The Generational Shift Towards Secondhand Clothing

The generational shift towards secondhand clothing
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The generational shift towards secondhand clothing. Image: Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The generational shift towards secondhand clothing.

According to a 2024 Resale Report by online thrift and consignment store ThredUp, due to a generational shift towards secondhand clothing, the secondhand clothing market is expected to nearly double by 2027. The report stated that 10 percent of the global apparel market is expected to be made up of secondhand apparel.  

It is no secret that the fashion industry carries a huge environmental burden, contributing to pollution, resource depletion, and carbon emissions. Not to mention the amount of cheaply made, inexpensive clothing that ends up in the landfill every year as a direct result of the fast fashion overconsumption trend.

The growth of the secondhand clothing market reflects evolving consumer preferences driven by factors such as cost-consciousness and sustainability. Increasingly, shoppers are prioritising ethical consumption and seeking alternatives to fast fashion. Secondhand clothing offers affordability and allows individuals to make eco-conscious choices without compromising style.

ThredUp’s survey of 3654 consumers in the United States found that the generational shift towards secondhand clothing is driven by younger generations that are expected to account for nearly two-thirds of incremental secondhand spending as their purchasing power increases. One reason for this is that Gen Zers are looking for more value for their money, more sustainable brands, and more of a one-of-a-kind look.

With consumers becoming more aware of their environmental footprint and what they can do to reduce their impact, the generational shift towards secondhand clothing can have a very positive result. According to ThredUp, buying and wearing secondhand clothing instead of new reduced carbon emissions by an average of 25 percent. Secondhand clothing can also save significant amounts of energy and water that is needed to produce new clothing.

There has also been a shift in how consumers buy products. The ThredUp report highlights the significant role of online resale platforms in driving the growth of the secondhand clothing market. They indicated that 45 percent of younger people prefer buying secondhand clothing online, and 58% of Gen Z who bought secondhand clothing apparel in the last 12 months made at least one purchase online, which is more than any other generation.

With the convenience of digital platforms, consumers can access a vast array of pre-loved items from the comfort of their homes. Particularly notable is the preference among younger generations for online shopping, signalling a generational shift towards sustainable fashion practices. Additionally, more clothing stores offer resale options where they will sell secondhand options from their brands.

Because these resale options are becoming increasingly popular, more than one-third of retailers say that if this trend continues to be successful, they will cut production of new products! Some of the top brands in this category include Athleta, Tea Collection, Merrell, and J. Crew. More than half of Gen Z are more likely to shop with a brand that also offers secondhand options, which has increased since 2021.

In addition to the environmental benefit of resale, retailers are finding that supporting the generational shift towards secondhand clothing by offering this resale option can attract more customers, increase brand loyalty, and drive revenue.

The 2024 Resale Report shows that we are headed in the direction of secondhand clothing becoming more dominant. While fast fashion companies might continue to exist, the way the generational shift towards secondhand clothing trend is heading, the younger generations might not be buying as much from them as before. We might see more secondhand options becoming available in in-person stores or online, where consumers will purchase better-quality and valued products.

These trend shifts, specifically this generational shift towards secondhand clothing, can dramatically change the fashion industry. Their actions can and will positively impact our planet and the amount of clothing that is not only being produced but that is also being recirculated instead of being thrown away.

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