ROCKY MOUNT – Ever wonder what happens to all your e-commerce returns? The ones that are slightly too scuffed to go back on the shelves.
Enter The Jay Group. Over the last three years, this third generation, privately held Rocky Mount company has built a proprietary re-commerce software platform to help e-retailers tackle the “returns mountain.”
And it’s exploding.
Its president, Gray King, said the company has already grown around 50 percent this year, and that’s only set to increase with its latest acquisition. The Jay Group recently entered into a partnership with the Helsinki-based Swap.com Services Oy to buy 51% of the US-based Swap.com.
“This last piece gives us a real direct connection to the consumer,” explained King.
Swap.com is an online consignment and thrift shop offering pre-owned clothes, and accessories, for babies, children, women and men. It will now also serve as a storefront for returned stock, offering a “complete re-commerce solution.”
Swap.com’s fulfillment center is now based in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, with marketing and customer support remaining in Chicago, Illinois, and development in Helsinki, Finland.
In addition to a 400,000-square-foot facility, The Jay Group is also opening a second site in Rocky Mount — an additional 200,000-square-foot space to handle the expected influx. It also has an office out of Durham’s American Underground.
“This positions us extremely well to continue to transform our business by leveraging our reverse logistics platform and operational experience to drive an exciting, new model of e-commerce,” said its CEO Ryan Jay.
The rise of re-commerce
The timing couldn’t be better.
In the wake of the pandemic, a ThredUp report released in June revealed that online secondhand market is expected to grow 69% between 2019 and 2021, gaining 27% in 2020. Meanwhile, the fashion re-commerce giant projects the overall retail sector will shrink 15% over that period.
Worth an estimated $28 billion in 2019, the resale market is expected to hit $64 billion by 2024.
Resale has also become a growing trend as consumers — particularly millennials and Gen Zers — become increasingly environmentally conscious. According to ThredUp, nine in 10 Gen Zers are open to buying used apparel, and about half of shoppers are planning to buy more sustainable fashion in the next five years. At the same time, consumers are becoming more wary of fast fashion, with resale expected to be nearly twice the size of fast fashion by 2029.
Resale disruptors such as ThredUp, Depop and The RealReal continue to see growth — and King said he expects Swap.com to follow suit.
“We think we’ll double the Swap business in the next 12 months, for sure, and then probably double it again.”
A family business
Re-selling isn’t something new to The Jay Group.
Back in 1932, a young entrepreneur named Bernard Klitzner moved to Rocky Mount to set up shop and made the company’s first purchase: a truck of Army Surplus items.
That business evolved into B. Klitzner and Sons; where he purchased excess inventory from footwear factories and brought them to North Carolina to be refurbished by his cobblers and then re-sold.
David Jay came to B. Klitzner & Sons in 1971. In 1976, he bought the company and completely changed almost every facet of the business, including the name to The Jay Group.
Over the next 40 years, it pioneered the business of exporting inventory to developing markets for brand retailers.
In 2015, Ryan Jay became CEO of The Jay Group, becoming the third-generation owner. His appointment also ushered in the company’s third transformation to a digital re-commerce platform. The platform identifies, sorts, grades and lists for re-distribution highly assorted products in varying conditions.
“We’re a good example of how to diversify revenue streams,” said King. “Doing this digital transformation; going towards the consumer and doing all the things that are scary and hard to kind of pull off but position you for the future — it’s part of the reason that the Jay Group has been around for years.”