Secondhand Clothing Market Is Growing Faster Than Apparel Retail

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Warehouse with several racks of clothing and "2019 resale report" text

Courtesy of thredUP

The industry is booming and could overtake fast fashion, according to thredUP's annual resale report.

Secondhand clothing retailer thredUP has just released its annual fashion resale report, and the market is booming. thredUP reports that, over the past three years, resale has grown 21 times faster than apparel retail. The secondhand market, currently worth $24 billion, is expected to reach $51 billion in five years.

How Fashion Markets Are Changing

Growing numbers of shoppers are willing to buy secondhand as the stigma associated with used clothing disappears. Millennials and boomers do the most secondhand shopping, but Gen Z'ers (18-24) are the fastest-adopting group. More than 1 in 3 Gen Z'ers will buy secondhand clothing in 2019. Overall, 64 percent of women say they're willing to buy used apparel, shoes, and accessories, compared to 45 percent in 2016.

Most exciting is that this exploding market is stealing revenue from fast fashion, an industry that is notoriously unsustainable. In fact, thredUP suggests that the resale market will overtake fast fashion if it continues to grow at this rate.

Why Secondhand Clothing Is Getting More Popular

thredUP resale report 2019

The report reveals a curious shift in perceptions of ownership, and how shoppers are thinking about clothes differently these days. Part of what drives secondhand shopping is a social media-driven desire to appear in different outfits on a regular basis (not so good), but apparently 40 percent of shoppers now consider potential resale value when purchasing clothes (a good thing), which is a two-fold increase from 5 years ago. This looks at clothes as an investment, rather than a disposable commodity.

Shoppers are increasingly wary of clutter and opting for fewer overall clothes in their closets, as indicated by an 80 percent spike in orders for thredUP's Clean Out Kits after Tidying Up with Marie Kondo hit Netflix this past January.

thredUP resale report, Kondomania

thredUP says 9 out of 10 retailers are hoping to get into resale by 2020. It's now seen as a market with great potential to boost revenue and customer loyalty and improve sustainability. We're seeing more than just the tradition brick-and-mortar thrift stores that most towns have. Now there are a broad range of higher-end, curated collections available online, as well as retailers refurbishing and reselling their own goods.

This is all great news at a time when the fashion industry is in desperate need of a makeover. As I concluded after watching Stacey Dooley's short documentary film Fashion's Dirty Secrets this week, the only solution seems to be to buy less in order to discourage further resource consumption and manufacturing – and buying secondhand takes that even further.

Read the full report here.