The Menswear Style Podcast

Lewis Hull, Founder of MARRKT

January 25, 2022 Menswear Style Episode 157
The Menswear Style Podcast
Lewis Hull, Founder of MARRKT
Show Notes Transcript

MARRKT is a consignment store selling pre-owned items, sourced from and sold on behalf of individuals. They specialise in well made men's clothing, footwear and accessories from authentic brands, particularly Japanese, American and European. Their focus is product that holds a genuine resale value, brands that are defined by quality rather than marketing budget. They are driven by the knowledge of how much great product is sat in peoples homes being unused, ready for use by another consumer. Shopping and selling with Marrkt promotes sustainability by reusing what's already been made. They sold over 10,000 items of pre-owned clothing in 2021 and they aim to double that in 2022.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Lewis Hull, Founder of MARRKT about his menswear background  and the founding story of the York-based men's consignment website which sells pre-owned and deadstock clothing. Our host Peter Brooker and Lewis talk about how the business launch was funded, pitching to investors, future growth plans, why they focus on true quality brands over designer labels, the preconceptions of buying second-hand clothing, valuing rare garments, and their first pop-up shop on Savile Row with Permanent Style.

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Hello, welcome to another episode of the menswear style podcast the first episode of 2022. And we're gonna kick off this year with an interview with Lewis Holt, who is the CEO and founder of marked.com. A little bit about marked marked is a leading managed marketplace focused on quality, pre owned and deadstock products from the world's best lifestyle brands. They take care of all aspects of the selling process for our wardrobe sellers and marked is spelled m a r k T. And we'll put all the show notes over at menswear style. But here is Lewis himself to talk about marked in his own words, based in in New York, where the warehouse is just outside New York in a market town called easingwold, which is about 12 miles out of York. We have a warehouse here that we purpose built about four years ago, it's gonna cook offices and storage and photo studios and kind of kind of purpose for E commerce really. And perhaps just give an introduction, a thumbnail sketch review, please, Louis and and how you got marked off the ground? Yeah, sure. And I suppose I've been in menswear for the last 15 years, a first foray into it was looking at distribution of kind of hard to find brands in the west of market. So I started off with a product called studio data's and distributing that to kind of, I suppose heritage led stores throughout Europe, that's back in 2007. I suppose mark, it's always been a, an idea on the side and kind of running running alongside other businesses, I had an online store called Super denim calm and a retail store in Covent Garden COVID, the real Mkhize London, which was a kind of an outpost of a Japanese brand we were working with, but markets always run alongside those businesses. Not as the major business at the time, but we used to work with Nigel K bond, selling all of their deadstock. And that's how market came about. It would kind of come alive, whenever we got the stock from them then go dormant for a little while. And then when we got some more stock would kind of pipe pipe up again. And then in 2017, I guess that was when we switch towards the the pre owned map, as opposed to just doing deadstock. So now we would do both, but the majority part of it is that is it pre owned, really? And how did you find life in Covent Garden? And in terms of retail and in terms of no headaches? Or do you feel like you got out at the right time in terms of bricks and mortar? Yeah, we closed that store at the end of 2019 when the the five year lease was upon the on the shop, and November 20 2019. And that was seen followed by the pandemic, I couldn't imagine anything worse than having a London based resource store for that, sir. I don't know it, it. I think some things are meant to be really, maybe someone was shining light down on is when we when we when we closed it. Super denim also should at similar time, I decided to focus all of my energy on on market really from from January 2020. And then the pandemic and that really changed the business a lot for the good. So how did we come about what the stepping stones of getting marked off the ground? Maybe you can talk about raising the capitals, starting the website, etc. And leveraging interest? Yes, I guess. I guess from a capital point of view, it's always been entirely self funded. We've got we've got seven employees and you know, it operates in the real world so to speak, where it's it's obliged to make and reinvest its profits to you know, to pay the wages pay the rent to pay, you know, give give everybody a livelihood. And so, from that perspective, it's, you know, we have quite a few businesses in in the, in the market that we operate in, you know, the quite venture capital funded, you know, I've had had massive Aliza up front. We've kind of done it the opposite way around, really in terms of proving the concept and this year we are we are seeking