Second-hand, first choice

Second-hand, first choice
Ophelia Teo, owner of Designers Exchange Pte Ltd.

Most women know what it's like to lust after a luxury item. But what happens when that $8,000 Chanel classic flap handbag is just out of your financial reach?

That's where the second-hand market comes in. With social media and technological advancements in recent years, more platforms have been popping up to give people access to pre-owned luxury items at lower prices.

Some of them have been so successful, that they have spawned physical shops, expanded their storage space, or even started developing their very own unique mobile application.

One of the newest entrants is The Closet Raiders, run by Instagram-celebrity Jamie Chua and her business partner Sharon Tang.

Though they only started last month, their Instagram account - on which they conduct most of their business - has already garnered over 13,000 followers.

"We have sellers telling us that their items are sold within minutes of us posting them on Instagram," says Ms Tang, 36.

Their success is testament of how far the market for second-hand goods has grown, especially since the days when more established resellers such as Designers Exchange used to face certain stigmas when they first started out.

Founder Ophelia Teo says: "When we first started, there were people who asked us every now and then 'You mean people will want to buy my used bags/wallets/shoes?' " But today, you hardly find anyone asking such questions."

When her business first started in 2003, one of her biggest challenges was overcoming the resistance of Asian culture, which came with a mindset that carrying second-hand goods was an embarrassment.

But over the years, Ms Teo has seen more people drawn to second-hand stores, partly because they tend to carry models or colours that boutiques may not stock.

That's a reason why one of Ms Teo's long-time customers, housewife Betty Loke, has no qualms whatsoever about buying second-hand items. "I am not particular as long as they are still very new and in very good condition," says the 57-year-old.

Though she still does buy some bags first-hand, she adds that "sometimes I buy (the second-hand bags) to keep and use once in a while, just to add to my collection".

Stephanie Crespin, owner of 11-month-old StyleTribute, attributes this change in mindset to the way discounted prices are attracting a younger generation of shoppers. She says: "We have a generation of value seekers, educated shoppers who have a clear vision of the different purchase options. They know how to find a good deal - why pay full price when you can get it at 85 per cent off the retail price?"

But, of course, one universal concern that comes with dealing in second-hand luxury items is the issue of authenticity, and for this, Ms Teo believes that the onus is on providers to ensure her buyers feel safe when making their purchases.

"Lots of research goes into ensuring we do not make mistakes in authentication, as it is impossible for laymen to know what to look out for," she says.

But to increase your chances of getting the real thing, she advises: "I think people can, at least, do some homework. Go to a boutique, look at the real bags first. Take a look at the stamping, the font, the serial number, the hardware - just to get an idea before you buy the bag."

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