Fashion & Beauty

Selling Luxury on The RealReal

Above and on the front, MLB photoillustration.

SO LONG, KELLY, it’s been swell.

Actually, it was probably not all that swell for the Kelly bag languishing on the top shelf, shrouded in her dust bag. No chance to flaunt her smooth box-calf exterior, her cumbersome but oh-so-statusy straps and lock and key fob—no lunch dates, no shopping trips, just sitting there . . . probably for more than a decade.

Until reality took hold. A few weeks ago, as I packed to make the final move from Washington DC to New York, I gazed for the umpteenth time at an ad for The RealReal, the  “luxury consignment” site for designer clothing and handbags, even shoes and decorative accessories for the home. Why was I packing and moving something I no longer used? Could I unleash the cash in the Kelly? Would I dare to consign her to the vagaries of online commerce? Would someone have the confidence to buy a Kelly from anywhere but an Hermès shop?

Once I studied The RealReal’s authentication process—how they authenticate the engraved Hermès code, akin to the VIN on your car (to make sure it’s not counterfeit), and saw how they list the bags (not just Kelly, but Kelly “Sellier” or “Retourne,” 25cm or 32cm, with the actual year of manufacture), I decided to take the plunge. After all, I figured, I’ve proven that I don’t need a Kelly bag, but my new apartment does need new crown molding, right?

My first tentative email query was met with an enthusiastic reply from a Business Development Representative, then a phone chat, then a hand-off to a local Luxury Manager who would assess the “covetable items” (the Business Development Representative’s words, not mine) I had to offer. In my living room.

Clearly this is a serious operation. The site explains it all: the list of designers they will accept, the commission formula (up to 80 percent for “high value” items, around 50 percent for inexpensive things, ratcheting up as you sell more, or more expensive, items), the warning that if your item is discovered to be counterfeit, The RealReal will confiscate it and return it to the designer.

At that point I wanted to be acceptable to The RealReal! And the site isn’t interested only in the likes of Louis Vuitton and Patek Philippe; it has also created an after-market for what they call “contemporary” names, such as Diane von Furstenberg and Tory Burch, even for some of those fancy, overpriced men’s sneakers (80 percent commission on sneakers with a resale list price of $500 and up. $500! For sneakers! Clearly I haven’t been paying attention).

With that in mind, I decided I had other goods to unload. Why was that old but rarely used Kate Spade shoulder bag just sitting there? What about the Bottega Veneta tote? Bye-bye, Hermès scarves, bought during dull plane trips and never even unfolded from their wrappings. So long, Barry Kieselstein-Cord alligator ear clips.

The Luxury Manager was friendly and clearly knowledgeable. And business-like. A couple of disastrous Chanel totes were summarily dismissed (I mean, how many times can you roll the wheels of your office chair over the chain strap and expect it to survive?). A beige Longchamp nylon bag with a tiny smudge that wouldn’t be erased:  no go. The beautiful mint-condition alligator Kelly-style bag, in a small going-out-to-dinner size, from Casa Lopez in Buenos Aires was rejected: “No one will recognize the name,” the Luxury Manager said with a small sigh.

The chosen ones were photographed, then scooped up. The Luxury Manager presented an iPad listing of what she was taking and had me sign off.

In the ensuing 10 days, I’ve watched as the items have been added to the private “My Sales” list—first “accepted,” then valued. A mere $65 price tag was placed on the Kate Spade (20 percent off if you use the REAL code at checkout). Not a lot, but as LittleBird Kathy pointed out, it’s more than my closet was paying me. The scarves, $325 each. The Bottega Veneta bag surprised me: $495 (also with a 20 percent sweetener for the buyer). I had the right to withdraw an item if I didn’t like the price they put on it.

Jewelry followed a different track. The Kieselstein-Cord ear clips will be asking about $300, but they’re not posted yet.

Neither is Kelly. It took about a week for her to hit my list, presumably the time taken for authentication and then assessment of condition (“Very good”). $5,200 was the verdict. Less than some of her ilk (the description lists minor scratches on some of the gold-plated hardware), but solid.

I’ll report back if/when things sell (fingers crossed). If this works, there’s a Gucci ostrich tote with bamboo handles, a Kelly wallet, more scarves. There’s also an Heure H watch, with its stainless-steel H-shape body and a band in jaunty Hermès orange . . . but I’m thinking I’ll start wearing it again. That’ll make it more real than RealReal.

—Nancy McKeon

5 thoughts on “Selling Luxury on The RealReal

  1. Nancy G says:

    I’m checking everything on the top shelf in my closet. Stuff I haven’t looked at in years!

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      I’m doing the same. Good incentive.

  2. I took my inventory. Didn’t have to remove rump from desk chair. Love reading about you 1% ers though:)

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      Hardly a 1 percenter, just someone foolish with money!

  3. janet kelly says:

    I’m taking inventory of designer stuff just sitting around, taking up space and getting dusty in my closet. Thanks for detailing the process.

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