Used gear is cheaper—to what degree does the discounted price reflect a product’s value?
We talked to two second-hand gear extraordinaires to find out
So, you walk into a used gear shop, or peruse the selection of Geartrade’s goods, and you wonder: If this jacket is being sold for 50% of its retail value, does that mean it’s only 50% as good as it was brand-new?
In short, no. The price of second-hand gear does not directly correlate with the value of second-hand gear. If anything, Aisha Weinhold, owner of the consignment gear shop Ragged Mountain Sports in Carbondale, Colorado, says, “For what you’re paying, you’re usually getting more”—more bang for your buck. “Good gear has a much longer lifespan than people either realize or their patience can withstand.”
Veteran outdoorist Marshall Dvorscak, owner of Moab Gear Trader, says retail prices are often an overrepresentation of a product’s value. For example, the full-price advertised for a new ski jacket includes costs beyond materials and manufacturing—things like store management, shipping and receiving, brand marketing and more—so you’re paying for more than just the product.
Moab Gear Trader sells both used and new gear. He says most of their customers are stopping by to see what good deals they can score while they’re in town, since there aren’t many other second-hand outdoor shops in the area. Sometimes he fields complaints from customers about the pricing of used gear being too high, but consignors like the system as-is. They’ll price used gear up to 75% of its retail value, in part because there’s high demand and low supply in the region.
Customers walking into Ragged tend to be more local, Weinhold says, and they understand what they’re getting themselves into when they walk into their store to shop. “People come in and they just assume that since it had been used, that this discounted price is warranted. And then other people are more excited when they find a brand-new thing for half the price.”
While customers hardly complain about quality or Ragged’s pricing structure, she says it’s more common for the consignors to take issue with assigned resale values. At times people come in with new or like-new products, and say, “I want you to sell it for 100% of what I bought it for.” But, that’s not how they operate. The most Ragged will resell an item for is around 60%, but usually more like 50%, even if it’s brand- or like-new.
The sheer volume of consigned items helps Ragged keep their prices low. Weinhold says it’s not uncommon for the shop to receive upwards of 1,000 items to consign on a given day. And product moves off the floor quickly as the seasons change—there’s a lot of demand for affordable outdoor gear, plus the people who are searching for neat retro finds and unique stylish pieces. They hardly ever need to manage returns, since they’re selective about what pieces they accept and realistic about how they price them.
“Some of our bestselling pieces are Patagonia long underwear from the 80s, and there are no holes and they’re in great condition. Now people are like, these are cool—these are retro, and you’re like, yeah, they’re also older than you,” she laughs. “But, the good gear just lasts for so long.”
In fact, the value of good, used gear extends far beyond a dollar number, Weinhold says. “I think what people miss is that buying and selling second-hand really is a pretty radical act,” she adds. “If you live in an outdoorsy town and if you’re seeing social inequality, bringing in your clothing that you don’t use and allowing it to be sold for less is a huge way, in my mind, to really start to close that gap.”
Carbondale, where Weinhold grew up, sits in close proximity to Aspen, one of the wealthiest towns in the nation. It’s typical, Weinhold says, to see racial segregation at play throughout the valley, with white folks congregating in certain towns and neighborhoods, and the Latino community gathering and living elsewhere. Ragged occupies a special space. “We are one of the only places in town where there’s like a pretty clear intersection between the white and the Latino population—still our primary demographic is white, but as a result of the pandemic we have been seeing so many more specifically Latino men and little girls coming in and buying bikes, and it was so cool.”
Thus, if folks are looking for ways to give back to communities, Weinhold says selling unused clothing is an excellent way to redistribute wealth around a community. “Someone else is going to get that jacket, and that’s going to enable them to get outside.” It’s a win-win for all involved.
And, in some cases, it connects people to history. As Carbondale and the larger Roaring Fork Valley, including Aspen, is home to dozens of professional athletes, there have been a few times when customers walk into Ragged and find gear with names scrawled in jackets belonging to local legends like climber Michael Kennedy or superstar skier Chris Davenport.
“With a lot of our things, we know the consignors pretty well. We won’t ever say whose stuff it is being consigned, but we can be like, those cams are super beat because this guy was an Everest guide and this was the rack that he had in ‘73,” Weinhold says.
Recently someone walked in and someone realized for themselves a pair of skis had once belonged to Davenport. “He was like, that’s so cool. I’m totally gonna buy these skis—I bet they’ve skied all over the world,” recalls Weinhold. She’s motivated by this sense of connection between past and present, and the priceless value a backstory adds to a piece of outdoor equipment. “That’s something I’m really interested in building up, because I know for me, if I know the story behind something, it makes it so much cooler to buy and then it means so much more to me in that I don’t want to replace it.”
Weinhold has nothing but high expectations for the used gear industry—looking at its potential to help the environment, bring communities together, and keep people connected to the past while at the same time creating a more sustainable future—another reason she’s so excited that the idea of second-hand gear is picking up steam, like with the relaunch of Geartrade. It’s now easier than ever to sell your gear, support sustainability efforts, and spread opportunities for folks around the globe, thanks to Geartrade’s UnNew Outdoor™ global marketplace.
Pointing to a recent study by ThredUp, the mega online clothing reseller, which shows by 2029 secondhand profits are projected to surpass the profits of fast-fashion retail, Weinhold counts the growing popularity as a huge win for the environment, and a harbinger of success for the future of second-hand outdoor gear markets, too. We can’t wait to see where the market goes.
Emma Athena is an award-winning journalist and fresh-air lover. She writes about adventure and the environment, where humans and nature intersect at their most impactful moments. When she’s not glued to her keyboard or curled up with a book, she’s running in the mountains with her dog or camping with people she loves. To read more of her work and get in contact, visit emmaathena.com.