Is there a business opportunity for second-hand shoes?

The term “sustainable” comes up in almost every shoe industry conversation at the moment. Many of the articles I’ve read and seminars I’ve watched have focused on technology and innovation: what are the new materials and manufacturing techniques which will make footwear production more sustainable?

An angle which may feel less comfortable to footwear professionals, is the second-hand and rental approach to sustainability. It’s easy to assume that people don’t want to wear used shoes, but my research gives a different perspective.

The Shoe Consultant intern, Laura: a 23 year old with styling and fashion retail experience, is a regular shopper on fashion resale app Depop. When I asked her if she would buy second-hand shoes, she said “That depends on the shoes. If it’s newer second-hand shoes that have been worn once or twice then yes. But when it comes to ones that have been worn in that bit more then no, because the fit might not be as great and they might fit to the person who wore them before”.

 It’s all about how many times the shoes have been worn. Through working with women (and speaking with men), I have found that women are more likely than men to own shoes which they have worn very few times. Higher heels in particular may be bought for a specific event, and never intended for daily use. This would indicate a greater opportunity in the resale and rental markets for women’s shoes.

Whilst men have been renting suits and kilts for years, the rental market for women is relatively new but growing rapidly.

A Google search for “rent fashion uk” brings up My Wardrobe HQ, Our Closet, HireStreet, Front Row, Girl Meets Dress, Hurr Collective, By Rotation, and Rotaro just on the first page. However, only three of these eight sites offer their customers a significant choice of shoe styles (>100 options). Their selections consist of recognisable luxury labels; including basic shoe styles and statement pieces. None of these rental businesses offer any items labelled as menswear.

The high price-points of the luxury shoes offered are reflected in the rental charges. I wonder whether we only want to rent luxury footwear, or if there is a market for more affordable renting from trusted mid-market and premium brands and retailers.

My questions to you are:

  • Would your customers benefit from a trade-in and resale service?
  • Would they consider renting occasionwear shoes from you?

If you’re concerned about how offering these services could impact your current sales model, consider this: is it better that resale and rental companies make money from your products, or that you do?

Pic below: Shoe Consultant Intern Laur