Navigating the Future of Consignment


Audrey Lee

Panelists Ruth Hartman, the CMO of Le Tote, and Jyothi Rao, President of Intermix, shared their advice and experience, discussing the future of the industry.

Aiysha Sadana, Contributing Writer

In light of the recent boom in the popularity of consignment shopping, three huge names in consignment held a panel, “Resale, Consign, Subscribe: Concepts That are Redefining How People Shop” to discuss their experiences in business, the challenges they have faced and the direction in which they believe retail is headed.

Kristin Kohler Burrows (CEO and President, Second Time Around), Ruth Hartman (CMO, Le Tote) and Jyothi Rao (President, INTERMIX) presented their panel for students in the Fall 2016 Practicum in Fashion Business taught by Guess Visiting Professor in Fashion Business Harold Brooks, and Gallatin faculty member Lise Friedman.

These three companies and other similar brands are revolutionizing the way people shop. Consignment offers high-quality goods in a variety of styles for much lower prices than retail stores do, and “pre-loved” clothes can be incredibly fashionable and unique.

INTERMIX offers high-quality designer fashion consigned, curated and then sold at discounted prices online and at 43 locations across the United States. Second Time Around has been around for over 35 years, making it a staple in consignment shopping, and it maintains 40 boutiques across the country — many of them in New York.

Le Tote has come to be known as the “Netflix of fashion,” delivering top brands right to the consumer’s doorstep and demonstrating the incredible success of the subscription model in a totally new arena.

“Due to your experiences in the fashion industry as a senior executive at Macy’s and DSW, do you see any major differences between working for a department store and a young online business?” one student asked Hartman.

“Only everything,” Hartman said, “which is one of the reasons I wanted to do that to test myself as well as really learn.” She described her experience at Macy’s as a great training ground, but she said that she prefered working at a start-up because that meant fewer rules and more flexibility.

Rao chimed in, saluting her foundational experience at Gap and Calvin Klein.

“A startup requires an appetite for risk and innovation, which is the most liberating and exciting part about working for one” Rao said when describing the creative spirit that goes into a newer venture.

When asked about the direction in which they think fashion is headed, all three agreed that the future of retail industry is about catering directly to the consumer’s needs.

“This is truly the age of the consumer. They have all the power,” Rao said. Burrows described it as something she refers to as “W-Commerce”: getting the consumer what they want “wherever — whenever.” All three panelists shared valuable experiences that any young entrepreneur could benefit from.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 24 print edition. Email Aiysha Sadana at [email protected].