How to Leverage the Pre-Loved Market with Andrew Ostcliffe, Oxfam (episode 454)

Andy Ostcliffe is Head of eCommerce and Retail innovation at Oxfam. Oxfam is the leading UK charity fighting global poverty and the UK’s best loved charity shop chain – with over 575 stores across the UK, a thriving online store that’s built on Oracle plus selling on Ebay and Etsy. Across the retail channels they do just under £100 million, 10% online.

Andrew Ostcliffe Oxfam on eCommerce MasterPlan Podcast

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Dig in:

[05:05] Having a large corporate following, diverse donations and popular charity shops.
[08:06] Using online data for trends.
[11:09] Consumers want bargains and unique clothing options.
[14:40] How Oxfam promotes sustainability in product sourcing.
[20:33] Be genuine, use take back schemes and why influencers matter.
[24:10] Tips for listing on eBay.
[25:45] Flexible working is changing how Oxfam communicates.
[30:23] The pre-loved movement.

About Andy Ostcliffe

Andy got into ecommerce around 2000 by selling items he got from Poundland on eBay. This early experiment revealed the potential for online selling and sparked his interest in the world of eCommerce.

At the time, he was working in IT in the US. When he returned to the UK, he joined John Lewis and later got into online services with a charity, helping them become the world’s largest online charity reseller.

Oxfam’s Diverse Retail Business

Oxfam’s wide range of products includes fashion, accessories, books, music, and more in their charity shops. Skilled staff decide where items go; valuable items might be auctioned online for a wider audience.

For their online store, Oxfam has guidelines based on trends, training, and customer preferences. They use insights from shopper activity and product trends to communicate with their physical stores. If a specific category, like children’s clothing, is in demand, they ask their shops to list those items online. Events like sports or fashion trends influence their decisions too, making sure customers find what they’re looking for.

A Focus on Preloved Fashion and More

Oxfam is playing a significant role in the shift towards preloved and secondhand fashion, driven by consumers’ growing interest in sustainability. And Andy says Oxfam isn’t just riding the wave of change; they’re actively pushing it. They’re leveraging the trend of consumers seeking preloved items, not only for the positive environmental impact but also for the unique and budget-friendly finds.

Beyond retail, Oxfam’s approach to sustainability extends deep into its operations. They support fair trade producers and even repurpose used clothing into new products, creating a circularity model that benefits communities and reduces waste.

Tips for Fashion Brands

Andy emphasizes the importance of genuineness. Brands should be sincere in their efforts to adopt sustainable practices, as consumers can discern authenticity. He highlights the effectiveness of take-back schemes, where brands encourage customers to donate used items in exchange for coupons, fostering a sense of involvement and incentivizing repeat shopping.

Andy also acknowledges the rise of influencers who specialize in preloved clothing and sustainable fashion. However, he warns brands to carefully vet influencers’ authenticity, ensuring their alignment with sustainable values, and to avoid associations that might undermine the genuine commitment to sustainability.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • Specific to eBay, Andy shares that last year, he sold Oxfam Christmas cards using three different listings and descriptions. His colleagues pointed out that he listed the same Christmas card three times. But this smart move helped them show up in search results, and they sold a lot of Christmas cards successfully.

Tool Top Tip

  • For easy collaboration that’s also a more sustainable option, Andy says a communication tool like Microsoft Teams or Zoom is really helpful.

Carbon Top Tip

  • Electric delivery trucks used to be just ideas, but now they’re real and they reduce carbon footprint. Oxfam has a great partnership with DPD, which has the biggest electric vehicle fleet.

Interview Links

Related episodes

  • Building a lucrative second hand market with Kalkidan Legesse founder of Sancho’s and Owni (episode 372)
  • Fashion and the Circular Economy with Zoe Rowswell, co-founder of Tern Eco (episode 435)
  • Balance the Physical and Digital: from Sustainable Fashion with Lucie Harrild from comhla (episode 449)

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