The Sustainable Power of Marketplaces: How Afound & Friends of Joules are revolutionizing retail

Shea Barickman
April 23, 2020
The Sustainable Power of Marketplaces: How Afound & Friends of Joules are revolutionizing retail
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These days, our inboxes are flooded with subject lines from fashion retailers that promise on sustainability pledges and ReNew Collection, but what’s causing this sudden initiative by the fashion industry to place sustainability at the center of their strategy? Consumers.

Consumers are putting growing pressure on retailers to consider the environmental footprint their brands are leaving behind. Priorities are changing and retailers are listening.

It’s clear that many fashion retailers struggle with transparency both environmentally and socially. This year’s Fashion Transparency Index brands score an average of 23%. Two points higher than the year before, but not a single brand scored over 80%.

However, there are some in the industry who saw the need to change and did something about it. These early movers are now experiencing the positive impact of leveraging their platform models for sustainability. Here are two:


by H&M Group

H&M Group was the only retailer to score around 70% on the FTI, so it’s no surprise that their brand, Afound, is leading the charge with a model built on a sustainable mindset. Afound decided to give “fashion new life” with the launch of their marketplace two years ago. There are two concepts at the heart of Afound’s DNA: providing their customers the best deal and granting fashion products a second life by only selling an assortment that has already been produced. It’s a win/win plan that helps them contribute to a sustainable value chain.

With the help of the marketplace model Afound is able to accomplish this by quickly onboarding more than 300 major brands and small businesses - including brands within the H&M portfolio.  Essentially, they are providing their customers with an outlet-like experience online. Now more than ever, there is a tremendous amount of unsold stock in the fashion industry, due to store closures and supply chain issues.

Afound is uniquely positioned to absorb this unused inventory and quickly add fashion retailers and brands as sellers on their marketplace to extend the life of their excess stock - helping their fellow retailers, their customers and the environment at the same time.

The Swedish retailer has also benefited from the growth in the reseller market. The total secondhand apparel market is set to double in 5 years, with the resale section driving this growth of $24B to $51B. The agility of their platform lets the Afound team identify and partner with resellers of luxury premium brands to be able to give their customers access to more without the negative impact.

Today Afound sells 0% new materials, truly giving fashion a new life.

The iconic British country-living lifestyle brand launched their marketplace, Friends of Joules, in the fall of 2019 as an integral part of their “Responsibly Joules” project. By bringing together a community of local artists, artisans and small businesses, Friends of Joules can give their customers access to one-of a kind offerings that speak to their aesthetics and values.

“It’s the people and businesses we have got to know well and are now proud to call our friends,” said Tom Joule, founder of Joules. “We’ve travelled from shire to shore, carefully curating a variety of products from some of Britain’s most creative and contemporary people and businesses.”

Today, Joules partners with over 100 brands who align with the Responsibly Joules values. Such as sellers who source with integrity, like their Friends of Joules seller Vintage & Bespoke who use fully recyclable PET bottles for their fragrances.

While fashion has a long way to go, taking after these Platform Pioneers could help fast fashion retailers leverage a platform model to expand their assortment without creating new inventory or products. To answer to increasingly demanding customers with high expectations on sustainability, a marketplace model can help retailers test new innovations or categories without risk of undersold stock, and partner with like minded businesses and brands to offer more while doing good.

Written by
Shea Barickman

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