17 September 2016

Discussion: The Stagnant Lolita Re-Sale Market

Have you noticed a slump in the lolita second hand market? I have. And a lot of my friends online have too. One of them posted on Facebook asking about everyone's thoughts about why it is so hard to sell things right now, and the answers she got were amazing and really thought-provoking.

I've curated and combined a lot of those ideas, and some of my own, into a not-so-concise list for you here.

Please take this post with a grain of salt. I never mean to be argumentative, judgemental, or complaining. I think economic dynamics are fascinating and hope to generate discussion and thought about this topic.
Image courtesy of my friend Becky

Many combined factors contribute to market slumps

One reason for the current slump is that brands make overwhelmingly popular releases during the Autumn/Winter season. Halloween, Christmas, Chocolate, Tartan, and everything else that is usually released during this time is popular. Many lolitas are saving up for these new releases and thus not buying second hand items.

In addition to autumn and winter being a great season for design, summer is a bad season in general. The heat often means that many lolitas take a break during summer. They wear it less and buy less.

Another reason is that there seems to be a trend of "new old school" and a slight simplification for OTT. If you notice, Angelic Pretty has been releasing more and more intricate prints that turn many lolitas off of recent releases. The current trends for detailed, but un-printed pieces also drives down demand and price for the more bold prints.

The value of currencies commonly used to purchase lolita have been unstable lately. Because of Brexit, intentional deflation and inflation of the yuan and yen, crackdown of China's corruption laws, etc. all lead to an unstable market. People are less likely to make impulse buys, are more likely to thrift for cheaper second hand items, and are less likely to order from overseas sellers with unfavorable conversion rates.

Brands are producing more and more. New taobao and indie brands are popping out releases like crazy, and even major brands are releasing multiple series a month. When I talked to Alice and the Pirates designer recently, Tomomi Nakamura, she mentioned how the company has hired a new designer to keep up with the increased production demand. Not only are there more new items, but brands are putting out many rereleases which drives down the price for previously rare items.

In addition to more and more items, the accessibility of lolita has dramatically increased. When I first started lolita, it was difficult to get things shipped from Japan. Now, its easier than ever before to order things and get them fast. With the fashion becoming more well-known on the internet and greater accessibility to lolita, we are seeing a tidal wave of newbies who just want to try it out. Trying out a new fashion is fine, but often "leaving lolita sales" are sparse and show that the seller had only just started. I get the feeling that Tumblr and fast-fashion culture is a major contributor to this ridiculously quick turn-over of items.

A lot of more experienced lolitas who have been dedicated to the fashion for years are complaining of the ignorance and unwillingness of newbies to do their research before bombarding the communities with basic questions that have been answered a million times before. Unfortunately, this trend is also seen in the behavior of newbie buyers on second hand sites. Complaining about shipping costs and customs fees, demanding lower prices and longer payment plans, you name it! I think a lot of newer, younger lolitas who have just joined aren't aware and appreciative of lolita's great re-sale value. Unlike regular thrift stores and charity shops, lolita often retains its value or appreciates way over retail value because of its rarity or age.

Lastly, the most obvious and simple explanation is over-saturation of the re-sale market.  Frequent releases combined with growing numbers of lolitas in the fashion leads to an over-saturation of the second hand market. With so much more to choose from used and new, prices go down to remain competitive.

How You Can Help Make the Re-Sale Market Better

Even though market slumps are partly temporary cycles due to seasons and trends, there are a few ways you can help ease the over-saturation of the re-sale market in both the short and long run.

  • Price your items right. It might be tempting to dramatically drop the price of your items just to get rid of them, but it hurts other sellers. When looking around at a listing, often potential buyers search for past listings to get a sense whether it is a good deal or not. If a buyer sees really low prices, they might think that another seller's perfectly reasonable price is too high. This is especially a problem with newbies who maybe aren't used to lolita retaining its re-sale value.
  • If you're a newbie, enter the fashion with an open mind. Do your research before attempting to buy things second hand. Yes, you'll be able to score deals and cheaper brand than at retail, but have reasonable expectations about how long a seller is willing to hold a payment plan with you or how low they're willing to accept your offer. If you've gotten this far in this post, you already know how damaging a flood of newbies demanding super cheap dresses can be to the overall market.
  • Consider spreading out your sales posts. Over-saturation often occurs during spring and fall when lolitas are doing "spring cleaning" and preparing for new weather.

These are just a few suggestions. Of course, market problems are complex problems that can't be solved overnight, but it doesn't hurt to try! 

Let me know in the comment what your thoughts are about this topic, I'd love to hear your part of the discussion!


  1. Interesting post! I think another reason is that more people are comfortable buying from the second hand sales in Japan (yahoo, mbok etc) where you can often get a good deal, and I've noticed a rise in people that now only want to buy wishlist items (I suppose a combination of people that have been in the fashion long enough to have a cohesive wardrobe, and the newbies that want sought after prints they saw on tumblr). I think the currency issue has affected a lot of buyers. Another issue is that there were problems on Lacemarket earlier this year, and people are afraid of being scammed, while the unstable economy means people aren't earning as much as before. The last thing I can think of is that if it's tough to sell, people are less likely to buy things on a whim thinking "I'll just resell it if I don't like it", so the cycle continues.

    1. Thanks! That's a really interesting thing to consider (Japanese auctions). I guess I didn't think about it because I don't really use the auctions a lot xD I also agree with you that a lot of older lolitas are making smarter and smarter purchases.

  2. I think your analysis is pretty much spot on. I can't really say what second hand sales were like pre-2014/15 because I simply don't know, but I've definitey observed a lot of the same things, especially the currency fluctuations (damn you, Brexit and PM Abe) and the oversaturation of the market. Here's to hoping that things will change soon, although in economic terms "soon" tends to be measured in months and years, so here's to being very patient while waiting for that to happen as well. :P


    1. Thanks! Yeah, I hope it gets a bit better as the months go on. Maybe it'll get better and maybe it'll just get worse ):

  3. I agree with you completely except for the "don't lower the price so much". I find that many Lolitas ask for way too much money, and overpricing (selling items for more than the original price) is very common. That's why the second hand market is stagnant. Second hand prices got higher and higher again when people saw that there are a few crazy (wealthy) girls who are willing to pay 500$ for a dress. Just an example: I search for the Wonder Party dress from AP and many girls ask 200$+ for such an old print, and then wonder why it doesn't sell...

    1. While I can't agree or disagree about Wonder Party since I don't know enough details (was it a set? did it still have tags?) but I know that there are many factors that go into pricing a dress. Overpricing just because it can go for hundreds more than retail IS really stupid, I agree, but it's completely reasonable to price a dress over retail if it's popular/rare/the same dress has sold for that price before. I don't really see what you mean by second-hand prices getting higher and higher. I see a lot more scalping and a lot more rare dresses actually popping up for sale nowadays, but they've always generally been sold at similar prices?

    2. I always see as tax fees and shipping as lost money. I have sometimes seem brandnew newreleased dresses for sale on lacemarket for more than retailprices, those dresses are even not sold out on webpages. Less than year ago I sold a dress on 4 days, why? Because the price was right. And it was even in stock on the brand page.