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Plato’s Closet is a retail store that buys gently used name brand clothing items and accessories that are then sold at a reduced price to the public. The values built upon Plato’s Closet involves spreading awareness to the surrounding communities by encouraging recycling of unwanted clothing items. These values are what makes up the business model which achieves Sustainable Development Goal #8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, #9: Industry Innovation and Infrastructure, #11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, #12: Responsible Consumption and Production, and #17: Partnerships for the Goals.
Plato’s Closet’s website clearly states, “We aren’t a typical thrift store!” which is demonstrated by their innovative business model. Plato’s Closet is particularly innovative because although it may appear similar to other thrift stores, it is unique in the fact that it not only sells used clothing, but also offers cash to individuals for their used clothing. The company also only accepts gently used, name brand, trendy clothing, which is unusual compared to other thrift stores such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army. Through these unusual aspects of the business, Plato’s Closet has created several incentives for those who sell and buy with them: cash payment to sellers, and trendy, quality clothing for buyers. Typical thrift stores only accept donations, and as a result, are not able to stock their aisles with trendier, name-brand clothing.
The innovation came from the minds of two parents, Dennis and Lynn Blum, who had three young children when Lynn first started Once Upon A Child out of her own home. These parents expanded upon the concept of Once Upon A Child to create Plato’s Closet, which has a target market of teens and young adults instead of young mothers. Plato’s Closet’s target market of young people often values sustainable buying more than older generations. Their customers, as a result, may be more driven to loyally shop at Plato’s Closet because they can meet all the requirements of sustainability, discount price, and trendy, quality clothing, whereas typical thrift stores can often only offer discounted prices and sustainable shopping.
The original idea for Once Upon a Child, the first resale store created by Lynn Blum, came from resenting the idea of throwing away gently used clothes that her three sons had outgrown. She found children's clothing to be highly wasteful and a form of fast fashion that she wanted to contribute to lessening. From a consumer's perspective, fast fashion is defined as cheap, trendy and disposable. It makes purchasing clothes on impulse easy and affordable. Shoppers are encouraged to update their wardrobes regularly throughout the year to keep up with ever-changing trends. This fills our landfills with clothing items that were already hugely impacting the environment in a negative way to create. Childrens clothing can be categorized as fast fashion because children grow so quickly that clothes are no longer needed after just a few months, sometimes even a few weeks.
In 1985, Lynn Blum created “Once Upon a Child” out of her garage as essentially a mom-to-mom swap. This continued expanding until she realized she could help people throughout her whole city and even the whole state and country. In the same way, she realized that this is a problem with other niches as well. Teens grow out of clothes and get tired of wearing the same thing, athletes outgrow high quality gear within just one season, musicians opt for higher quality instruments, the list goes on. Lynn Blum saw the problem and addressed it with her brick-and-mortar resale stores. A benefit that store manager, Rachel Simon, believes customers appreciate the most is “Knowing they don’t have to throw things into a landfill, while also making a couple bucks”. Essentially, the motivation to creating Plato’s Closet was her sons outgrowing their clothes and the purpose was to help put an end to fast fashion, to make some money for her and her friends, and keep clothes out of the landfills.
Plato’s Closet developed its’ business model surrounding the very core of sustainability. The heart of the business model is quite literally reusing, reducing, and recycling all unwanted clothing items and accessories. Plato’s Closet encourages customers to bring in their unwanted clothing items for they will receive money. Plato’s only accepts certain name brands that include Abercrombie & Fitch, Under Armour, American Eagle, Pacsun, Lululemon, Patagonia, and so much more. Plato’s Closet takes drop off items on a first come first serve basis. Seasonal trends are the backbone of deciding what clothes will be bought from customers. The focus is on quick turnover for all clothing items. The average turnover rate for a clothing item is around 90 days.
One of the main selling points to customers is the quality name brand items that can be bought at a reduced price. All clothing items will be sold with up to a 70% discounted rate. Customers that bring in items will receive money back that is equal to about 50% of the original sell price of the items. The selling price is determined by similar items sold as well as a conversion price chart established by Plato’s Closet. Instead of selling items online and having to deal with shipping and unnecessary time, Plato’s Closet can be the easy solution all customers are looking for.
