Swiss running shoe brand launches resale site on Sustainability Push

Swiss sportswear brand On is launching a resale site on Thursday, making it the latest company to enter the fast-growing apparel resale market.

Holding AG, which is backed by tennis star Roger Federer, went public last year and expects to see net sales of 1.1 billion Swiss francs ($1.1 billion) in 2022. The company has put sustainability at the heart of its activities. It has set science-based climate targets, according to its 2021 environmental impact report, to reduce the emissions it produces directly by 46 percent by 2030 and reduce indirect emissions resulting from the company’s supply chain and product use . On also strives to be fully circular, meaning that it would someday use only recycled materials to produce its products and create little waste in their manufacture, distribution and use.

“It will obviously take us years to be fully circular,” said Samuel Wenger, On’s global head of direct-to-consumer. The new resale site, Onward, “is a perfect intermediate step,” Wenger said.

The fashion industry has a huge climate and waste problem. Between 2 percent and 8 percent of global carbon emissions come from big fashion, according to the United Nations, and it’s also a major source of plastic pollution. By extending the life of products, whether through resale or rental, customers and businesses keep them out of landfills longer and prevent future emissions associated with the development of new goods.

Here’s how Onward will work: Customers can send their lightly or moderately used shoes to the company in exchange for a $35 gift card to spend on new or used items, assuming the shoes are of high enough quality to be reused and not cause harm. (Shoes that do not meet this line will be donated or recycled.) The returned products will then be sorted into three categories according to quality — near perfect, very good and good — and priced accordingly.

Newer, seasonal, better quality products will command a higher price than lower quality, out-of-season products, and all products will be less expensive than brand new. A newer product of near-perfect quality will cost about 75 percent of the original price, according to Wenger. In addition to shoes, the company plans to start selling used On-branded clothing items on the resale site by the end of the year.

To help run the site, On is partnering with e-commerce technology company Trove, which runs similar sites for other big-name clothing and outdoor brands, including Patagonia, REI and Lululemon. All these companies see resale as an essential part of their sustainability ambitions, said Trove chief executive Gayle Tait. So far, Trove estimates that it has helped avoid emissions of more than 2 million kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent and kept more than 200,000 kilograms of waste out of landfills worldwide.

Offering products for resale is also a way to reach new customers. At least 50% of Trove’s “re-trade” customers said they were new to a brand, according to Tait.

This is part of a larger trend of customers turning to second-hand items and shopping. Compared to two years ago, U.S. consumers of all ages reported buying used at least 33 percent more often, according to a December 2021 report by First Insight, Inc. and the Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

For customers, choosing to participate in resale purchases is “an active choice you can make to really reduce your waste,” said Trove’s Tait. “We all have closets full of things we wear or don’t wear, honestly, and it’s all about finding the right homes for those items and passing them on to the next person.”

By Zahra Hirji

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