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Patagonia / Wear It Again

by Contagious I/O

This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, our intelligence tool featuring the most creative and effective ideas in marketing from around the world

Retailer will buy back its customers' old clothes to refurbish and resell

Outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia is launching a buy-back programme.

Under the new scheme, customers will receive store credit in exchange for their old Patagonia clothing, which the brand will then refurbish and resell.

It’s not yet clear how much credit customers will receive for each item, but all used Patagonia pieces are welcome, as long as they’re reasonably intact.

In true Patagonia fashion, the brand has developed an eco-friendly waterless washing technique that it’ll use to clean the clothes. Once clean, the clothes will be repaired and then listed for sale on the company’s website (presumably, for a lower price).

The buy-back system, which sits within Patagonia’s existing Worn Wear programme, will come into effect in April.


Contagious Insight / 

Pure purpose / This isn’t the first scheme of its kind from Patagonia. The brand has long offered repairs, for a small fee, and in 2014 it invited customers to meet in Patagonia stores on Black Friday and swap clothes with each other. These efforts are all part of its Worn Wear programme, which revolves around the four R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle, repair.

Patagonia’s overarching strategy is to help the environment by making fewer, longer-lasting clothes. Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia’s VP of environmental affairs, explained to Fast Company that it was ‘because then the overall footprint of the products that we make, and our customers buy from us, is as low as we can possibly make it. That really is intrinsic to our motivation for doing this.’

Fears that the availability of refurbished clothes might hurt sales of new clothes are unlikely to trouble the brand. Patagonia’s 2011 Don’t Buy This Jacket ad also asked customers to cut down consumption, but didn’t damage sales. Purpose is what drives customers to them, according to Ridgeway. ‘We have a model that is attracting enough people, an increasing amount of people, that want to align with our value proposition. That is a business for us and it really works well.’

Extra cash / Exchanging used clothes for store credit doesn’t sound like a ground-breaking money-making scheme, but it might motivate Patagonia customers – who, though environmentally conscious, might get bored of wearing the same jacket after five years – to come back to Patagonia to buy their next one.

Though Patagonia has previously partnered with eBay to sell its second-hand goods, this initiative makes the clothing available on Patagonia’s website. And, since mending a piece of used clothing is cheaper than making a jacket from scratch, this new line of products could bring in a trickle of extra profit.

Also, if the second-hand items are sold cheap (or at least cheaper), it creates a more affordable point of entry for new customers.

Verifying quality / The buy-back system hinges on the quality of Patagonia’s garments. As Ridgeway told Fast Company, ‘You couldn’t have a programme like Worn Wear without products that are really durable, it just wouldn’t work. This isn’t something that some fast-fashion company could probably embrace very effectively.’

Patagonia sells outdoor clothing, and no one wants their jacket to fall apart halfway up a mountain or while they’re camping in the rain. Patagonia’s confidence in its products (to resell them after a wash and a few stitches) indicates just how sturdy its jackets are.

For more information about these fashionable do-gooders, read our Brand Spotlight here.



This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, our intelligence tool featuring the most creative and effective ideas in marketing from around the world. I/O helps anyone in the world of marketing understand why brands are innovating, how they're doing it and with what success.

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