A Hula for unwanted children’s clothing takes off in Hong Kong, and looks to expand overseas

A platform for parents to buy and sell unworn or second-hand children’s wear rather than throw it away, Retykle, founded by a former Lane Crawford executive after she had a baby, is such a success she plans to enter overseas markets

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 August, 2018, 1:25pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2018, 10:11pm

Online resale platforms are big business in Hong Kong. Websites such as Hula and Vestiaire Collective offer women a quick and painless way to get rid of their unworn or second-hand clothing. The latest to come to the fore is Retykle, which targets a category that is frequently overlooked when it comes to textile waste – children’s wear.

Former Lane Crawford executive Sarah Garner was inspired to launch the site last year when she had her first child.

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“I received a huge amount of hand-me-downs from a friend that were high-end and high-quality. I felt so indebted to her and wanted to give her something in return, so I assigned a second-hand value to each of them and gave her a gift card. The whole experience got me thinking about a bartering and swapping programme, and that eventually evolved into Retykle,” she says.

Retykle (the name is an amalgamation of the words recycle and tyke, informal British English for small child) aims to transform the fast-fashion nature of children’s clothing. While Facebook and community boards such as Hong Kong Moms offer advice and help on where to dispose of used items, Retykle is an official platform that makes the process easy, organised and, above all, profitable.

Using a consignment model, the site gives sellers between 50 and 55 per cent of the resale price, either in cash or credit that can be used on the site. Retykle does all the grunt work, including free pickups, sorting and storage, as well as pricing (which ranges anywhere between 50 to 90 per cent off the retail price). While Retykle accepts most brands – it has a database of over 1,000 labels, including popular names such as Seed Heritage, Bonpoint, Jacadi and COS – every item donated must meet specific criteria.

If items go unsold after a certain period, sellers can pay HK$50 (US$6) to have them sent back, pick them up for free or they can be donated to Retykle charity partners such as PathFinders and Refugee Union.

“E-commerce is not a mature market here, but parents are probably the lowest barrier to entry because they want convenience. Children’s fashion has a lower threshold in terms of criteria on fit. We also have very low returns. Once people start online, it’s easy to retain,” says Garner.

The site has proven so popular that it’s grown from selling just clothing and accessories to other categories, such as nursery items and plush toys, since earlier this year. To date, it has an inventory of over 25,000 items. In June it opened its first showroom in Wong Chuk Hang, a factory district on the affluent south side of Hong Kong Island that is turning into an art and crafts centre.

“We did several pop-ups around town and realised what an enormous marketing opportunity they were. There’s a huge openness to shopping with us online, but new adopters prefer to see items first-hand. Since we moved into a much bigger office, we wanted to utilise the space and have a front-facing experience for our customers,” says Garner.

Also on the agenda is reaching new markets. While the website offers free shipping to other countries, Garner plans to take the concept to other countries to raise awareness about clothing waste, all the while offering viable solutions for parents.

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“I want to stay within the kids’ space and mostly online. Our ultimate goal within the next 12 months is to expand the concept into other markets. We are currently rebuilding all our tech so we can go beyond just Hong Kong,” she says.