Shoe brand Toms is taking its environmental mandate a step further by venturing into resale.
The company now has a new section on its website called “(re)Wear Good” that offers gently-used and “new with tags” products. Although the service has only been live for a few weeks, it already has more than 700 pairs of shoes and 30 pieces of clothing up for sale. Toms worked with resale platform ThredUp to create the site.
Toms is increasingly making sustainability a key tenet of its product strategy. Five or six years ago, Chief Brand Officer Amy Smith told Modern Retail, Toms’ yearly impact report did not have a section on the environment. Now, it does, as well as measurable progress on that front. In 2019, Toms became a certified B Corporation — a designation that signals a company’s ongoing commitment to sustainability and social impact across five categories: governance, workers, community, environment and customers.
Toms has also become a member of the Fair Labor Association and identified several key targets for 2025, including reducing its carbon footprint, using 100% sustainable cotton and using greener packaging. Almost all of Toms’ packaging is plastic-free, with the exception of some hang tag fastener loops, and in 2022, Toms began including recycled cotton in its most popular shoe, the Alpargata. Thirty percent of Toms’ footwear in 2022 met its Earthwise requirement of having at least one of a product’s main components contain more sustainable materials.
Resale, Smith told Modern Retail, is just the “next step” in adding to Toms’ sustainability commitments.
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“We’re always investing in increasing the sustainability of our product line,” Smith said. “We’re always looking at how we can green our packaging even more… There are a lot of things that we’re doing in this area, and this just seemed like another important piece of the equation for us.”
Toms began working with ThredUp about six months ago, but had been exploring the possibility of resale for about a year, Smith said. Many Toms customers were already using ThredUp to resell their shoes, she explained, and Toms wanted to encourage that process.
Customers wishing to resell items on Toms’ resale platform can request a free Clean Out label via Toms’ website. They must then pack their items in a box, attach that label to the box and send it to ThredUp via USPS or FedEx. Based on which of their items are sold on the site, those sellers will get an e-gift card to use at Toms.com. The entire turnaround process can take 75-90 days, ThredUp says. Items that don’t fit ThredUp’s resale standards will be diverted for reuse or recycling.
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Toms is just one of many retailers ThredUp works with as part of its resale-as-a-service program. ThredUp markets the program, which it started in 2019, as a way for retailers to get into resale, without having to handle processing, fulfillment or pricing themselves. Clients include J. Crew, Torrid, Pacsun, Hot Topic, Madewell and Tommy Hilfiger.
Toms flagged its new resale program through social media, via its website and at the end of emails. The response to the program has been great, Smith said, explaining that people like that they “can get a great deal, shop some older styles that they miss or prints that are no longer available.”
Resale also fits into Toms’ idea that the more long-lasting its products are, the more they can be given new life. “As a consumer good, we want people to have, of course, beautiful shoes, but we want them to be durable,” Smith said. “We want them to last a while. And then we want to be able to be part of this 360 circular economy so that we continue to do our part with sustainability.”
In 2022, the B Lab network at B Corp named Toms a “Best For The World” award-winner for the community category, which means that Toms was in the top 5% of B Corp organizations of its size in that area. Today, there are more than 6,400 companies with a B Corp status, according to the B Corporation website.
In an ideal world, every publicly-traded company would have a B Corp score, Sucharita Kodali, vp and principal analyst at Forrester, told Modern Retail. “It’s a very comprehensive framework, but it’s all voluntary right now,” she said. “It’s a handful of companies that have consciously chosen to be ranked by this third party and expose themselves. So there does end up kind of a bit of selection bias.”
Being designated as a B Corp, though, is “definitely a big deal,” she added. “The B Corp framework is not super easy to meet,” she said. “And very few companies, I think, are at that level. [For Toms], it’s super impressive.”