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Designer dress (left) and shoes posted on The Hungry Closet —PHOTOS BY ANNA CORTES HENARES AND SCARLET FOZ

Pandemic-proof: Preloved fashion reselling

Designer dress (left) and shoes posted on The Hungry Closet —PHOTOS BY ANNA CORTES HENARES AND SCARLET FOZ

Anna Cortes Henares doesn’t wind down these days until it’s past 11 p.m. Throughout the day, she’s either answering queries from customers, sorting and shooting for-sale items, or packing items for shipping.

The founder of the Facebook group The Hungry Closet didn’t expect the spike in activity on her buy-and-sell community during the pandemic. Like most everyone else, Henares “got scared” not just for her family’s well-being, but also for her livelihood at the start of the lockdown.

“For the first three weeks, I didn’t post anything,” says the Paris-educated former fashion stylist. “But then, my volunteer moderators were texting to say members were still buying and that I should continue to post items.”

The Hungry Closet has close to 44,000 members and is a pioneer buy-and-sell platform for resellers of preowned fashion and beauty goods on Facebook in the Philippines. Henares started the group in October 2015.

Emotional satisfaction

Prepandemic, Henares, who now runs the group full time, says reselling was doing good as it was. But after the lockdown, it got even better.

“The activity doubled,” says Scarlet Foz, a volunteer moderator for The Hungry Closet and an online reseller for 15 years. “Filipinos are used to shopping. Take that away and it depresses them. They crave for emotional satisfaction.”

Foz, a preschool teacher, thinks the resale economy improved because with limited public transport during the quarantine, people who were used to going to the mall all the time had nowhere to spend their money.

“It has become an opportunity for small resellers because when people are bored or tired as they work from home, they browse online,” says Foz, who was a “pioneer power seller” on eBay Philippines before the platform changed many of its rules—changes that, according to her, earned the disfavor of sellers, which led to their exodus to Facebook and Instagram.

On groups like The Hungry Closet, anyone with an FB account can apply for membership, in order to buy or sell items. No fees are paid to FB or the group administrators. You only pay for your purchases directly to the seller, usually via bank transfer or cash on delivery for big-ticket items.

Curated

Groups differ in their rules for accepting members. Some like to say their group is “curated.”

“If we said yes to everyone, we would have 500,000 members now,” says Henares. “But we have to be careful. We want to make sure the members we get are legitimate. Luckily, we haven’t had any complaints of scam or fraud.”

Bibe Roldan, cofounder of Manila Clothing on FB (13,000 members), runs a small restaurant business but is also thrilled at the uptick in reselling activity during the pandemic. Like Henares, she earns only from the items she sells.

Roldan worked in sales and marketing for a liquor company for 15 years, where she went to many parties, wearing new clothes often only once. Reselling them became a natural recourse, so she could buy new clothes to wear. In the Instagram era, she points out, many people won’t repeat clothes they’ve already been seen in.

Now Roldan also sells excess inventory or “damaged” items (say, with lipstick marks) off-loaded by retailers. Many resellers like her have regular suppliers of items to sell.

“I’m a single mom and it’s a way to augment my income,” says Roldan, who’s also a member of other buy-and-sell groups. She also resells her stuff on Instagram.

“On a good day, I make more than I would make in a week in my old job,” Roldan says. “It got even better during the pandemic, because now I’m posting almost daily. I used to do it only on weekends.”

Lucrative

“If I focus on it, yes, it would be a lucrative full-time job,” says Foz. “But I do it only on the side. You make as much as you put into it.”

The turnaround is quick, adds Foz. Items she posts are often sold within 24 hours. In a typical group, only 30 percent are sellers, the rest are buyers. “That’s why it’s lucrative.”

On The Hungry Closet, men now make up 6 percent of the members. “They message me and ask for designer sling bags to put their pandemic essentials,” says Henares.

Items sold on these groups range from preowned fast-fashion clothes to beauty products, as well as high-ticket designer bags, shoes, clothes and accessories. It’s also not rare to find brand-new, unused or “just fitted” items. There are also groups that sell only luxury bags or shoes.

Henares says it’s quite tricky now to post designer brands because FB flags them. Sellers work around it by crossing out the brand logos in their photos or spelling the brand name differently in their product description.

Some, like Frea Capco Gapay, 20, founder of The Hoarder’s Closet (16,000 members on FB), have also started selling fine jewelry.

Gapay, a fine arts student at University of the Philippines Diliman, started her group initially only to declutter her closet. When she began to get many inquiries, it sparked her entrepreneurial spirit.