investment partners to realise that kind of growth ambitions we've got that that that cash flow just can't support an entirely really so Yeah, it's it's, that's, that's one of the focuses for this year really to try and try and take in some some funding to, to to do things we've been hoping to do for a while. And so what state is the business in now? And then if you don't mind me asking in terms of like, how many people have you got on board? How many staff and kind of the turnover, etc, what you pitching to the investors? Yeah, we've just, we've just started 2022, with seven staff, we just took on a new marketing manager, and a new in house accountant. Jay, January 2021, there was three of us. January 2020, there was two of us. So yeah, it's been quite quite a shift in terms of growth with doubled every year from 2020 2020. When I kind of started putting managing to it was it was turning over 300 grand, and then, by the end of 2020, we doubled that to like, 650, I think it was, last year, we doubled it to 1.2 million, sir. So it's, it's growing fast, really. And, you know, we've, we're reinvesting in people to, to try and grow the business as well. And, and we've, you know, we've got, we've got growth, growth plans for this year, as well. So it'd be interesting how it how it pans out. Maybe you can talk a little bit how the business, the business model itself, for people that aren't familiar as well with how it works, how, how you get commissioned, but also how it benefits people that are reselling the clothes for your platform. Yeah, we kind of recognise some time ago that we were focused on genuine quality items, we don't do a lot of stuff where the value is based on on a logo or something that we tried to focus on products with, with a genuine quality, and that there's an inherent value to that that can be passed on. So by by focusing on that, I, I also recognise that selling items privately on on eBay, or Depop, is it it works for some people, but I think other people find it a bit of a headache. So that's where we come in, we people will send us their items, and we'll photograph it, list it, if it sells off to send it to the to the customer handling the returns, and all aspects of a of an e commerce Store really. And then once it's sold as a returns period, we have to kind of wait by, and then then we pay out the the person who's the item ultimately belongs to and that they're part of the money we we take, we take a commission and it's on a sliding scale is higher for low priced items, but lower for higher priced items. Right and, and it seems to work for a lot of people we've got, we take in new sellers all the time got a lot of regular sell isn't it just becomes a bit of an ecosystem for some mood. You know, the level of what we're not using anymore, box it up, send it to us, and then that money is perhaps reinvested in new things that they like, yeah, it just becomes very, very, very hassle free for people. And, and so how does it work? Say for example, I've seen some brands listed on your website, you've got some great names, some personal favourites, like born Crockett and Jones. Levi's vintage, you know, people can check out the website for there's tonnes of brands on there. But let's just say there's a brand that's not on there. Let's say I have a load of NPTEL stuff. For example, I'm going crikey, I've got about 10 cashmere jumpers that I'd like to shift. Do you now have to think oh, great, I have to now kind of set up my own section of the website dedicated to NPO. How does it work? From our point of view? No, we were just created a collection within Shopify says it's fairly straightforward to introduce a new brand. And there's no real extra work around I think we added it the other day this 550 brands on on there at the moment. So no, we just you know, as long as we feel it's a product they can sell, it's in good condition. And it kind of shares the ethos of what we're what we're all about really and then then we'll, we'll take it in. We we don't do hugely with the kind of house or designer names. I don't know if it's Hugo Boss or maybe Paul Smith, we tend to be try not to be too niche, but I guess we do have a niche in terms of some of the brands that we sell. Right. And I mean, I've got to say this the business model that I've learned about on the website and for you is it's really up my street in the way that I hate it I hate packaging, I hate kind of the whole eBay process of, you know, the buying the selling of, you know, getting it back. So you kind of deal with all the returns your end, if I'm not mistaken, which for clothes is a huge deal for me. Because when someone buys clothes off me that I sell on a platform like that, I'm always kind of expecting something to come back into my hands and then have that added, you know, back and forth. And yeah, I've always got to try and fight for a good review or a good feedback. And so how I mean, how can you explain the kind of returns process and the picking up and just kind of fight and finesse that for us? Yeah, and so that's been one of the downsides of selling clothing online is that if you do get returns, and I think we're running about 20% returns, right, and so it's a little bit disheartening when you look see the person on the rifle for about 3030 bucks of stuff coming