In August, Airee Edwards, owner of Agora Vintage in Athens, had Covid-no problem: She just sold a red Hermès Birkin bag on Instagram Live for $9,900. The work-from-home era hasn’t stopped the growing demand for luxury second-hand goods, especially in Atlanta, where you can now find a local “concierge” consignment shop, Jerrimiah Jamesand a national luxury retailer, the Real Realsteps from Hermes even in Buckhead.
According to a McKinsey report, the luxury consignment market, estimated to be worth more than $25 billion in 2020, is expected to grow at a rate of 10-15% per year over this decade. Patricia Andrews, owner of the Thinner consignor in Johns Creek, sells everything from classic St. John Knits to contemporary Zimmermann. She has worked in the industry for over 30 years and believes that today’s buyers are “smarter with their money”.
And there are good reasons to invest in luxury. A study by online consignor Baghunter found that between 1985, around the time Hermès introduced the Birkin, and 2015, the value of the iconic bag increased by around 14% per year, compared to the gold, which rose just under 2%. The appreciation is even greater if you didn’t buy new. Edwards says, “Prices are almost always fluid on consignment. Some discounts can be significant. Depending on the state, we regularly sell items for thousands less than retail.
Resale has also become more attractive as it has become clear that fast fashion is harmful to the environment. For example, fashion production now accounts for 10% of total global carbon emissions, and 85% of all textiles end up in landfills each year. “Coming out of the pandemic, we’re seeing more and more of people buying into their values and striving to live more sustainably,” says Kelly McSweeney, Women’s Merchandising Manager for RealReal. “Now more than ever, consumers understand the benefits to the planet of keeping items in circulation.”
Sarah Davis is founder and president of the Californian company Fashionphile, which has a sales studio inside Neiman Marcus in Lenox Square. Their stores purchase inventory from vendors in advance rather than consigning it. Davis notes that recycled fashion is nothing new – the Salvation Army introduced thrift stores in the late 1800s. “What we have now, however,” she adds, “is the technology and scale to add to an already attractive model.” His company’s sales increased by more than 100% between 2020 and 2021.
Buyers know their business and become very specific in their requests, McSweeney says. For example, from 2021 to 2022, searches for Tom Ford-era Gucci increased 138%, she said, adding that in Atlanta, Gucci is the most important brand. Classics like Chanel are also consistent bestsellers here, as is Hermès, with Atlantans favoring their brightly colored Birkin and Kelly bags over neutrals. Atlanta residents “gravitate toward bright, colorful accessories and brand signatures like logos and recognizable hardware details,” she says.
For Carrie Fowler, an interior designer based in Ansley Park, luxury consignment is not only a way to satisfy her love of hunting, but also to enjoy the efficient purchase of new items. “You can redesign items as your tastes and needs change,” she says. “It’s not uncommon for me to get back more than 50% of what I bought [a piece] for when I will sell it. She mainly gravitates towards jewelry, shoes and handbags from Chloé, Céline and her “holy grail”, Chanel.
This article originally appeared in our October 2022 issue.