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Sell old Burberry online and the brand might invite you for tea

[PARIS] Burberry Group Plc is encouraging clients to give their old looks a second life by selling them online, a move that could help pull in holiday shoppers and bolster appeal with the environmentally conscious.

In a rare partnership between a fashion house and the burgeoning marketplace for used luxury products, Burberry is teaming up with consignment website The RealReal. US customers who offer a used Burberry item on the portal during the holiday season will be invited for a personal shopping session and tea at one of the British trench coat-maker's boutiques.

European luxury brands have long tightly controlled distribution and avoided even acknowledging the existence of a market for used products. Lately, however, some have begun pointing out that resales reassure customers about their goods' long-lasting value. Richemont, owner of top-end watch and jewelry brands like Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre, purchased the resale site Watchfinder last year in a nod to the secondary market's rising importance.

Others have tried to fight it, like Chanel -- which sued RealReal and another consignment outlet, alleging that it sold counterfeit products. The brand also argued that the site's claim of selling authentic Chanel products constitutes trademark infringement. RealReal denied the claims.

Market voices on:

"We don't see resale as a threat," said Pam Batty, Burberry's vice president of corporate responsibility. "We want to raise awareness of different options customers have when they want to refresh their wardrobe."

Online resale for luxury goods is growing as much as 50 per cent per year, Jefferies analyst Flavio Cereda said.

Cannibalization Risk

"There's some risk of cannibalization, especially at the low end," he said, but "the smart brands are embracing this or at least trying to work out how to get involved."

For Burberry, whose sales in the Americas have steadily declined since 2015, the partnership could also help get former customers back in the store at a pivotal moment as the label transitions to a refreshed aesthetic under its new designer, Riccardo Tisci.

The brand also faced scrutiny over the disclosure last year that it destroyed about US$35 million worth of unsold products. Burberry has since said it would discontinue the practice.

"We see this pilot as complementary to our wider strategy of transitioning to a circular economy," Ms Batty said, citing efforts to help clients repair damaged garments and to use more recycled packaging.