Old Clothes New (Business) Models

by MR Magazine Staff

Pete Benck’s Instagram account wasn’t always all business. When he first started posting on the photo-sharing app, he shared the usual candids, selfies and personal inspiration. Aside from the occasional event flyer or shop-window shot, there was little to suggest that he owned a vintage clothing store in Madison, Wisconsin, called the Good Style Shop. When Benck started noticing that vintage shops in New York and Los Angeles were using Instagram as a free e-commerce and promotional tool, he quickly “industrialized” his own shop’s account, complete with a paid online content producer. Now, six years after Benck bought the struggling store for $11,000, business finally is booming. “My Instagram account became a mouthpiece — a megaphone, really — for the shop,” Benck says. “Like, ‘Hey, we exist!’” At a time when established mall-based retailers like J.Crew and Abercrombie & Fitch suffer from declining sales, the used/resale apparel market is growing. According to a 2016 report from the online resale giant ThredUP, high-quality resale is one of the fastest-growing sectors in retail; the market is expected to grow from $14 billion in 2015 to $25 billion in 2025. Benck and his team of vintage consignors obviously are a small part of that growth, but the Good Style Shop is one example of how a brick-and-mortar retailer in flyover country can flourish by tapping into broader market trends and new technology. In 2016, the Good Style Shop recorded $250,000 in sales, up 20 percent from 2015, and Benck attributes that success to a hybrid business approach that the 29-year-old Iowa native calls his four legs: in-person purchases at his physical shop; online sales through Instagram; wholesaling heartland-harvested vintage clothing to buyers on the coasts; and out-of-store events like the Midwest Vintage Flea, a resale summit that Benck founded last year. Read more at OZY.