What’s your industry’s black market? The case of maternity wear

There are few product categories that are more neglected than pregnancy wear. As a consequence of pregnancy wear’s limited life, women are reluctant to invest a lot of money in it. Consequently, the retail offerings go either very pricey niche or very unappealing mass. In other words, retailers opt in to either go luxury, attracting a limited number of customers, or the absolute mass, reducing the prices at the expense of quality.

At the same time, the black market for the pregancy wear is vast. Black market here refers not to illegal activities, but to new social models of economic exchange that evolved with digital technology. Women share, swap, or give away their pregnancy clothes either to be helpful or just to get rid of them. And where is black market — a.k.a. new socio-economic activity — there’s a potential for innovation. An industry’s black market is the true indicator of how rife the industry is for disruption.

And so it goes: two examples that come to mind are Borrow Your Bumpand Rent Maternity Wear. Both are online marketplaces where women can browse, buy or borrow items from each other. Because the product selection is carefully curated, the quality and diversity of products is higher than what the industry offers. Due to the rental option, they are also more affordable. Borrow Your Bump goes a step ahead and sends personalized product selection to first-time users; from the convenience of their home, they can try and keep items they love and return the rest, and no cost.

The takeaway? Best and the most disruptive business models build upon on social and economic activity that customers are already doing, and help them do it in a better, faster and more efficient way. We should be exploring black markets more.