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Corner Office

How luxury consignment works at The RealReal

Kai Ryssdal and Daisy Palacios Oct 17, 2018
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Julie Wainwright is CEO of luxury consignment company The RealReal.
Courtesy of The RealReal

For those of you who love high-end, brand-name shopping — handbags, shoes, watches, jewelry, clothing, including menswear — you’ve likely heard of The RealReal.

For the rest of us “nonshoppers,” The RealReal is a consignment website. It’s a place for people to list their unwanted luxury goods — most items are used, but others still have tags on them — so that others can purchase them. It’s second-hand shopping, and it’s pricey, but not as pricey as it would be if you bought brand new.

The RealReal is only seven years old, but business is booming. The company even has a couple of brick-and-mortar locations in Los Angeles and New York City.

Julie Wainwright, the CEO, founded The RealReal in 2011. We asked her what the top three consignment brands at The RealReal are. She listed them as:

1. Gucci

2. Louis Vuitton

3. Chanel

“That’s new, by the way,” Wainwright said. “Gucci was not the No. 1 in demand before. So it really has risen through the ranks. Louis Vuitton’s always strong.”

The RealReal also sells menswear, home goods and art. One thing it won’t do? Wine.

“Because you really can’t tell the authenticity of it. And there’s too many horror stories out there,” Wainwright said. “We looked at doing cars, and cars didn’t make sense either. The market’s too big, it’s too hard to authenticate. You know, it’s a lot of work for a lot less money.”

According to Wainwright, most products are sold in 90 days or less. Inventory moves very quickly at the e-commerce center in Secaucus, New Jersey. The RealReal has a step-by-step process to get each product in, authenticated and out for sale.

How it works

Receiving

Items arrive at the e-commerce center and are unpacked. Christine Louis works in receiving at the e-commerce center in Secaucus.

Christine Louis works in the receiving department at The RealReal e-commerce center in Secaucus, New Jersey. 

“So, what I’m doing right now is just checking the condition, making sure that it’s in good condition, that its something that we want to take,” Louis told Ryssdal.  

Authentication

After the item is received, experts make sure it’s the real thing by inspecting construction and brand trademarks and identifiers.

Giselle Huntley works inspects items for quality and authenticity. 

Giselle Huntley is one of the team members who authenticates The RealReal’s products. She’s looking at “the quality of the stitching, looking at the hardware, making sure that the year it’s saying it is matches that color that came out for that year,” Huntley said.

Fine jewelry and watch authentication

Fine jewelry and watches are inspected by certified and specially trained gemologists and horologists, or watchmakers, on staff.

As head watchmaker, Laif Anderson aims to authenticate at least 30 watches a day. 

Laif Anderson is the head watchmaker at The RealReal. Before joining the company, he was a jeweler and goldsmith. He said they try to authenticate at least 30 watches a day.

Copywriting

After the authentication process is complete, the product goes to copywriting. There, the team creates detailed descriptions for each item, including measurements and special characteristics, like runway season, if applicable.

Pricing

The pricing team then determines the price of each item based on data from over 8 million items sold on The RealReal website, as well as real-time market demand.

Photography

Each item is then professionally photographed in house by their team of photographers.

A mannequin stands in The RealReal’s photo room. 

Storage

Finally, the items are stored in e-commerce centers as they are listed on the site and await sale.

To listen the extended interview, subscribe to the Corner Office podcast on Apple Podcasts.