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Rather than waiting for retailers to stock the fashions they want or for their parents to give them enough money to purchase the latest fashion, modern teenagers have embraced a recycling economy in e-commerce settings. Functioning as both sellers and buyers, the young consumers have prompted the emergence of retail platforms that reflect their unique competencies and needs.

On the Poshmark app for example, teens can earn credits for products they sell. They are not required to provide a credit card, as is standard on many other e-commerce sites. Then they can use the credits to buy other items available on the site. Poshmark also offers social networking capabilities and an intuitive process for uploading photos and descriptions of the items for sale. To facilitate the supply chain, it allows sellers to print out shipping labels, ready to slap on to a box getting mailed to a buyer.

The consumers on such sites enjoy the distinctiveness they can achieve. Rather than going to the mall to buy the same things that everyone else is wearing, they can find unique, one-of-a-kind items. Accordingly, a recent survey suggests that more teenaged consumers shop resale and recycling sites than shop at once popular retail chains such as Abercrombie & Fitch.

When these buyers shift to selling mode, they also obtain several notable advantages. An obvious one is the chance to make money. One New York teen has leveraged his sense of fashion by selling rare sneakers, effectively and frequently enough to earn more than $100,000 last year. He thus notes his fervent anticipation to purchase a luxury car—as soon as he is old enough to drive, that is.

Beyond the direct earnings, the young resellers gain valuable experience with sales, marketing, and retailing. Many of them customize products, such as one savvy seller who buys out-of-fashion merchandise at a low cost, then cuts, dyes, and decorates the items to make them more stylish. Thus a $10 pair of blue jeans transformed into an acid-washed pair of pink denim shorts with frayed hems, which she sold for $75.

Interviews with some of these entrepreneurs indicate their growing understanding of the 4Ps of marketing: They recommend finding distinctive products that can set the wearer apart; promoting the offerings using vivid descriptions, pricing them to sell quickly, and making sure to upload new offerings at the place and time (e.g., evening hours, after school) that buyers are most likely to be ready to make a purchase.

Discussion Question:

  1. Analyze the application of the 4Ps by these young entrepreneurs. Which elements could they improve? Which ones do they seem do best?

Source: Khadeeja Safdar, “Young Consumers Tap Online Market for Recycled Apparel,” The Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2016 

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