back. But in that feeling, I know that I used to run a REIT, I used to run a fashion shop in Cambridge and my postman whenever he'd come in through the door with one of my bags, I would just tell him to go hit the brakes. It is it's a real thing. But again, you kind of cater for it. There's those Yeah, it's It's part and parcel of the industry really forgive the pun, but so we, I mean, I suppose what we've tried to do is not normalise, selling your items within the confines of a professionally run retail ecommerce operation as opposed to buy in, you might buy a 500 pound stone Island jacket for your base, and then it turns up in a bin liner. And you know, we it's we've tried to make it as close. We tried to make it just like buying from an eye play era and clothing, you know, whether it's pre owned or not, you still buy it from from a proper ecommerce retailer. I think from from a new proposition as well, you know, you get in print items in a very tight conditioner. A great price. Really? Yeah. Actually, that, for me, is a fork. So like when you buy privately from a seller, again, let's just use eBay as an example. You kind of dealing with that person direct, but you I think going through you there's that vetting process isn't that so like if someone buys from you, there's obviously a team there yourself maybe some your staff that have already vetted the item and deemed it worthy enough to resell rather than if someone goes direct to the person that owns it. You kind of always have that added risk of this guy just trying to get rid of it, you know? Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I think I think that's that's why it's growing so quickly in a way it it puts confidence in the both the seller and the and the person buying it as well it kind of removes that. I don't know slight awkwardness of just doing it private, they're doing it privately. And do you notice a lot quicker than others? As in like do shoes or jeans shirts, if there's something that kind of shifts a lot quicker than other garments and outerwear? It's probably our our best best selling we sell a lot of shirts actually. We do you get given a lot of shirts, and pretty much everything that I say if you're looking for kind of best seller would be no I can sell to a piece which may be you know sometimes we've got a bigger price tag to begin with. And we do well with with Drake's you know a lot of their artwork pieces were sold to Everest packers last week from cable on which was it's freezing cold last week and the time Yeah, but yeah, I think I think people see a lot of value in you know, quite sick. Quite Yeah, like decent hardware pieces that have got a fair amount of discount off and in it can be obtained at a great price. Louis, and just had this for I was gonna ask you what the common misconceptions about buying secondhand and vintage. But I guess one of one of my or one minor my girlfriend's apprehensions is probably the word is that you can buy something that might look good and in a good condition. But then when it's secondhand, it might have its kind of own smell or scent that can't really be eaten or you can't detect that when you're just looking at something online. Have you ever encountered that when you buy stock from a reseller or buy garments from someone trying to sell it on that there's you know, it comes with a smell that you can't Yeah, sometimes it's more than a smell. We've got a washing machine downstairs in a very good dry cleaner in the US. Some stuff comes in a bit like immaculately ironed like no not, you know, smell absolutely fresh. Other stuff looks like the whites Tonight and spoke about brown down it and finished up and and you just got to deal with it really. We had a seller last week he sent in 150 items, but half of it needed washing. Some of it your first impressions you're looking at and think there's no way we can sell that. But we've since had them cleaned and they're good items, but just just had a pretty bad way. But we've, we've kind of got them renovated as it were a good washing steam, all the stains come out. So yeah, we would we do recognise that and try to try to eliminate as much of those kind of preconceptions as possible with you know, with pre owned, can, you know, I think all the things you mentioned, are true. And you know, it's it's one of the niches of preventative, but we we do try to wash as many things if there's, if there's if it smells like there's a stain on it, or if it you know, if you don't feel it's, it's good or worse, we'll send it back to the seller, just you know, we've got our reputation to to maintain as wide range. Okay, yeah, that's interesting. So, Louis, tell me where the business is. Now, at the moment. I know that you did a pop up I think around about Christmas time. I think you've partnered with Simon Crompton over at permanent style, which and tailoring pieces. Have you got any more plans to do some bricks and mortar in the new year? Yeah, the the event that we did Simon in on Savile Row at that service, coffee shop has got a space that's quite different events at the back. And that was the first time we had dinner in person wood. We were meant to do it back in March 2020. With with Simon but obviously the pandemic pass on that. But this was the first in person event would would ever