items today as a few decades ago. Current efforts won’t be sufficient – the math never adds up.
We need new models and brands selling their existing items multiple times.
How has the business changed since its formation?
Our business has shifted quite a bit since starting out as Yerdle in 2012, but our mission hasn’t changed at all. As resale becomes more mainstream, brands are looking to integrate it as a meaningful part of their mainline business. We processed 1.5 million items in the last year, preventing a huge number of products from needing to be sourced, produced, and shipped.
Trove’s evolution has impacted the industry at large as well – we launched the first brand resale program with Patagonia in 2017 and by the end of 2022, there were more than 120 brands with dedicated resale programs. Trove has been at the forefront of the industry continuing to innovate with store and digital trade-in and is able to list over 10-times more items than the nearest branded resale provider.
Can you give us a flavor of the retailers/brands you work with?
We work with both premium and luxury brands including Allbirds, Levi’s, Patagonia, REI, Eileen Fisher, Arc’teryx, On, and most recently, Canada Goose and Carhartt. We meet weekly with our partners including their most senior leadership as we feel it’s important to continue to have strategic, forward-looking discussions with our teams. We tend to work with partners who already understand that resale is a rapidly growing and extremely valuable space and the only way to capitalize on the opportunity is to own the channel in a brand-centric way.
Can you share some key numbers – revenues, volumes, number of clients/brands?
Eileen Fisher has seen 107% increase in customer lifetime value. REI sold over one million pre-loved items in 2021. Lululemon has over 400 stores that offer point-of-sale trade-in. Patagonia Wornwear has over 80% of online inventory sell within one week. Arc’teryx has double the growth in trade-ins year-over-year.
What have been the major challenges for the company and are there any threats?
Our current economy has put pressure on everyone’s wallets. This has been great for resale, but tough for innovation. Brands are struggling to find the resources to move into branded resale on their own, making this the perfect time for a partner like Trove to step in and make that possible.
How do you think resale and the circular economy will develop?
The first branded program was in 2017 with Patagonia. We are going to continue to see integration between resale and other brand channels as customers continue to evolve. I believe that branded resale will soon be as expected as e-commerce is today. Consumer shopping will seamlessly include both new and pre-loved items. Handing items back when they’re no longer of use will be as common as the ability to return a new product today.
What are the major opportunities?
With the rise of branded resale, brands now have the opportunity to consider every product they have ever created as a complete asset. Brands have a right to lead this space. They can sell their inventory not just once, but twice or three times. Trove allows partners to monetise the assets they have already created, that are living untouched in their customers’ closets. It is about providing options for customers that are looking for a specific item. Given the option, customers will choose to buy the item from the brand. That is a great way to take something, another person is no longer using and find value and pass them on to the next owner. Eventually, every brand will have a resale programme.
What are your future plans?
We plan to continue to expand into new sectors – most notably, luxury. There is a huge opportunity in the luxury market, and luxury customers are very active on resale platforms, but most major luxury brands have not taken advantage of the opportunity to tell their own stories. Premium brands don’t want someone else speaking for them, and sadly today, many customers experience a luxury brand for the first time via a third-party platform. Luxury items are made with incredible heritage, and they hold their value over time. This will be the year of luxury resale.