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Website Reduces Carbon ‘Shoe-Print’

“Re-commerce” platform Shoe Bank has launched in Agoura Hills, giving Valley and L.A.-area women a way to exchange gently used shoes for new ones. The company’s model is related to peer-to-peer marketplace platforms such as StockX and thredUP, which were born in eBay’s shadow as a way for fashion-conscious shoppers to find pieces that were sold-out or unavailable in certain sizes in retail stores. But whereas those sites are broad in their inventory, Shoe Bank has developed a different business model that does away with buying and selling altogether. Instead, the startup provides a trading-only marketplace exclusively focused on women’s shoes. According to a GlobalData study commissioned earlier this year by thredUP, resale commerce merchants such as Shoe Bank are growing 20 times faster than the traditional retail market and are forecasted to grow at a compound annual rate of 13 percent. By 2023, the industry could reach $33 billion. Chief Executive Roni Harel founded her company a year ago in Tel Aviv and brought it to L.A. last month. “I have a lot of shoes in my closet that I don’t wear, like most women. But … I spent too much money on them and would feel guilty to throw them out,” she said. “I thought, how can I make the shoes I already have a liquid asset? I decided, why not buy shoes with shoes?” To make a swap on Shoe Bank, users create an account, snap a few well-lit photos of the shoes they’d like to exchange, then upload those images to the Shoe Bank website. The automated system attaches one of three tiers of value to the shoe based on its brand: silver, gold or platinum. A user uploading a platinum-tier designer heel, for example, would be able to swap it for another platinum-tier listing. Though Shoe Bank doesn’t inspect shoes trading on its website, Harel said peer review provides a good system of checks to prevent people from exchanging fake or damaged goods. If a user gets more than two severely negative reviews, they are blacklisted from the site. Shoe Bank makes money by charging each user a $9.99 handling fee on a transaction. Shipping costs are paid by the user who ordered the shoes. Harel leans on social media and pop-up swap meets to market the platform to millennial-age women — secondhand shopping’s most active population — as a curb to both overspending and material waste. “We already have awesome shoes on the planet — let’s wear them,” she said. “My saying is: Reduce your carbon shoe-print.” The company has just two employees, both in customer service. Harel said it isn’t profitable yet in its fledgling L.A. market but is nearing breakeven in Tel Aviv. While she’s still setting up in Agoura Hills, Harel is already thinking about her company’s expansion, including the development of a mobile app and a segment for men.

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