Why shopping the closet is the new flash deal

In the ever-expanding world of ecommerce, one thing rings true no matter where you go: people love to shop online for a bargain. Companies made a big bet a few years ago that the “flash deal” website — microsales on products popularized by places like Gilt, Fab.com and One Kings Lane — would be the best way to offer a steal without wrecking the bottom line. And while these sites remain on top, a new challenger has stepped into the ring:  Meet “shop the closet” websites.

TechCrunch reported Wednesday that closet-swap platform Bib + Tuck, which launched in November 2012, officially netted $600,000 via billionaire fashion magnate J. Christopher Burch and a group of other angel investors in a seed round.

The premise of the so-called “recommerce” outlet is fairly simple: Users turn in their gently worn (perhaps even designer) duds for virtual currency, which then can be spent on anything in the store. If a coveted piece is just out of reach, the store also allows users to buy those in-store “bucks” to close the gap and make the purchase. The company relies heavily on the participation of those with high-end closets to maintain a steady flow of barter-worthy items, but it’s not the first to make a go of the strategy (and turn a profit).

poshmarkWhile recommerce has been a favorite for companies looking to buy back high-end technological devices, the trend has been popularized in the fashion industry by closet-shopping social sales sites Poshmark (which closed a $12 million series B round last year) and Threadflip (which launched last year with a hefty $1.6 million investment).

The aforementioned platforms take a slightly more direct approach than Bib + Tuck’s barter method, offering users the ability to sell their own items straight from their own page for real cash. But the niche is flooding with new and novel companies looking to get a piece of the action, with their own gimmicks and features.

Twice requires users to send in their clothes for credit, and mails everything out from its central location. Both Tradesy and ClosetDash have some cachet from Hollywood — the former with celebrities, the latter with stylists — which means a greater possibility to score high-end finds. ShopCloset strikes deals to feature vintage and consignment stores to bring in rare goods. Even one company, ClosetRich, boasts OF careful curation by the site’s creator, Rachel Zoe protege Elizabeth Kott.

This is just a small sampling of the offerings available in the “shop the closet” sector, and all of them are jockeying for a place in the hearts and bookmarks of bargain-savvy fashionistas who live for a good consignment. Expect these websites to blow up in the next year or two — they’re a win-win for shoppers and startup CEOs alike.