When The RealReal launched in 2011 as a digital-only luxury consignment store for women, it seemed innocent enough. It only makes sense that an entrepreneur would think to bring the brick-and-mortar consignment experience online, right? If you’ve been read anything about the resale or “re-commerce” market recently, or knew anything about The RealReal’s fearless founder, Julie Wainwright, you know there was nothing small-minded about the move. The industry is estimated to be worth $41 billion by 2022 and is poised to beat out fast fashion by 2027.
The RealReal recently raised $115 million from PWP Growth Equity, bringing the total sum of private equity capital raised to a cool $288 million. With the money The RealReal opened its second brick-and-mortar location; a sprawling 12,000-square-foot store on Melrose Avenue steps away from a slew of other startup shops; Glossier, Reformation, and Away Luggage, to name a few. And half of the space is dedicated to menswear and men’s accessories.
To learn about the new space and The RealReal’s ever-growing young, male customer base, we tapped Rati Levesque, a brick-and-mortar veteran who Wainwright brought on from day one to help her define the brand and what it buys. Levesque serves as The RealReal’s Chief Merchant, which means she knows more about grails than all the kids standing on Fairfax Avenue on Saturday morning, combined. Here’s what she had to say.
First, I would love to hear a little bit about your background and how you came to work for The RealReal. What is your training?
Rati Levesque: In 2011, I was running a boutique in San Francisco and found that my customers were becoming increasingly interested in the consignment pieces I was carrying versus new items, even though they were often priced higher. Julie [Wainwright] approached me with her idea—The RealReal—and a couple weeks later I was shutting down my store and working with Julie out of her house, full-time.
What does your position as chief merchant entail? Tell us about your typical day at the company.
Levesque: Every day is different but today, for example, started off with a leadership meeting. I'm looking at weekly, monthly and year-over-year metrics—are we short or ahead of the plan? Where do we need to focus the team?
Later, I’m going to interview talent for our leadership team and cultural initiatives. I also often meet with potential partners. Our most recent partnership is with Stella McCartney and brings greater awareness to the circular economy for luxury fashion. We are giving consumers who consign Stella McCartney at The RealReal $100 to shop at Stella in the primary market.
By midday I am usually checking numbers and touching base with the leadership team throughout the country. This afternoon I will meet with our broker to discuss the new-location surveys we are conducting to help us plan future stores!
Tonight I’ll be flying down to LA to see our awesome team there. We'll be walking through how we test new initiatives. And, in between all of that, it's catching up on email! Always.