Buying second-hand

Alibaba’s Idle Fish platform is proving popular with celebrity sellers

Wu Xin-w

Wu Xin: criticised over her sale of a toy panda

Most celebrities do not want to be photographed in the same outfits twice and so they regularly sell their cast-off clothes.

In fact, before Kim Kardashian found fantastic fame and fortune on reality TV, auctioning off her clothes and shoes on eBay was a major income stream.

She was so successful at it that she made a business out of selling off the clothes in her celebrity friends’ closets as well. Her sisters soon followed suit. Between February 2013 and February 2014, the Kardashian family sold almost 2,000 items on eBay – earning $277,469, Cosmopolitan reported at the time.

In China, celebrities are also taking to resale sites to pawn off their old clothes. Hunan Satellite TV host Shen Mengchen, for instance, reportedly made over Rmb4 million ($630,000) from selling her designer hand-me-downs. Actress Liu Tao sold her entire set of costumes from the hit show Ode to Joy, donating all proceeds to charity.

Wu Xin, another host and actress, has also been busy on Idle Fish, Alibaba’s trading platform for second-hand items, selling as many as 8,500 items.

Sales like these are not entirely without risk, however. In one instance, eagle-eyed netizens chided her for selling a toy panda that she had been gifted by actor Zhong Hanliang during a taping of Happy Camp, for which she was a host, back in 2014.

At the time, Wu had said how touched she was with the present. “So this is what friendship is worth to you, Rmb60?” one netizen mocked.

The TV host quickly issued an apology and even bought back the item: “For a start, I have already tracked down the stuffed toy. I also would like to sincerely apologise to brother Zhong Hanliang… I’m so sorry… I have left a lot of the matters on Idlefish to my assistants. But no matter, I am fully responsible for such a serious oversight. I accept all the criticisms. It’s entirely my fault,” she wrote on weibo.

Netizens have also rebuked starlet Tang Yan for some of the items that she was trying to offload, citing her poor taste in fashion.

“Are we really to believe that all these cheap products that look like they come from a street vendor – with the strong smell of plastic – are items a megastar like Tang Yan would wear?” one asked.

“The clothes are so low quality. It’s too embarrassing to even donate let alone charge money for these clothes,” another complained.

In recent years, second-hand sales platforms like Idle Fish have been popular among younger consumers, who see the goods as cheaper purchases. Idle Fish also taps into the newer focus on environmental sustainability by offering recycling services, where people can dispose of unwanted appliances, clothes and books without any shipping fees. User numbers have surpassed 200 million, with 61% of customers identified as the post-90s generation.

Jiang Fan, boss of the Taobao and Tmall platforms that make up the majority of Alibaba’s sales, says that Idle Fish is going to make a larger contribution because of a new appreciation of sustainability among younger people.

“We believe that in the next three to five years, Idle Fish will become as popular as Taobao and reshape the lifestyles of China’s younger generation, similar to how Taobao has before,” he added in comments reported by Alizila, a news hub for the Alibaba Group.

Even some of the bigger brands are getting more interested in the bargain hunters. Earlier this year Idle Fish launched a premium channel that allows brand owners to cash in on their sample items, seconds and overstocked merchandise.

Still, some question why the more successful celebrities would even bother with second-hand sales, rather than devoting their time to more lucrative product endorsements and appearance fees.

As the commentators have highlighted, the risk is that the celebrities lose some of their mystique in auctioning off unwanted items, especially when the clothes are humdrum or uninspiring.

“The problem with people like Wu Xin and Tang Yan is that most of the items they are selling contradict their public image. Moreover, the items are old and the prices are too high,” wrote Yiyu Guancha, an entertainment portal.

One estimate is that Tang earned just Rmb110,000 from her second-hand sales, for instance, hardly enough to offset the public rebuke for her poor sense of fashion.

People that defend the practice say that the stars are merely selling clothes that were given to them free of charge, however. “Wu Xin made about Rmb2.5 million in just 183 days. And don’t forget a lot of these items were either sponsored by designer brands or gifted to her from friends. So there was no cost involved. It’s no wonder so many stars sell on second-hand platforms like Idle Fish. It’s simply too easy to make money,” NetEase News explains.

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