Patagonia encourages selling its used gear on eBay

Company's sustainability plan includes encouraging the repair and resale of used products, recycling of used product remnants.

Candace Lombardi
In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.
Candace Lombardi
3 min read


Unlike many companies that discourage the repair and reselling of items, outdoor gear retailer Patagonia has decided to not only tolerate, but even sanction the practice.

Patagonia announced today it's partnering with eBay to open a marketplace for the company's used products as part of its sustainability plan.

The online eBay store is called the Common Threads Initiative. It's open to any eBay sellers wishing to sell genuine Patagonia products. By signing on to a pledge, community sellers will be given a badge on their post and included under the store's umbrella, as well as promoted on a new Used Clothing & Gear section on the Patagonia.com Web site.

"This program first asks customers to not buy something if they don't need it. If they do need it, we ask that they buy what will last a long time--and to repair what breaks, reuse, or resell whatever they don't wear anymore. And, finally, recycle whatever's truly worn out," Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard said in a statement.

In addition to the sustainability piece, one can't help but wonder if this is also a clever way to combat knock-off merchandise. Consumers might be more likely to buy sanctioned used Patagonia products included in the Common Threads Initiative than nonmember items they aren't sure about, putting knock-off hawkers at a disadvantage.

The program doesn't include a pledge of brand authenticity, but a promise of authenticity on behalf of the seller is implicit in the pledge wording that refers to "my used Patagonia gear on eBay's Patagonia Common Threads Initiative site." The pledge also includes a commitment to sustainability:

"Reduce--I pledge to buy only what I need. Repair--I pledge to repair items when they are broken. Reuse--I pledge to use what I have, sell what I don't need, and buy used when I can. Recycle--I pledge to keep my stuff out of landfills."

While Patagonia itself is not selling used items or taking any money from the sales, some of the sellers currently on the Common Threads Initiative are self-proclaimed Patagonia employees who say they wish to pass on the products their family and friends have enjoyed. Many are enthusiastic customers.

While many stalwart companies stand behind products with lifetime guarantees, it's highly unusual for one to encourage the repair and reselling of its products by its customers--let alone its employees.

Apple, for example, is notorious for discouraging its customers from attempting to repair their products despite making expensive, quality hardware that lends itself to the practice of repair and reuse. In January, Apple even went so far as to switch to nonstandard screws on certain items to make it more difficult for consumers to gain access to their devices' innards in order to make even the smallest upgrades on their own.

But instead of downplaying or discouraging its customers' habits, Patagonia has decided to meld the old-fashioned practice of repair and resale with the new online marketplace retail business model.

"When the world's largest online marketplace joins forces with the leader in outdoor apparel, we can advance a new model for consumption within the retail industry--one that emphasizes durability and extending the product lifecycle," according to a company statement.