The RealReal, really

The RealReal, which started as an online luxury fashion consignment business, is not only expanding its brick-and-mortar operation with a new shop in Greenwich. It’s also ventured into home goods and one-of-a-kind treasures that will particularly appeal to the discerning Greenwich clientele.

When we wrote about The RealReal, perhaps the ne plus ultra in luxury consignment, in 2017, the then mainly online business had offices in six cities, including New York.

What a difference four years make. The billion-dollar company now has 14 brick-and-mortar locations with plans to add 10 this year. Its newest is The RealReal Greenwich, an elegant 3,100-square-foot space on tony Greenwich Avenue that illustrates how the business is expanding in other ways. Yes, you’ll find all the fashion labels you’d expect — women’s ready-to-wear from Chanel, Brunello Cucinelli and Prada; menswear by Cucinelli, Tom Ford and Hermès; handbags by Gucci and Louis Vuitton; and jewelry and watches by Cartier, Patek Philippe, Rolex, Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels and David Yurman.

But what’s fascinating here is that the company is now thinking outside the box by considering jewelry whose appeal may be less in a brand name and more in its unusual craftsmanship and by embracing such home goods as art coffee-table books, vintage Italian furniture, Alex Katz prints and other two- and three-dimensional artworks. All this is evident in the goodies you’ll find amid the store’s earth-toned, woodsy, stone setting, which evokes the Modernist Noyes House in New Canaan. We immediately fell in love with a tiny, turquoise Hermès Birkin bag, which stood out on artful shelves of such bags. Alas, even in mint secondhand condition and small sized, it was still $22,000. Similarly, a pink bouclé Chanel jacket — nothing makes us swoon the way pink bouclé Chanel does — was $4,000.

No matter. We had fun spying everything and then consigning a few modest treasures — a Tiffany T necklace, three rings and a Gucci wallet — which taught us how the business actually works. (As per Covid-19, The RealReal is also conducting virtual consignments, having done 100,000 last year. It also conducts at-home evaluations in select markets such as Greenwich.)

Senior retail marketing manager Elyssa Noblesala introduced us to gemologist Lori Wanner, who conducted an initial appraisal of our rings and necklace while handbag expert Julio Cortez considered the wallet.  It’s a bit like PBS’ “Antiques Roadshow” in that you’re weighing your own ability to have acquired a bargain or a real find against what the market will bear. The necklace, a gift, and two of the rings — an oval pink morganite and an aquamarine flanked by cat’s-eye-shaped sapphires — were valued at about what they sold for originally. But the third — a blue topaz bracketed by aquamarines — was valued at twice what we paid. The wallet also turned out to be worth more than we imagined.

So we were jazzed about the final tally and signing one-year contracts at no cost to ourselves for the five pieces, which would go on to a second authentication as well as photography and copywriting to appear on The RealReal website a few weeks later. (While the company has had some complaints about authentication procedures that resulted in mislabeling by inexperienced staffers, it maintains that its rigorous process adheres to the highest standards of expertise.)

Just because our goods were valued at a certain price, however, that doesn’t mean we will be earning that amount. The RealReal pays commissions that are anywhere from 40 to 85% depending on the product, the resale price and the number of items you consign.

“Our goal is to sell your item at the highest price the market commands based on our internal and external data,” says Megan Zamiska, The RealReal’s public relations specialist. “Based on pricing analysis, some items will flow through a discount cadence once they have been on our site for a minimum of 30 days. Also, the longer an item is listed on the site without selling, the more discounted it may be. Your commission tier is based on the initial price of your item before any discounts are applied and your final payout will be calculated on the final selling price of your item.”

If after a year, your item doesn’t sell, you can reclaim it or The RealReal will donate it to charity.

With more than 21 million members and some 17 million items sold, The RealReal — which offers same-day online shopping and in-store/curbside pickup — continues to grow despite the pandemic. Sales were up in the last quarter of 2020 14% — compared with Q4 2019 — while supply grew 13% over the same period.

With 35 % of new consignees coming from Gen Z and millennials, The RealReal looks to be assured of an audience for years to come. 

Meanwhile, shoppers continue to look for lightweight women’s outerwear; Gucci and LV handbags; men’s sneakers by Nike, Yeezy and Louis Vuitton x Supreme; Rolex watches, the No. 1 selling watch brand at The RealReal in 2020; Cartier Love jewelry; and, always, diamonds.

But with Greenwich seen as a prime location for consignors and shoppers alike, as TRR head of shop Tori Cornish has noted, the store is always primed for one-of-a-kind items.

So WAG readers, start hunting in those closets.

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