Selling your stuff has never been easier. For instance, if you’re 18 and you still have that cute dress you wore at the ripe age of 8, you can probably sell it to another 18-year-old because Y2K fashion is in — and you can market it as a babydoll dress.
Selling your stuff, particularly the clothes you’d rather not condemn to the Goodwill pile, has really never been easier thanks to the internet.
When I moved back home around this time last year, selling mine became a pandemic activity of sorts after I started using an app called Depop.
Similar to eBay, Depop is an international marketplace where strangers sell their stuff to other strangers over the internet. However, Depop’s retail platform is focused on clothing and related items, and it doesn’t have a built-in auction feature that eBay was especially known for in its earlier years; instead, users have to interact directly with one another in order to negotiate prices.
But the app is certainly not limited to fashion; the selling possibilities on Depop are actually quite vast. After almost a year of using the app, I’m not so sure if I love or hate it more. Part of that mixed perception has to do with what makes Depop more than just another buying-and-selling app: It has a distinct social media culture due to its resemblance to Instagram, and in accordance with that design, its audience is remarkable in its own way.
Founded in 2011, Depop boasts more than 21 million registered users as of press time. Relatively speaking, this isn’t a huge number; in contrast, eBay, founded in 1995 as AuctionWeb, has about 185 million active buyers. However, the overwhelming majority of Depop’s audience consists of millennial and Generation Z users. In May 2020, nearly 94% of users in the United States were younger than the age of 30 and about 55% were teenagers — numbers that are likely the result of the popularity of the app’s social media muse.
Profiles on Depop, which are also known as shops, look almost identical to those on Instagram. Each listing is represented by a square photo — like a regular Instagram post — and they are arranged in uniform rows of three. They have the same double-tap mechanism to generate “likes,” along with a similar heart icon below the image(s) of the listed item, and users can also leave public comments. At the top of the screen, they can set a profile picture, name, bio and website link, and their follower and following counts are clearly displayed. Depop also has a similar home feed to Instagram in that it shows the listings of the shops a user follows as they are posted in real time, making it easy to scroll through a variety of items depending on how many shops one follows.
As someone who’s used eBay and OfferUp (a localized version of the former) in the past, Depop’s attractive simplicity makes it by far the easiest to navigate — for browsing as well as selling. I don’t actively post on my personal Instagram, but my knowledge of the social media giant’s user-friendly aesthetic made the Depop learning curve practically nonexistent. Coupled with its much more expansive offering compared to local thrift stores, the cultural familiarity makes the retail experience offered by Depop an easy one to keep coming back to.
So, despite its relatively limitless reach, the economy of Depop feels curiously small. It’s true that it’s naturally impossible to conceptualize everything the app has to offer all at once — as you can do, to a certain degree, when you consider the swaths of shopping malls and multimillion-dollar retail corporations in the United States, for example. Nevertheless, the dynamic of an audience with an age range even smaller than its social media inspiration presents an interestingly more flexible supply-and-demand environment, an advantage that the app’s brick-and-mortar counterparts cannot inherently benefit from.
Prior to the pandemic, I would make a couple trips a year to drop things off at local thrift shops that buy gently used clothing, accessories and shoes in exchange for cash or store credit. This was always a fairly easy process, but it did have significant drawbacks. The demand for certain items (and sizes) had to be high enough, and more often than not, the supply already in the stores was too high to warrant the addition of mine to the current stock. And even for the items I did sell, the monetary returns were always significantly (but expectedly) less than the prices they…