EXCLUSIVE: Kept Sku Glamorizes Excess Inventory With a Surprise Factor

Waste hasn’t always been thought of as surprising or glamorous, especially when it costs companies money — but the latest attempt to remedy inventory issues and entice consumers could offer new promise.

Fueled by mystery box drops, billed as the “Last Stop Box,” among other methods of re-commodification, the just-launched Kept Sku is said to be a first-of-its-kind shoppable recycling platform that partners with fashion brands from the start.

“We have an idea that mystery boxes will be a delightful way to resell items while protecting the brands’ current inventory offerings and limiting the cost of merchandising so we can provide these items as cost-effectively as possible,” said Rachel Kibbe, industry veteran and founder of Kept Sku and parent firm Circular Services Group and Kept Sku.

Market research firm Euromonitor estimated that 17 percent of goods will be bought online in 2021, nearly doubling from 2016 — and with that returns are flying high. While Kibbe’s previous ventures have dealt behind-the-scenes in post-consumer resale and waste, Kept Sku aims to help companies ensure returns, overstock, damages and samples are met with best use in a heightened era of e-commerce.

Deterring waste in the form of mystery boxes or bags is already a concept taking root in fashion with companies like sustainable swimwear brand We Are Hah beginning the practice last year. The food industry is also seeing innovative consumer-facing solutions to food waste like Denmark-based app Too Good To Go, a B Corp expanding internationally with some 37.5 million users. It works by linking local cafes, grocers and markets to a marketplace that allows people to walk away with a bag full of day-old mystery treats for as little as $4.99.

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Brands like Amendi, Lo & Sons and Boyish have already signed on to Kept Sku, with more currently being onboarded.

In the pilot, three levels of boxes are offered on Kept Sku’s website, arranged by size. The first starts at $199, which compares with the manufacturer’s suggested retail price value of over $350; the second is a $299 box valued at over $550, and lastly, a $399 box valued at over $750.

Customers can pre-order boxes before the drop on June 8. The intended target customer is described as someone who may not know about the brands yet or wants to try them first without added cost. The surprise boxes are sorted based on regional intake and allow for goods with minor imperfections to find a next life.

Describing the pilot thus far as a smooth experience, Andreas Ahrman, a cofounder and chief executive officer of Amendi, said: “I think this side of the industry, the side after the sale, needs so much more attention. We’re excited to see how it evolves.”

What attracted Amendi was the ability to have more “control of aged inventory” while maintaining contact with customers and merchandise — instead of bucking responsibility in bulk sales. “We don’t want to walk away, we want to maintain care and value in the product for as long as possible. Kept Sku allows for that possibility,” said Ahrman.

The pilot is meant for learning. “In the future, we also may be able to provide brands back useful data to inform their production and returns processes. The inventory, brand willingness and customer response and engagement will dictate our model,” reiterated Kibbe.

To meet this vision, Kept Sku taps local supply chain partners and its internal network of mechanical fiber-to-fiber upcyclers, downcyclers, a repair and upcycling labor force (Skilled Laborers Brigade), as well as several local nonprofit donation partners, including The North Brooklyn Free Store and Cavalry Mission, providing necessities to New York residents.

The company also has a 150,000-square-foot facility in New Jersey to manage goods.

Although similar bulk liquidation solutions already exist today, Kibbe said the vision of the company is to provide much more than just control of inventory — but a “fashion and lifestyle-specific” community.

“Kept Sku should also be a place where people can discover these great brands at more accessible price points to full price. We hope to build a community around our mission and empower people to participate, which will include everything from private swapping groups, to community repair events,” she said.

The company is not seeking funding at this time and boasts a strategic advisory board including experts from Returnity, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Resource Recycling Systems.

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