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COVID Shopping: Palo Alto Luxury Consignment Shop The RealReal Sees Surge in Business Amid Pandemic

PALO ALTO (CBS SF) - This holiday shopping season will be unlike any other. Despite the pandemic's challenges, the forecast is looking merry for retailers.

The National Retail Federation expects sales through December to grow by as much as 5.2% year over year.

The trade group's bright outlook comes as The RealReal opens a new store on University Avenue in Palo Alto - its second in the Bay Area.

The San Francisco-based luxury consignment brand is banking on reaching more customers offline.

"What we find with our customers - they love consigning in the brick and mortar stores, they love talking to experts, and they love to see and buy high-value things," said CEO and Founder Julie Wainwright. "We signed this lease in anticipation of next year and growth. The virus isn't going to be with us forever."

The RealReal did see startling trends emerge during COVID.

It saw a 27% increase in new consignors, or people putting items up for sale. There was also a 36% increase in first-timer buyers.

Investment pieces, which hold resale value, were the big winners.

"No surprise, apparel slipped. It was replaced by handbags, fine jewelry, watches, tops," said Wainwright. "We still sold a lot of tops like other people. But everything's coming back now."

The RealReal says the line to get into the store was at least an hour long during opening weekend. It does expect lines on Black Friday, but social distancing will be enforced.

Once inside, customers should have plenty of space to browse, as the store is operating at 25% capacity.

"I don't like to do online, I think because I'm an older citizen, I prefer going out and touching and feeling it and being able to get it," said Carol Hurst of San Bruno.

The retail federation also said Americans are spending less on travel and entertainment this season, which gives them more money to spend on other things.

"I usually visit family around this time of the year, like go to Arizona... but I'm not doing that this year obviously," said Julio Flores of Palo Alto. "So I have a couple extra hundred dollars floating around."

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