Lululemon launches a trade-in and resell program as shoppers grapple with inflation

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A view of a Canadian athletic apparel retailer Lululemon logo seen at one of their stores.
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Lululemon will debut a trade-in and resale option for its gently used leggings, tops and jackets later this month following a successful pilot program prompted by rising consumer prices and a commitment to sustainable purchasing.

The rollout of Lululemon’s “Like New” program comes after the retailer tested the so-called re-commerce platform for customers in Texas and California, which started last May.

Under Like New — powered by resale technology provider Trove — customers will be able to trade in their previously worn Lululemon items in exchange for a gift card at any of the retailer’s U.S. stores. They can also buy from a selection of used items on a separate page on the retailer’s website. More items are to be added every day.

The push into resale will help the premium brand within the athletic apparel sector attract customers who are looking for deals, according to Maureen Erickson, senior vice president of Global Guest Innovation at Lululemon.

“The guest who’s buying from Like New really … skews younger and is a value-based shopper,” Erickson said in a phone interview.

The nationwide debut is being unveiled as consumers are seeing higher prices on everything from gas to milk to bread — and to some of their favorite subscription plans, including Amazon Prime. Lululemon said last month it was planning for selective price increases to help offset some of the pressures it was facing, particularly along its supply chain.

As inflation lingers, it could push more Americans to hunt for discounts and feel more comfortable shopping for secondhand clothing.

Shoppers have already been warming up to the idea of buying used clothing and other items, analysts’ estimates show. In 2015, the resale market stood at about $1 billion, based on a tracking by Jefferies. That market was estimated at $15 billion in 2021, and it is expected to more than triple to $47 billion by 2025.

Erickson added that a number of third-party resale sites, including ThredUp and Poshmark, are already showing up with gently used Lululemon merchandise.

By launching its own resale platform in-house, Lululemon is looking to scoop up those sales and boost repeat customers. And buying secondhand merchandise from the original retailer, Erickson said, gives customers confidence in the products’ quality and authenticity.

“We’ve been able to move [shoppers] over to our ecosystem,” Erickson said. “What it allows us to do is stay vertical, which is the nature of our business … where we own the relationship with the guests.”

On Lululemon’s Like New website, prior to its official launch date, one used women’s “All Yours” cropped hoodie is listed at $49, down from its new $108 price. A used pair of women’s “Strides Ahead” high-rise shorts go for $39, down from $68. And its popular men’s ABC slim-fit pants cost $65 to $75 at resale, down from $128.

The company said it won’t be taking in and reselling certain items such as bras and underwear.

And while the secondhand merchandise will only initially be sold online, and not in Lululemon’s shops, Erickson didn’t rule out the possibility of a brick-and-mortar test of a resale section in store.

Like New also is seen as a commitment to the environment, with the retailer hoping to head off the visit to the country’s landfills of some of its merchandise. The company is working toward several sustainability goals that it laid out last fall, including making 100% of its products with sustainable materials and end-of-use solutions by 2030.

“Every brand is trying to figure out, as they should be, how we can all live into a more sustainable future. That is not going anywhere,” said Erickson. “And it is a global priority for us.”

Younger shoppers are increasingly driving a move toward sustainable purchasing, frequenting thrift shops and reinventing clothing items to reduce consumption. To that end, big-box retailer Target last week confirmed a partnership with ThredUp to list used items for resale as part of its sustainability initiatives.

Lululemon is already being seen as doing it right by Generation Z consumers. The brand just moved up one spot on a list of teens’ top 10 favorite apparel brands, in Piper Sandler’s biannual “Taking Stock with Teens” survey.

In the same survey, which took place from Feb. 16 to March 22, 61% of teens, both female and male, reported purchasing clothes secondhand this spring, and 56% said they’ve recently sold their clothes to secondhand marketplaces.

Andy Ruben, Trove founder and CEO, is calling this year a “watershed” moment for re-commerce.

“Getting more quality for less money has always been in style,” Ruben said in an interview. “And then these things like [higher] gas prices and supply chain disruption … all of this favors supply that is already in our closets — getting more use out of those items.”

Lululemon’s re-commerce site will launch on Earth Day, April 22.

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