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Instagram entrepreneurs are searching vintage racks for you

Kai Ryssdal and Josie Fan May 25, 2018
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ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images

We’ve been shopping online for more than two decades. Now social media is a burgeoning new venue for shoppers who would rather scroll and comment than hunt for treasures themselves at brick-and-mortar stores. But how does it work for both the consumers and “shop” owners? Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal talked about it with Alexandra Stratton, who wrote about the trend for Bloomberg. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kai Ryssdal: You have to help me understand how this works. You’re flipping through your Instagram feed, you see a poster or an ad and you decide you want to buy it. Is it that simple?

Alexandra Stratton: It’s a new kind of consumerism, really. People have started creating vintage stores on Instagram. And you can follow these accounts and they post different vintage outfits every day. And if you’re the first one to comment, you can have the outfit. 

Ryssdal: So you got to be quick. 

Stratton: Exactly. They’ll just direct message each other and say here’s the cost, and they conduct the payment through Paypal or Venmo or another —

Ryssdal: Sort of peer-to-peer financing thing. Right? 

Stratton: Right. 

Ryssdal: How does it work on the seller’s back end? I mean, do they have to go and source all these vintage clothes they’re selling, and then they’ve got to do photo shoots and the whole deal, right? I imagine it’s sort of labor intensive. 

Stratton: They’re spending hours per week, you know, rifling through the racks at Salvation Army, Goodwill and also, like, estate sales to find these outfits. And then, you know, it’s pretty simple. They take photos of the outfits, post them to their account. They often clean the items up as well, since they are vintage, so they’ll mend them, clean them. 

Ryssdal: And how much are they making? I mean, if I decide to get into this line of work, how much can I clear?

Stratton: You know, it varies. Because some people opt to have this as, you know, a so-called side hustle where they can make a couple hundred extra bucks per week. For other people, this has morphed into their full-time profession and they can accrue up to $5,000 in sales per week.

Ryssdal: Wow, that’s not terrible.

Stratton: Which kind of makes you think, you know, is this something I should get into?

Ryssdal: Totally. But let me ask you this. You know, social media has been around for a decent number of years now, and we have yet to see people actually actively, as a habit, shopping on social, right? What happens is they see stuff on social, and then they flip to Instagram or they go out to some brick-and-mortar place, and then they buy it. Do you suppose this is sort of the cutting edge of a new way of buying stuff? 

Stratton: I think people, as social media is becoming more prevalent, I think people are becoming more comfortable with the idea of purchasing directly from social media, especially with how easy Instagram has made it. It’s working with retailers now so that people can actually purchase things directly. They don’t have to leave the app to buy things. And I think that that’s fairly seamless for the consumer. And in this time when, you know, people are sort of rejecting the brick and mortar with all of its pain points, they are looking for something seamless, and I think social media is working to offer them that. 

Ryssdal: You — now this is radio, so I can’t see it — but my guess is you’re closer to the demographic that Instagram wants than perhaps I am. So let me ask you this: Are you going to do more shopping like this on social, whether it’s Pinterest or Twitter or Instagram or whatever? 

Stratton: I, myself, I do fall into the demographic. I think part of the reason why millennials are so attracted to this kind of shopping is because we’re seeing them reject fast fashion. People in this generation are starting to realize the toll that that takes on the environment. And so this vintage shopping is just one way that they’re sort of like trying to be more meaningful with their dollar.

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