Gone are the days where teenagers and young adults would turn their noses up at the prospect of sporting secondhand clothes. Even as a millennial, it’s easy to recall being belligerent towards the idea of wearing something that had been owned by another. That was, of course, until vintage fashion and thrifting became entirely en-vogue in the 2010s, in a consumer shift that has slowly but surely burgeoned into the e-commerce world.
These days, secondhand clothing collectives are cropping up with the same velocity as inner-city food delivery apps—taking us far from the halcyon days of eBay; to relative newcomers like Vestiaire Collective and Vinted. Each has its own USP and demographic, despite attracting a predominantly youthful audience.
The trend shows little sign of stopping, with consultations BCG reporting last year that trends were “leading to a share of secondhand clothing in people’s closets that is predicted to grow from 21% in 2020 to 27% in 2023.” The shifts are coming from the combination of an influx from hitherto fast-fashion partisan consumers and those already with a toe dipped in this new eco-friendly frontier, who are now buying into the sector at an accelerated rate.
However, despite the resale market being “currently estimated to be worth $30 billion to $40 billion”—like many app-based endeavors—the market is already showing signs of oversaturation.
New contenders on the block who originally burst onto the scene to critical acclaim, now find themselves drowned out in the throngs of similar propositions, with shares of Poshmark and thredUp being seen to tumble on “Wednesday in extended trading, as widening losses overshadowed strong sales growth in a hot category — especially among Gen Z.”
The prominence of these apps comes as no surprise in the wake of an increasingly-enlightened consumer, as Internet Retailing reports: “more than 40% of consumers surveyed in the US, more than 50% in Europe, and almost 70% in China say they want access to more information about how their clothes were made, to better inform their shopping decisions”.
It could be purely coincidental that fast-fashion and high-street retailers have struggled whilst, as a whole, the secondhand industry is finding its feet. With the slew of supply chain issues and freight delays due to Covid-19 and, in the case of the UK, Brexit negotiations – online giants like Boohoo have reported shifts in projections.
BBC reports “Boohoo now expects earnings to grow by 6-7% in the year to February, compared to previous forecasts of a 9-9.5% increase, and has nearly halved its forecast for sales growth”. This resulted in the company being hit with a drop in shares of almost 15% last week.
The reasoning behind this particular dip comes from a prediction that the retailer will receive an impending wave of returns, due to a spike in dress sales in the run-up to Christmas Party season. Due to the lower average selling price of fast-fashion items, paired with competitive flash deals inspiring impulse purchases, consumers tend to overbuy and over-return.
Arguably, this is yet another plus for the secondhand industry, with its entire ethos centering around conscious purchasing and prioritizing quality over quantity. Vestiaire Collective posits itself as “an alternative to overproduction and overconsumption and the wasteful practices of the fashion industry”.
Looking at Europe alone, it’s clear to see that investment is still thriving when it comes to these startups, seeing Gucci owners Kering investing into Vestiaire Collective, online personalization destination Etsy buying Depop and a private equity firm EQT backing recent fundraising for Vinted.
Unsurprisingly, existing household names want in on the action, with Levi Strauss and Urban Outfitters recently unveiling plans to incorporate pre-owned goods into their e-commerce propositions. Cottoning onto the trend—if you’ll excuse the pun—it’s likely that there will be a similar change in tack from other major retailers in the coming year.