Of all these resellers, however, only Gapay reported a drop in sales, “maybe because nobody wants to spend so much now, especially on jewelry, which is what I’m concentrating on,” she says. Her usual customers are “mostly titas with a stable income.”

Her sideline gave this Gen Z student some financial independence. Gapay’s parents have been so supportive that her dad even loaned her some capital.

Luxury handbag on Wardrobe Warehouse —SHAYNE CASTRILLO

Who buys?

The quarantine has given people a chance to go through their closets.

“What I noticed was, since the pandemic, people have been disposing of their luxury items,” says Mary Shayne Castrillo, founder of the FB groups Wardrobe Warehouse (6,000+ members) and Sole Sanctum (5,000+ members).

“They’re selling them on the cheap, maybe because they need the cash or they don’t need these items at the moment,” adds Castrillo. “In my group, someone just sold her P200,000 Hermès bag for only P50,000.”

Angel Go Favis Macasling, a former executive for a luxury retail company, now also does online reselling full time.

“You would be surprised at who buys and sells stuff on FB,” says Macasling, who’s also a moderator on The Hungry Closet. “Some are celebrities, others from the gated villages. We call them ‘silent madams.’ Rich or not, there’s always a thrill in finding a good bargain.”

She adds, “We’re very strict on what’s sold on the site. We screen carefully. We spot red flags right away. Nothing gets past us.”

Henares says because she and her moderators are all luxury fashion buyers themselves, they’re familiar with brands and can spot fakes, even in photos. All items posted on their site are screened and approved—a gargantuan task for these women, who say they do it for the love of fashion.

Macasling sells mostly stuff from her trips abroad, some preowned, others excess goods from her shopping. “It’s a good source of income,” she says. “I encourage everyone to do it. Rummage through your closet. As they say, may pera sa basura, ’wag lang masyadong basura. Make sure what you’re selling is still decent. We don’t approve posts of poor quality items.” (See sidebar on tips for reselling preloved goods.)

During the lockdown, Macasling also became uncertain of the future of her small business. But it surprised her when buyers continued to inquire, offered to pay right away, and they were even willing to wait until the lockdown loosened for her to ship the items. She says people are buying mostly clothes “except winter stuff since they can’t travel.”

2020 Resale Report

The stories of these online resellers are the stark opposite of what’s happening in malls worldwide, where brands and stores have become casualties of the pandemic, with shops either shuttering or on the brink of closure.

According to the 2020 Resale Report published recently by ThredUp, the United States’ largest online consignment and thrift store, the resale economy is poised to soar even more, buoyed by shifting environmental and economic values.

While retail will shrink, the report predicts that the resale market will grow up to five times in the next five years, valued at about $64 billion in the United States.

Closer to home, even the potential of getting the virus on packages hasn’t seemed to dissuade online buyers.

“I bought all the UV and steaming sanitizers,” says Henares. “But it’s always prudent to wash and disinfect whatever you buy, especially now, even when you’re buying brand-new. I’m glad we’ve never had a problem.”

Crackdown

Asked how they feel about the government cracking down on online sellers, which sparked protests among netizens, Foz says: “Our items are mostly preloved, which aren’t even taxable

. . . We’re small-scale and it’s so easy to scare off small-time entrepreneurs. It’s especially sad for those who rely on their meager income from selling online during this pandemic.”

“These are preowned, so we’re selling at a loss,” says Roldan. “I hope they don’t come after us.”

Since she started buying and selling, Foz, an avowed passionate fashion consumer, now rethinks before she pays full price for anything. She enjoys the hunt online as much as the next shopper.

These women agree that Filipinos are quite brand-conscious and, evidently, many people are no longer particular whether what they’re buying is brand-new or not.

“We’re drawn to brands, maski pangit,” says Foz with a laugh. “And for someone who aspires for a brand but can’t afford the store price, this is the next best thing.”

But why have Filipinos warmed up to shopping “preloved”—resale economy’s slang for preowned or secondhand?

“I think it’s economics, plus the social shopping experience, even on a virtual platform,” says Foz. “We like the instant gratification and the thrill of finding a bargain. It’s also appealing because now, we can transact business any time of day. There’s less contact with other people, so it helps in minimizing virus transmission.”

“Pandemic or no pandemic, Filipinos love to shop,” Henares points out.

While many of the clothes sold on these platforms are fast-fashion, these resellers rationalize that “it’s environment-friendly because instead of discarding, someone else can reuse them,” says Foz. It’s no longer new to you but it is new to someone else.

“I think we’re saving the planet this way,” Henares says.