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Leon Kaye headshot

REI Harnesses Yerdle to Take ‘Garage Sales’ Online

By Leon Kaye

If you are a regular REI shopper, you have undoubtedly heard of, and most likely queued at, the outdoor gear and apparel retailer’s garage sales. Held at most stores once a quarter, they offer great discounts on goods that have been returned. The “pre-loved” goods are often indistinguishable to the naked at eye at a first glance; the previous customer may have just not wanted those hiking pants or LED lantern. REI’s “100 percent satisfaction guarantee” is one reason why these sales events are a regular occurrence, and they at the very least give the company an opportunity to recoup some of its losses while offering customers yet another reason to keep coming back.

And considering the deep price cuts, REI’s shoppers hardly seem to care about wear and blemishes -- the lines for these garage sales start snaking around and outside REI stores in the hours leading to the their kick offs. If you are venturing back into camping or cycling, these garage sales are a great place to start adding to your gear.

But those garage sales are only at the brick-and-mortar stores, so customers who don’t live close to the company’s 150-plus stores have been out of luck.

As of last week, that is going to change, due to REI’s partnership with Yerdle, the used goods exchange technology platform.

Yerdle launched earlier this decade, making a splash as it sought a role front-and-center within the emerging sharing economy. The idea was that (generally used) goods would be exchanged between users, who in turn would receive credits for additional goods. Users could buy credits if their accounts were too low in the event they coveted a certain item.

It was a great idea in concept, and Yerdle entered partnerships with companies aligned with this “reuse and recycle” sentiment; Patagonia and Levi’s were a couple examples. But the concept never really caught on. After all, we still have Craigslist, eBay and even the cardboard signs marked “free” we often see in front of homes and apartments.

But Yerdle’s technology is still around, and it works extremely well. In the meantime, the company has rebranded as Yerdle Recommerce, and is now focused on working with brands so that they can buy and sell used items.

Yerdle Recommerce is a perfect fit for REI. One challenge for the company is that a garage sale’s offerings are limited to what was returned at a specific store. The result is that REI stores were often stuck with items that will never move. In the meantime, a customer in a more remote area may have a near impossible time scoring that product, either because it is difficult to find or may not just be affordable. Suddenly, those size 14 boots or that mauve eight-person tent may finally find a home.

Consumers win because they finally have that clothing item or gear they’ve wanted but just could not land; REI benefits from that freed up space and claws back some of that otherwise lost revenue – and earns even more loyalty in the process, especially from shoppers who live nowhere close to one of its locations.

REI’s Used Gear site has been in beta testing and was soft-launched earlier this month; it officially opened last Friday.

Image credit: REI/Facebook

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye