When you want the real thing, the designer handbag, but not necessarily at the original retail price, it is time to say hello to pre-loved shopping. There are a variety of places to shop, both offline and online, however, I decided to do some search engine queries and read the fashion editorial recommendations. Five destinations frequently came up in my results.
There was nothing left to do but go shopping. The five stores that made the shortlist were:
When it comes to shopping there are a few key requirements which make a successful experience; choice, service and quality. Along the way I discovered not all the pre-loved retailers were the same.
The handbag choice on offer
There is no denying Vestiaire’s choice of bags on offer. At the time of writing they had over 125,000 pre-loved designer handbags on site. Second came Designer Exchange with over 500, followed by Rewind Vintage with just short of 300, Handbag Clinic had just below 200 and finally Daikokuya with 93.
The retail models aren’t the same
Handbag Clinic, Daikokuya and Designer Exchange are similar in that they promote their shop locations as well as their websites. Rewind Vintage is more focused on selling online and distributing their stock to 3rd party stockists (formidable fashion retailers such as Matches, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges to name a few).
The only site that is different is Vestiaire as this is a marketplace. The main downside to this model is the waiting time once you have bought. The seller is notified, who then ships it to Vestiaire in Paris, who then authenticate it and deliver it to the buyer. However, the website does note that the seller will be sent reminders every 7 days to send the bag to them. After 30 days, if Vestiaire hasn’t received the bag, they will cancel your order.
When it comes to delivery, Designer Exchange are clear, they offer next day delivery for the UK – an essential service for the last minute accessory post outfit shopping. Daikokuya are also wise to online shoppers uneasiness regarding delivery and advise up front you will only be charged a flat fee of £10.
Is the bag the real thing?
When shopping for a second hand designer bag there will be a natural apprehension regarding authenticity. Just last month The Telegraph reported that £8m of fake goods were uncovered in Manchester. How do these sites avoid trading in fake goods?
In the UK we are way ahead in trying to crack down on the counterfeit goods trade as reported by Business of Fashion. All fives sites reassure, at great length, that their Authenticating Teams are experts in their fields and have a checklist of features and supporting documents to inspect. Daikokuya has the 3Ps mantra; provenance, preservation and packaging. They have a 100% guarantee and will offer a free refund if a bag’s authenticity is proven to be questionable. Surely, if their buyers are experts, a refund guarantee isn’t needed? Or is this just a reflection of how good the counterfeiters are?
Quality of shopping experience
Ecommerce is in my nature and the shopping experience for me is key. Four of the pre-loved sellers have been around for a minimum of 15 years, however, Daikokuya, whilst established in 1947 in Japan, has only been in the UK less than a year and their website unfortunately, is still evolving. A few broken links and 404 pages need to be addressed.
Whilst all the sites allow you to search by designer, the differences begin to emerge. Taking a popular search for a Hermes Birkin 35, I could only filter my Hermes search for a Birkin on Vestiaire and Rewind Vintage. However, well done Handbag Clinic, Designer Exchange and Daikokuya for including the size of the bag in the pre-filtered search results.
Nearly all of the sites provide the required number of photographs to get a good look; averaging around 8, to view the outside sides and interior. Handbag Clinic might want to sort out their image carousel that seems to have a mind of its own when you hover.
All of the sites detail in the product’s description; size, material and inclusions. Arguably the most important piece of information is the condition. Whilst all of them have different scales for the condition rating, most define the rating on the same page. Handbag Clinic need to make their definitions of their rating more prominent on the product page for quick referencing.
Don’t just take my word for it
With a desire to give you a more rounded view of these 5 designer handbag re-sellers, I turned to trustpilot.co.uk. Three out of the five have reviews; topping the scores is Designer Exchange with a score of 9.6 from 181 reviewers. Second place is Handbag Clinic with a score of 8.3 from a smaller base of 44 reviewers. Finally Vestiaire comes in with a low score of 3.2 from a very small base of 13 reviewers.
The last word
When I first set out to find how protected from fakes I would feel and how easy it would be to shop pre-loved designer bags, I thought the retail world would be fairly similar. However, as some of these main players in second-hand designer handbags market shows, shopping around is required.
Vestiaire scores well for onsite retailing with promotions and resale calculator and email alert creation. However, they are only as good as the sellers and it won’t be the swiftest delivery.
Handbag Clinic has a unique position as it is a business built on designer handbag restoration so they do know a thing or two about authenticating the real thing. With their UK footprint, 4 stores selling pre-loved bags, means popping in, if you are nearby, is also a possibility.
Daikokuya is the most articulate with regards to their quality checks. A few improvements to their website will no doubt help future shoppers’ experience.
Rewind Vintage has one other service on offer; they can customise or monogram your handbag. Whilst this service does add up to 7 weeks extra to the shopping time, this is a unique service offered by them.
Finally, Designer Exchange, scores top on trustpilot.co.uk, scores top for delivery – I love a next day option that is reasonably priced, and scores highly again for the number of ways to filter your online search – it only has too add the ability to filter by style or name of the bag and they are way ahead of the rest. I love the fact that they also offer instant cash payment if you are selling a bag if you pop into their Knightsbridge shop.
When you want the real designer handbag and you don’t want to pay the price, shopping pre-loved designer handbags now has plenty of options to choose from.
And added Autumn 2020, a new website offering preloved designer handbags is based in the heart of mainland Europe, in Amsterdam in The Netherlands and they offer international shipping. Read more about how to get your vintage on!