CMHT case study highlights 'recommerce' retail trend

Friday, May 17, 2024 - 10:00

DENTON (UNT), Texas —  In a historic collaboration, the University of North Texas and its College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism partnered with the NRF Foundation to produce an educational case study focused on the fast-growing retail trend known as "recommerce".

Order from left to right: Dr. Iva Jestratijevic, Assistant Professor, Dr. Sanjukta Pookulangara, Professor & Merchandising & Digital Retailing Department Chair, and Dr. Jiyoung Kim, Professor & Associate Dean of the College of Merchandising, Hospitality & Tourism.
Order from left to right: Dr. Iva Jestratijevic, Assistant Professor, Dr. Sanjukta Pookulangara, Professor & Merchandising & Digital Retailing Department Chair, and Dr. Jiyoung Kim, Professor & Associate Dean of the College of Merchandising, Hospitality & Tourism.

It marks the first time that the NRF Foundation, a nonprofit that provides access to education and opportunities needed for successful retail careers, has worked with a U.S. university on a case study. The findings were presented earlier this year to educators attending its annual NRF Foundation Student Program conference in New York City.

Also known as “reverse commerce” or “circularity”, recommerce is the practice of selling previously owned goods, including clothing and other apparel, through physical and online platforms. Its popularity is on the rise, especially among retailers and consumers who favor more eco-friendly, sustainable shopping and purchasing options.

CMHT Dean Jana Hawley, a sought-after expert on textile recycling, says the college is pleased its researchers were able to work with the NRF Foundation on the case study. The collaboration is especially fitting since UNT is the only university in the nation to offer a bachelor’s degree in digital retailing.

“It is a valuable tool to be used by educational programs and companies from across the nation to learn more about recommerce as a strategy that reduces apparel waste and contributes positively to the circular apparel economy,” Hawley said.

The study was written and published by CMHT professors Sanjukta Pookulangara, Jiyoung Kim and Iva Jestratijevic, who last year were awarded a $10,500 grant by the NRF Foundation, which was used to produce the case study.

“This case study showcases the vital role of retail in the economy and the transformative impact of recommerce,” Pookulangara said. “We hope the study also piques student interest and encourages them to delve into merchandising as both a significant career and educational choice, specifically by exploring CMHT’s digital retailing program.”

Currently Pookulangara, Kim and Jestratijevic are collecting additional data they will use to expand the study, which is set to be published in a pair of research publications and presented at the 2024 International Conference on Clothing and Textiles in South Korea. They also are editing the educational case study to be more user friendly for the more than 50,000 students in high schools, community colleges and workforce development organizations who participate in the NRF Foundation’s RISE Up program annually.

“Recommerce is reshaping the retail landscape and this case study shines a light on this rapidly growing market,” said Adam Lukoskie, executive director of the NRF Foundation and senior vice president of the National Retail Federation. “Retailers are responding to this increase in consumer demand by adapting many of their products and offerings to extend the lifecycle and promote further circularity within the industry.”

Hundreds of international fashion brands own and operate recommerce channels. Others use third-party companies to resell gently used apparel — which typically is purchased, traded or otherwise garnered from previous and existing customers — to customers who oftentimes are new to the brand. Items typically are thoroughly inspected and cleaned before being stylishly remarketed for sale at a discount.

“It is one of the biggest trends in the fashion industry,” said Kim, a co-author on the study.

The UNT team interviewed directors of circularity and other executives at seven international fashion brands to learn about the $100 billion global recommerce market, which is growing five times faster than the broader retail market. That growth is attributed to the environmental impact and sustainability factors of recirculating product to multiple consumers, among other factors.

However, recommerce is not without its challenges, especially for retailers. Increased labor costs tend to make it a more lucrative practice for larger fashion brands than smaller ones. Also, it is an ongoing struggle for brands to gauge the unpredictable supply-and-demand levels for products and constantly shifting price points. The case study found that luxury brands tend to fair better economically as higher-end items tend to retain their value even with the discounted pricing of recommerce.   

Nevertheless, Kim said, “The advantages of recommerce are pretty well-known. It is beneficial for sustainability efforts. It brings additional profits to brands. It gives customers more options.”


About the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism

UNT’s College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism is centered on the world’s largest consumer-focused industries and is driven by innovation to ensure the college remains relevant in preparing students to be leaders in careers that focus on the customer experience. The college features the nation’s first bachelor’s degrees in digital retailing and consumer experience management and master’s in international sustainable tourism. The event design and experience management degree is a first for Texas. Geared for tomorrow, the master’s degree in merchandising and the master’s degree in hospitality management programs offer 100% online options, while the latest offerings are STEM based with a master’s degree in merchandising and consumer analytics and a master’s degree in hospitality and tourism data analytics. The college also is home to the UNT CoLab, a multi-functional venue located in historic Downtown Denton that hosts a variety of events and exhibitions showcasing excellence across the university.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

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Chelsey Gilbert