By Mike-Dave Ayeni

Sustainable Fashion Writer


Thredup, one of the most successful online stores for second-hand clothing recently released its 2021 resale report. According to analysis on the virtual marketplace, the second-hand market is expected to be worth up to 77 billion USD, doubling in value by 2026.


Over the past two years, the world has seen a shift in consumer preference to better accommodate sustainability. The second-hand industry is far from a new development but during the course of the pandemic, several people switched to thrift shopping.


According to the ThredUp report, roughly 33 million shoppers made their first-ever second-hand purchase just last year throughout the pandemic, with the average shopper buying at least 7 items.


It wasn’t an isolated occurrence either, in that year about 223 million people shared that they either had already bought or were willing to buy thrifted goods. Post pandemic a lot of things about the consumer mindset are different so the question now is this;

Who Is The Resale Consumer?

The resale market caters to a wide range of customers with varying needs and expectations, however, the most accurate answer to that question is the younger generation.


One in three customers cares more about wearing sustainable clothing than they did before the pandemic. This could be a generational thing as nowadays, younger consumers are especially aware of how products they consume could massively contribute to reducing the climate footprint. 


ThredUp reports that the younger generation is driving up the development of the second-hand market. Over the past 3 years, they have made more thrifted purchases than all other age groups. With more than passing interest in conserving the environment, they are turning away from fast fashion trends and making sustainable fashion choices. 45% of people who fall into either the Gen Z or millennial categories will not make any purchases from businesses that do not carry sustainable items.


Consumers in the present day are a lot more opposed to waste, whether economic or environmental waste than they were before the pandemic and the resale market provides them with a means of avoiding either. Furthermore, people are now concerned with the quality of their clothes and would rather buy items that can be resold than disposable ones.


For a large number of people, the affordable price tags make up the appeal. The second-hand industry provides them with cheap alternatives to products they normally would purchase brand new. The ThredUp report pointed out that one in two customers said that they ventured into the resale industry as a way to save funds during the pandemic. One consumer who could find a lot of value in the resale market is a new parent! Shopping for pre-loved clothing for fast-growing kids certainly sounds like a good idea.


According to ThredUp mothers were more affected financially than any other set of people by clothing costs after the pandemic. Likely to buy either back to school or back to work clothes, several found second-hand purchases helped reduce the financial burden. Following this, 1 in every 2 moms with young children intends to rely on the resale market at least till 2026.


The resale industry also functions as a place where a fashion enthusiast or a lover of all things vintage can be on the lookout for rare accessories or collectors’ items. For these sorts of people, it goes beyond simply finding clothes and making the purchases, hunting those one-of-a-kind pieces adds to the fun! 


With the increasing demand for second-hand items, more retailers are jumping on board, the results of a survey taken in March and April showed that up to 42% of retail executives in the US  stated that resale will be a major part of their organizations throughout the next five years. 


Initially, the revitalization of the thrift industry began with eco and fashion-conscious teens and young adults, trading pre-loved clothing online mostly using peer-to-peer sites like Vinted and Depop, this went on for quite a long time. 


However, over the last couple of years, with the resale industry growing impossible to ignore, retail giants worldwide have begun investing and establishing their positions in the second-hand market through various means. Some have chosen to venture into a partnership with organizations such as ThredUp, and some well-known brands such as sports brand Nike and luxury brand Gucci, fall into the 28% of retailers who have opted to set up re-commerce marketplaces of their own.


Nike’s new second-hand store provides customers with the opportunity to contribute to the resale industry by sending in gently worn items to get credit on the next purchase they make. Customers are also able to buy used items allowing the brand to regain some of the resale demand as well as meet their goals for sustainability.


Another method through which retailers have joined the fray is by acquiring another resale business. This was the path chosen by online retailer Etsy, shown by their recent acquisition of resale platform that is a Gen-Z favourite, Depop.


The purchase extended beyond simply probing into consignment, with $1.6 billion changing hands it became a significant investment. Gabriella Santaniello, founder of A-Line Partners a resale consultancy firm commented on the transaction saying “Etsy is much more established while Depop is much hipper, so this partnership is going to be very complimentary, it’s going to help both of them reach a whole new customer base”.


With even high profile brands such as these heavily committing to re-commerce, it is evident that if they hope to remain relevant, retailers cannot afford to sit out on the surge. The resale market is here to stay, 62% of retail customers are already participants in the thrift industry, the younger generation has championed and will probably go on leading the transition to pre-loved purchases. 


In addition, a certain percentage of customers won’t even buy from a brand that does not carry second-hand items. For 32%, carrying both new and pre-used clothing causes them to regard a brand as a high-quality place.


Even celebrities have not been left out of the loop, adding a measure of glamour to the move to resale; they appear ready to wear vintage clothing for red carpet events.


How The Second-hand Marketplace Contributes To Sustainability

As stated before the switch to thrifted clothing was mostly driven by eco-conscious teens and young adults. For a long time, environmental activists have fought against fast fashion, the mass production of cheap, trendy clothes.


 Fast fashion is directly responsible for 10% of all carbon emissions around the world, it is also the second-largest industry when it comes to pollution, right behind the oil industry. As a result of the cheap materials used in making the 150 billion clothing items released by fast fashion companies each year, consumers are forced to throw away the clothes they purchase and buy new ones. It’s a vicious, damaging cycle. 


500,000 tons of non-biodegradable microfibers end up in the ocean year after year. In addition, fast fashion companies exploit their workers, exposing them to harmful working environments working long hours for hardly any pay.


ThredUp’s report revealed that the environmental footprint of a new item used up 78.5 gallons of water while a second-hand one only used 1.2 gallons, one new item contributes nearly 7 times the carbon emission of a used product.


They also showed that if all retailers sold 1M used items rather than new, it would cause the 414.8B lbs of CO2 to be displaced.


Clothing of high quality that ends up resold hardly loses any value over time, plus they come cheaper. The second-hand market has the potential to displace fast fashion and is already well on its way. It is predicted that the fast fashion industry will grow by 20% in the next ten years, thrifted fashion, however, by 185% much better odds.


 Great Resale Stores In Australia


  1. The Closet: Australia’s number 1 online second-hand marketplace, they sell thrifted shoes, clothes and several other items. The site has a detailed selling guide for customers who are interested in putting up clothes and shoes of their own for purchase.
  2. Swap Up: This is an easy to navigate online thrift store that carries bags, shoes, and clothing items in great condition for good prices. Quick shipping and delivery are additional features of the store.
  3. Vintage Marketplace: This is a second-hand platform based in Melbourne. It majorly carries American sportswear ranging from brands like Ralph Lauren to Nike and Tommy Hilfiger. The brand initially began on Facebook after its founders travelled to the US and returned with several vintage finds. They now have a successful online store as well as physical spaces in Melbourne and Geelong.
  4. Route 66: This fascinating family-owned store carries everything you need to pull together an authentic western outfit. Cowboy boots, western shirts and even bolo ties. Though the physical store is currently closed due to the pandemic, people can still make purchases via the website.
  5. Last on the list is The Stitch Up, a new vintage store based in Sydney and specialises in buying, selling and trading rare items from sneakers to band tees from various brands like Nike and Supreme. 


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