Industry / Retail

The RealReal Sees Retail Stores and Fine Jewelry as Key to Growth


You may know The RealReal for its online retail, authenticating and selling a curated selection of high fashion, footwear, and jewelry. But with 16 U.S. brick-and-mortar stores and counting, The RealReal is finding in-person shopping is building its brand even bigger.

Fine jewelry is a key part of The RealReal’s store development, says Steffi Lee, editorial manager of fine jewelry and watches for the San Francisco–based brand. The RealReal’s customers want sustainable fashion and are interested in authenticity, so they’re ready to buy jewelry from the site and its stores, Lee says.

Consider this: In its 2022 Luxury Consignment Report released last month, The RealReal’s resale luxury goods experts in San Francisco say “conscious consumers” across a wide spectrum of age ranges are looking to resale as a way to create one-of-a-kind style while also shopping their values.

Moreover, ThredUP estimated in its 2021 Resale Report that the secondhand market is projected to double by 2026, reaching $77 billion. Its report found that 33 million consumers bought secondhand apparel for the first time in 2020, and 76% of those first-time buyers plan to increase their spend on secondhand in the next five years.

The RealReal Palm Beach
The RealReal Palm Beach store has a well-curated wall of designer handbags and a sleek jewelry counter.

Lee highlighted this shift in an email interview with JCK about the stores, jewelry trends, and how TheRealReal is helping its customers find “new to them” pieces to wear.

Tell me about your retail stores and why you want physical locations.

Over the past two years, we’ve expanded our brick-and-mortar presence with the goal of making it as easy as possible for our customers to engage with the circular economy. Just last year, we reported that 30% of our new consignors came from our stores. Each of our 16 shoppable locations, with Brentwood being the latest, offers curbside pick-up and drop-off, access to our experts who are extremely knowledgeable in pieces to sell and buy that yield the greatest returns, and a selection of the trendiest sold-out-everywhere else items—all while having an authenticity guarantee.

Why include fine jewelry?

Fine jewelry is such a uniquely creative category and has become a defining medium for expressing personal style. As we’re seeing more and more customers playfully mix and match luxury brands with one-of-a-kind pieces, the try-on process is integral to helping decide what to purchase. We are one of the only stores that carry unbranded and vintage jewelry alongside luxury brands—allowing us to showcase the top pieces and rarest finds for our customers to discover. In fact, our most expensive item ever sold in TRR history was an unbranded yellow diamond engagement ring sold out of our Austin store.

Alongside detailed curation, each store has a team of experts which include GIA-certified gemologists and trained professionals who can help guide the consignor through a valuation appointment or offer up their expertise for shoppers. We provide a multifaceted approach when it comes to shopping and consigning, ensuring that every touch point a customer has with us is personalized, professional, and authentic.

The RealReal San Francisco store
The RealReal San Francisco store, like its other locations, lets customers meet one-on-one with in-store experts from watchmakers to gemologists to learn what their fine jewelry, watches, and handbags are worth.

How is your jewelry displayed and how are the stores designed with that in mind?

Each piece of jewelry that goes into our stores is chosen specifically to fit the demand of the local customers as well as speak to trends within the area. As a result, we’re always changing up our inventory to enable discoverability and create the “thrill of the hunt” experience. We also take a modern approach to showcasing our jewelry, displaying pieces the way people would actually wear it. A lot of high-end jewelry brands cater to an older demographic and, as a result, don’t always have the approachability that younger customers look for as they mix high-end with trendy, contemporary pieces. We always try to reflect an authentic style with how we curate our pieces.

It sounds like your clients are open to buying fine jewelry in this way—do you want it to continue to grow?

Some of the best moments are when we hear a customer come across a piece of jewelry that they had previously seen or when they find the perfect vintage ring or necklace to complete a look. Jewelry has an incredible lifespan and the phrase what’s old is new has never been more aptly suited for the category. Our customers seek the thrill of discoverability that other jewelers don’t have while also wanting to be sure that they are making the most sustainable choices possible—43% of our shoppers actually cite sustainability as a key motivator in shopping resale. The TRR store experience combines both and we look forward to continuing to welcome customers—new and existing—into our stores.

Top: With its retail stores, like this one in Chicago, The RealReal is courting consumers who want fine jewelry and watches and are interested in upcycling, sustainability, and authenticity, officials say. (All photos courtesy of The RealReal) 

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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