done. And it was great, really, we kind of didn't realise how many, almost like fans we had, really and it was nice to see a lot of those in person that came to came to see us and Simon saw a load of his prion stuff. And we took a load of pre owned as well as deadstock stuff as well. And it was a great success, it simply would like to do would like to do again. And so it's definitely what we're going to be looking at this year, whether it's with permanent style again, or indeed, independent of them. Not quite sure yet. We just had a meeting this morning with our new head of marketing, David. And it was one of the things we spoke about about about doing that or even maybe looking for some sort of concession in a in a store perhaps or you're not sure yet, but it it was definitely something we would like to do again, the trouble of online is you don't get to meet customers that much. You know, you recognise names a lot. And you know, you have a feeling of who your regular customs customers are but not necessarily a face to the name. So yeah, same thing you think your leader I guess a lot of vintage clothing is all about community as well, isn't it about people don't want to have that story of what this garment might have meant to them or someone else that they knew. And I think some of those stories could be lost when it's just a virtual world that they live in. Yeah, no, absolutely. It's been great to kind of see who your demographic is as well you know, to work out you know? Yes, amen people under 20 or the under 50 on it's it's a really good exercise and yeah, Want to take take on the road again this year. But yeah, just putting putting the plans together. Have you found a Garmin that's come on, you're on your lap, so to speak landed in your lap that you think is worth more than perhaps the seller has fought it is and I'll give you an example. Maybe it's a maybe it's a suit that possibly could have been worn by a Bond actor or something like that. And you think crikey Blimey, I can make it look unfortunate Julian's auction on this it was this guy do Yeah, anything like that come across where you feel like something has been there's a huge opportunity. Here we had a had a piece last year is the British Perrier apparently paratroopers smoke, okay, camo went from an actual like really great condition when from like 1940s. And I'm embarrassed to say that. At the time I didn't even know what it was. I put it what I thought was a fair price on it. Put it online and then somebody who's got a bit better idea emailed us and said actually, you've got you've got something really special there. So we ended up selling it to a Is Taylor in Canada who specialises in British military stuff and got a really great price for it and obviously great for the for the seller as well he'd he'd picked up some years ago and I think a vintage store in the states hadn't paid a huge amount for it. But in reality, it was a really rare piece. Yeah, that, that, that that was one the most most mostly the stuff is, you know, we, we can, we can we can recognise the value of it really. But every now and again to get something through that. It takes us by surprise. I think that's the beauty of shopping for vintage. And I think it used to be a bigger thing back in the day before people could kind of look up things online and then find out the value maybe googling a brand or a model number of something. You know, I would, I would actually have my old keyboard teacher he would. He made his side job, his beer money was going out to Cash Converters and finding all the all the stuff that was labelled incorrectly, or that he thought, oh, no, this guy is selling it for a tenner. I can easily get 200 quid for this. And then that would be like, You go around. Yeah, yeah, do all those things. I mean, I don't know if it's something that you you kind of look at as well, where you feel like oh, you know, this now and again, we've got a few sellers like that, though. They're they're kind of looking on eBay all the time. Or, you know, in sales, if Mr. Potter goes into like a massive asking friends and family reduction is something that I can snap in a bit separately, then giving it to you to try and flip them on a bit. That's something we do a lot of really, and we've always stayed away from the whole kind of flipping in height pricing stuff. You know, we've never really been a place where you'd I don't buy rare pair trainers and then sell them for four times. So he paid for them in that kind of thing. And generally that to the to the others bit. Interesting. Yeah. Interesting. Well, it's thanks for taking time out and just and talking to us about marked which is spelled ma WR K t.com. place people can go and have a look at all those wonderful pieces and best of luck and continued success. And when you do do a pop up and you come back to London, please give us a nod. We'd love to come down. Yeah. Our audience know that you're around. Absolutely. You've been listening to the menswear style podcast be sure to head over to menswear style dot code at uk for more menswear content and email info at menswear style dot code at UK if you'd like to be a future guest on the show. Finally, please help support the show by leaving a review on iTunes or wherever you're listening to this podcast. Until next time