The finance world seems very bullish these days about online marketplaces that deal in gently used furniture and other home-decor wares. Just last September, industry pioneer Chairish scored $33 million in Series B funding from a handful of sources, and Moderne Ventures recently bestowed $5 million on pre-owned-furniture vendor Kaiyo to underwrite an expansion of the company’s U.S. presence. (Investors have been encouraged, perhaps, by an analogous trend in fashion retail: Reports say that sales of secondhand apparel grew 25 times faster than the overall retail clothing market in 2019.)
Shopping for antiques, of course, is hardly controversial, and vintage pieces have steadily found increasing favor with high-end buyers. But are customers—particularly designers and their clients—equally hot to pick up more run-of-the-mill goods that have previously done service in another person’s house?
Anna Brockway, Chairish’s cofounder and president, would say yes. Early on, “there was definitely some buyer trepidation around purchasing furniture online,” she reports. Since then, however, the company has experienced “a significant uptick in purchasing. Our trade business is up 86% year-over-year, and we’ve seen thousands of designers join [our] trade program this year alone.” Kaiyo’s founder, Alpay Koralturk, has noted the same evolution in purchaser comfort, and expects it to continue. “The market today is more developed in the antique, vintage, and high-end segments,” he says, “but we believe there’s a mass-market opportunity that is currently overlooked and underserved. That’s the market we’d like to address.”
For designers acting on behalf of clients, each re-commerce source offers its own array of attractions. Chairish has arguably done the most outreach at the high end, through the trade program mentioned above and also via the incorporation of related sites Decaso and Dering Hall into a single integrated digital platform last year. Kaiyo, for its part, includes amenities like storage, cleaning, and white-glove delivery and setup as standard services.
Reham Fagiri, cofounder and CEO of AptDeco, has noticed plenty of designers engaged at either end of a transaction: “On the buying side, we see designers, stagers—a lot of professionals in need of a lot of furniture, and frequently. Same thing on the selling side. They’re helping design someone’s home and they need to get rid of the old furniture, so they can also use the site for that.”
Eco-awareness is a major selling point for these enterprises. Designers are as eager as anyone to reduce waste and avoid letting perfectly serviceable items rot away in landfills. “When we first started, the folks using us were mostly focused on getting a good deal,” Fagiri says. “What we’ve seen over time is an expansion of the sustainability focus—folks who are excited about really giving back to the environment, choosing to shop used and adding to the circular economy.”