The RealReal is the real deal

Rachel Vaisman. Courtesy The RealReal.
The company brings authentic consigned luxury goods to devotees online.

The RealReal is the cutting-edge of consignment, separating the wheat from the chaff — that is, the actual Chanel from the faux — to bring secondhand luxury goods to devotees online.

With offices in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., it also has managers in all major markets. 

Just a few of its impressive numbers are:

• Close to $400 million in revenues in 2016,
• Six million members/shoppers,
• Five million items sold,
• 950 employees across the United States and
• 40 cities with in-home pickup service.

Based in New York City, senior director Rachel Vaisman often travels around the metro area to visit with consignors. (We met her when she served on the Bruce Museum’s “Art of Design” panel in March.) Here she offers us insight into what makes The RealReal such a hot business:

How is The RealReal different from brick-and-mortar luxury consignment shops or something like eBay?

“The RealReal is the leader in authenticated luxury consignment with a certified expert behind every single item. The consignment company reinvented luxury resale and has changed how people think about and consume luxury goods. The RealReal provides the largest selection of pre-owned authenticated luxury items, including women’s and men’s fashion, fine jewelry and watches and fine art and home. Consignors earn up to 70 percent of the sale price and items sell quickly. The company also has luxury consignment offices in six U.S. cities that offer free fine jewelry and watch valuations from certified gemologists, as well as a white-glove consignment service in every city. The consignment site is also opening its first permanent brick-and-mortar store in New York City this winter.”

You say that The RealReal has changed the way people think about and consume luxury goods. How so?

“People value value more than ever and are becoming more mindful about their consumption habits. They now realize the potential ROI  (Return on Investment) of the items they have hanging in their closets and in their jewelry boxes. The RealReal offers consignors an easy and fast way to sell their luxury goods for maximum value and gives consumers a trusted place to buy luxury goods for less. We’re changing the way people shop as they now carefully consider the resale value of luxury items before buying.”

Say I have a Chanel handbag I want to sell. Take us through the process.

“The RealReal makes consigning very easy. We have a team of luxury managers in all major markets across the country who can come to your home to pick up your Chanel handbag along with any other pieces you would like to consign.  If you do not want someone coming to you, you can ship to us by using one of our pre-paid shipping labels. We also have six luxury consignment offices across the U.S. where you can drop off your items in person. 

“At these locations, you can also make appointments to have your fine jewelry and watches valuated by our graduate gemologists and horologists. Once an item is in our warehouse, it is authenticated, photographed and listed for sale on our site. The only next step for you would be to enjoy your commission.”

What percentage of the original cost are you selling the item for? And what percentage of the sale will I make as the original owner? 

“It depends on the item and the primary market and the market is always changing depending on what’s trending and new.” 

How and when did The RealReal get started?

“Our founder and CEO, Julie Wainwright, came up with the idea to sell luxury consignment after visiting many women’s consignment boutiques in San Francisco. The owner of one of these shops, Rati Levesque (now The RealReal’s chief merchant), became Wainwright’s first employee. Starting in 2011, the pair worked out of Wainwright’s home in Marin County (California), receiving and photographing goods and shipping them by hand. By 2013, they were in a Sausalito warehouse and raising venture funding.”

What brands/items are its biggest sellers and why? 

“The classic heritage brands are always our best sellers. They’re timeless.”

Is it true that the company once returned a pair of $100,000 earrings found in a consigned purse? 

“Yes! Make sure to clean out your handbags before your consign. We have certainly found valuables like cash and jewelry in consigned items and have always returned them to the rightful owner.”

How did you become involved with the company?

“I spent 10 years in luxury buying at both Christian Dior and Gucci. In 2012, I met Julie through a friend working at her new startup. I was instantly inspired by Julie and her vision. It was a no-brainer decision to join her.”

Have you ever purchased anything from The RealReal and what was it?

“Yes, I have a serious shopping problem. My favorite item to buy is shoes. At 90 percent off retail, I cannot get enough.”

You mentioned at the Bruce Museum’s “Art and Design” panel that with three children under age 5, your world revolves around Disney princesses and dinosaurs. What about The RealReal’s offerings for junior fashionistios and fashionistas and what have you bought yours?

“We have stunning designer clothing and accessories for children. I love buying the Stella McCartney pieces for my girls and Dolce & Gabbana for special occasions. The prices are so great that I don’t have to stress about something getting dirty, and, if I do keep it in great condition, I can re-consign it when they grow out of it.”

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