As pre-loved luxury grows more popular, eBay director of luxury Keith Metcalfe sat down with Retail Week to discuss the diminishing stigma of gifting secondhand, the importance of authenticity guarantees and why pre-loved and luxury make perfect bedfellows

Keith Metcalfe - EU Director of Luxury 2

Since the launch of its Authenticity Guarantee programme in 2021, the opening of its Taste of Luxury immersive pop-up in Mayfair, and the introduction of luxury jewellery this festive season, eBay’s luxury offer is certainly on the up.

With the marketplace’s latest research showing that 41% of people would be happy to receive a pre-loved present if it meant they could get a luxury item, director of luxury Keith Metcalfe speaks about the luxury gifting revolution, the top priorities for attracting customers and how eBay is elevating itself as a destination for luxury.

What are your expectations of pre-loved luxury this Christmas?

“Every year it gets bigger as the stigma diminishes around gifting pre-loved. Our latest data shows that customers are open to receiving pre-loved gifts. People have now got to the position where they would rather have pre-loved luxury rather than brand-new, non-luxury products. 

“This is an interesting revolution because the stigma around pre-loved or refurbished has been ebbing away with self-purchase items, but we are now seeing that gifting is catching up every year.

“Christmas is certainly a peak for us within these categories – trainers, handbags, jewellery, watches – but it is not as exaggerated a peak as it might be in electronics and home entertainment, where Q4 is make or break.

“Pre-loved luxury is important; it is the most important for jewellery, more so than for watches, for instance, but it is not the be-all and end-all. There is a really strong run rate of business throughout the year, and I think that speaks for the fact that self-purchase is really important in these categories as well as gifting.”

The three-day Taste of Luxury pop-up was open until the start of December, how did it go?

“Experience has always played a role within luxury, that’s why I think for an online marketplace like eBay what has been really fun with these luxury categories is playing more into that real-life experience, and giving a select group of customers the opportunity to go and be in that kind of fancy location to see what’s on offer.

“We played with our Taste of Luxury concept, showcasing our pre-loved luxury items, and offering luxury food and beverages to bring that to life as well. 

“Ten years ago, customers might not have expected to get that luxury experience from eBay, but now we are delighting them with additional opportunities. 

“It’s not just about the eBay website, it is about all those different touch points that sit around it and helping people to feel that end-to-end luxury experience.”

How important is luxury to the secondhand market?

“Pre-loved and luxury just go really well together because the higher the quality and the related price of the item, the longer its life. When you buy a luxury item, there is inherent value in that item. It is a more considered purchase and that means it wil be a more considered sale when it comes time to sell it or gift it on.

“This is the third Christmas that we’ve had the Authenticity Guarantee on watches; in the UK, it is the second Christmas that we’ve had handbags; and it is the first Christmas that we’ve had jewellery. We are only just getting started with jewellery at the moment.

“We’re still seeing double-digit growth in the categories that we’ve already launched, and in luxury generally, so jewellery is probably our biggest blank space to move into. 

“Jewellery is the Olympics when it comes to categories in terms of the complexity around precious metals and gemstones – which is why it has been the latest category to be built.”

How do you encourage customers to buy luxury pre-loved?

“Authentication is almost table stakes now, because it is so fundamental to customers’ understanding that what they are buying online is the real deal.

“Other areas that we encourage our sellers to prioritise is really good product photography, especially with pre-loved items that might have had a life before. Buyers are open to signs of life and that can enhance the story, but it is really important that the buyer knows that those imperfections are there.

“The other reason people love pre-loved items is that they might no longer be available in this season’s range. Breadth of range and offering products that are hard to find elsewhere is a real driver for us.

“Little touches, including packaging and the quality of our dust bags that products leave the authentication centre in, also give us the ability as a marketplace to really elevate eBay as a destination for luxury.”

LIVE index

eBay head of pre-loved fashion Lucy Peacock will be speaking at LIVE 2024: Retail Week x The Grocer on March 12-13 next year.

LIVE 2024 is the annual event that brings the need-to-know stories across retail and FCMG to the stage. The heroes behind the headlines will share the latest industry ideas with leaders across all key sectors.

This year Retail Week has joined forces with The Grocer to allow colleagues, competitors and change-makers to meet in a space that stimulates conversation and builds networks.