Consumer research snapshot: Clothing is the top choice for second-hand shoppers

Clothing is the first choice when it comes to second-hand shopping, but only 31% of consumers said they made a second-hand purchase of clothing in the past year.
Elizabeth Christenson
Editor, Retail Leader
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While inflation has been stabilizing in recent months, shoppers continue to experience prices significantly higher than they were two years ago. In turn, buying resale items has become a viable option for consumers to conserve resources without sacrificing too much. 

Retailers and e-commerce sites have made selling and purchasing second-hand apparel, electronic devices and household goods easier in recent years. This year, J. Crew launched a new banner focused on resale, J. Crew Always, in partnership with ThreadUp. J. Crew Group had previously partnered with ThredUp in 2021 to launch resale for its Madewell banner. Other ThredUp partnerships include ones with Gap, Banana Republic, Eddie Bauer and Abercrombie & Fitch among others.

Still, even with more retailers diving into resale, Statista Consumer Insights data suggests that buying second-hand is not too common among Americans. Clothing and shoes are the first choice when it comes to second-hand shopping, but only 31% and 21% of consumers said they made a second-hand purchase of clothing or shoes, respectively, in the past twelve months, Statista reported. On the other hand, 40% of shoppers said they haven’t made a second-hand purchase at all in the past year.

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In turn, the share of consumers buying second-hand is low in several categories. For example, 14% bought used consumer electronics in the past 12 months, which is surprising given the size of the secondary market for smartphones, Statista said.

While the resale market is still small, sustainability and circular fashion continue to become more important to both consumers and retailers, especially as retailers look to court purpose-driven customers. According to Statista, the recommerce market in the U.S. was estimated to be more than $178.7 billion last year, and reach $199.2 billion this year. The market is expected to grow to $244.7 billion by 2025.

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Watching global trends, sales in the apparel market are currently influenced by two main trends: e-commerce and resale, according to Statista. The research firm’s analysts estimate that the corresponding share of worldwide revenue of resale clothing will be around 6% this year and rise to almost 8% in 2025.

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Globally, the sustainable trend toward buying second-hand clothing is becoming increasingly important. In 2021, for example, the proportion of Germans who have already purchased secondhand fashion had risen to around 67%. Most buyers and sellers of second-hand clothing use online platforms for this activity.