The underlying message of sustainability lives through the storefronts and through all items sold. The innovation presented in this company is the exact actions that this company is built upon. Sustainability is no add on to Plato’s Closet; it is simply the root. Plato’s Closet main attraction to the public is by selling brand name items at a reduced cost. Plato’s Closet is a growing business that is publicly owned by a Franchise called Winmark. Winmark has been publicly known for their sustainability reporting. The local Toledo and Columbus locations are still separately owned by the original Blum family.
The consumers looking to be conscious of their own impact have become more aware of Plato’s Closet because as a business they continue to focus on minimizing their own impact. Plato’s Closet is geared more to teenagers and young adults, which helps to bring awareness of sustainability to younger, more current generations.
The secondhand retail store market has grown because of the current generation's support. Online platforms have developed the same strategy to resell gently used clothes at a reduced price. Providing resources for younger generations to be able to wear name brand clothes even at a reduced price will help the social part of society. As customers become more aware of the impact of the production process of clothing, the more likely the secondhand retail store market will grow. Having thousands of various businesses across the country that are aware of the pollution impact that clothes have and choose to support ways to reduce this issue could continue to make a huge positive impact.
The innovations of Plato’s Closet, providing trendy clothing at discount prices to promote sustainability, give the company a competitive advantage over other companies in their market. This may explain why Plato’s closet has quickly grown from one location to over 450 locations in North America and has become a leader in second-hand clothing sales. Their innovative business model has also helped build a loyal customer base and create passionate employees. Plato’s Closet’s innovation provides employees with the first choice of store merchandise and employee discounts on their already discounted clothing. Plato’s Closet stores also of course provide their employees with the chance to feel satisfaction from working at a store that benefits the environment and those who cannot afford new, quality clothing.
The company and its innovations have created a loyal customer base by selling only quality clothes that match today’s trends, and by committing to sustainability. It has incorporated reusable bags and reduced plastic into its operations, which add on to the sustainable benefits of recycling clothing that attract customers. Plato’s Closet’s innovations also benefit the business by allowing it to be a brick-and-mortar store while saving on shipping costs because its business model focuses on buying clothes from individuals, which eliminates the need to order manufactured clothing and pay to have it shipped. Even the company’s standard process for buying clothing can promote sales because individuals that bring clothing to sell often browse the store while employees evaluate the clothing they want to sell.
Since less cotton needs to be cultivated, less polluted groundwater is discharged into the environment due to recycling clothes as to what Plato’s Closet does. Giving slightly worn jeans to a firm like Plato's closet could significantly reduce water use since fewer people will wear new jeans, according to Plato's closet website, which claims that "It takes 2,000 gallons of water to create a single pair of jeans". As noted on the website, "shoes take 30+ years to degrade," the amount of apparel ending up in landfills is decreasing due to this invention. It boosts economic growth and encourages more intelligent consumer behavior in terms of society.
Some populations, including students, those with low incomes, and people on a budget, aren’t t be taken care of sufficiently. In contrast to other thrift shops, Plato's Closet offers a financial reward to those who prefer to donate clothing. This enables people to sustainably engage in our society's "quick fashion" culture. Overall, the impact of innovation on this industry has genuinely given thrifting life and increased its appeal as a cost-effective method of clothing shopping.
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Rachel Simon, Store Manager
Plato’s Closet was derived from the creator of Once Upon A Child which was founded in 1985 in Perrysburg, Ohio by Lynn and Dennis Blum. Lynn was a mother of three boys and she felt horrible throwing out clothes that her sons had outgrown. She created what was originally a mom-to-mom swap of clothes into a huge, franchised business with five different facets of business including Play It Again Sports, Plato's Closet, Once Upon a Child, Style Encore, and Music Go Round. Plato’s Closet is essentially the teen-centered version of Once Upon a Child. Plato’s Closet's primary service is buying gently used clothing and reselling them in their storefront. Plato’s Closet’s estimated annual revenue is currently $75 million dollars per year and they have 268 employees.