When Alternative Marketplaces Become Convention

Retail apocalypse is ripping through the United States leaving brick-and-mortar boutiques and mall chain behemoths alike wobbling on the brink of irrelevance as online shopping becomes the norm for consumers. The Atlantic reported the first third of 2017 has witnessed nine major retail bankruptcies, major apparel companies’ stocks plunging to new lows, and flagship after flagship closing their doors. The meteoric rise of alternative, often community-run platforms for buying, selling and trading goods online has directly crippled the retail industry. Shoppers, who are already conditioned to shop on sale, now have access to secondhand designer items at mere fractions of retail prices.

Alternative marketplaces are nowhere near a new phenomenon. In the days before sites like eBay, Y! Japan and Grailed, dedicated shoppers scoured flea markets, thrift shops and consignment stores alike for designer threads amidst piles of musty windbreakers and knockoff COOGI sweaters. Each independent, enthusiast-run online shop carrying marked-up goods initially purveyed through Rakuten mirrors my own foray into the world of e-commerce. In the 2000s, my middle-school self was conducting a legally-questionable scheme of funneling East Asian street fashion back to the United States to shill at higher prices on LiveJournal. As the internet has matured, the number of alternative marketplaces has multiplied and with each iteration they become more targeted and communal.

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