Online marketplace Carousell to acquire thrift fashion platform Refash

Carousell co-founder and chief executive Quek Siu Rui (left) and Refash founder Aloysius Sng. PHOTO: CAROUSELL

SINGAPORE - Online marketplace Carousell has signed a deal to acquire thrift fashion store Refash for an undisclosed sum, the two companies announced today (May 9).

Refash, founded in 2015 by Mr Aloysius Sng, buys second-hand clothing from consumers to sell on its website and in 10 retail stores across Singapore.

It claims to have processed more than five million pieces of clothing to date. According to the terms of the deal, Refash will continue to operate as its own brand, retaining its current name, management team as well as physical and online stores.

Carousell said that the partnership was a natural next step given that fashion is one of its biggest verticals across "the majority" of its markets. 

The online classifieds marketplace, where people list new or pre-loved items for sale, was set up in 2012. It is now present in eight markets, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam. It counts itself in the ranks of Singapore's unicorns, with a valuation of US$1.1 billion (S$1.53 billion).

Mr Quek Siu Rui, Carousell's co-founder and chief executive, told The Straits Times that Carousell aims to build on Refash's established network of offline retail to make it even easier for people to declutter their closets and sell their pre-loved clothing.

"The acquisition allows us to increase avenues through which consumers buy and sell second-hand, and strengthen our market-leading position in the fast fashion recommerce segment," he said.

Recommerce, or reverse commerce, refers to the business of selling pre-loved products.

Mr Quek, 34, also said that Carousell plans to leverage its technology expertise and artificial intelligence capabilities to create a more seamless thrifting experience at Refash.

Meanwhile, Mr Sng, 33, told The Straits Times that the Covid-19 pandemic triggered a significant shift towards recommerce and expected the Carousell acquisition to usher in a new period of growth for the start-up.

He declined to share details of Refash's sales turnover, saying only that it was in the "seven figures", with the online segment "increasing by 200 per cent" since a year ago.

"(With the new deal), we expect to collect double the inventory from sellers in women's fashion alone within the first three months of closing," he added.

At present, Refash handles an average of 5,000 drop-offs from sellers each month.

Mr Sng also noted that both companies are aligned on their goal to promote second-hand as the socially conscious option.

"Siu Rui understood Refash's aspirations in wanting to reach out to as many people as possible, including those who have no time to sell or find buying second-hand clothes unattractive."

Agreeing, Mr Quek highlighted Carousell's vision to "inspire others to make second-hand their first choice".

"By 2030, we want to create an inversion: First-hand e-commerce will supplement recommerce, with consumers inspired and enabled to re-use items and buying new only when necessary or after they have sold something," he said.

According to a report by the world's largest fashion resale platform, ThredUp, the global thrifting and resale industry will be worth an estimated US$77 billion by 2025 - more than doubling from US$$36 billion in 2021.

The report added that the second-hand fashion segment will likely be twice the size of fast fashion by 2030.

This latest deal follows Carousell's acquisition last October of sneaker marketplace Ox Street, also for an undisclosed sum.

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