Author: Elisa Lewittes

Nearly overnight, the Coronavirus pandemic created a collective shift towards mindful living and conscious consumption. Our socially-distanced world has magnified how our shopping choices directly impact those around us.

As we head into 2021, these factors drove the industry and its participants to dramatically accelerate its effort towards creating a more sustainable fashion economy.

According to thredUP’s 2020 Fashion Resale Market and Trend Report, 70% of consumers now believe that addressing climate change is more vital now than ever. And it is no secret that fashion’s supply chains are one of the most environmentally-taxing practices globally.

While new clothing production and trend cycles won’t stop anytime soon, the resale market provides a more sustainable way to change up your style and help build a community devoted to helping strengthen fashion’s circular economy.

Here’s what you need to know about the secondhand market’s environmental benefits and why you will want to buy into the resale market.

Rise of The Resale Market

According to an Oct. 2020 report conducted by Vestiaire Collective x Boston Consulting Group, the current resale market is worth $30-40 billion. The study also found that consumers increasingly value-conscious consumption. 70% of the participants feel compelled to purchase goods via resale for sustainable reasons, compared to 62% of shoppers in 2018. Their research also found that 80% of secondhand buyers participate in the resale economy to reduce their overall product consumption and have used these platforms to replace their fast-fashion purchasing habits.

The secondhand market is set to be valued at $64B with resale overtaking the traditional thrift and donation sectors by 2024, according to thredUp’s 2020 Report. While the latter resale methods are encouraged, they are more likely to be less sustainable than their digital counterparts in practice. As a middleman, thrift shops act as retailers once the items are donated and cannot guarantee that the products will be purchased.

In contrast, online consignment shops, especially in the luxury sector, often offer flexible return policies allowing these items to be reintegrated into the circular economy. Peer-to-peer marketplaces, such as Poshmark, Depop, and thredUp provide a greater potential to minimize waste. By allowing for direct customer exchanges, buyers can purge their closets knowing that these preloved items are finding their way into another user’s wardrobe.

How Resale Improves Fashion’s Sustainability Problem

The most sustainable option always will be to limit consumption and buy fewer, better investment pieces to keep for a long time. However, shoppers will continue to seek novelty through fashion and this creativity helps stitch together our cultural fabric.

The resale economy offers the second-best sustainable option by extending the lifecycle of each garment, keeping it out of landfills, and replacing the need to produce new items  Both trashing or constantly creating new clothes feed into a linear supply chain that supports using excess water and fabric to can promote unethical labor practices, especially when purchasing from fast-fashion retailers.

In Green Story Inc.’s Environmental Study, the research firm calculated that if every shopper replaced this one new purchase with a pre-loved one instead of 449 million pounds, or 18,700 garbage trucks’ full, of waste would be eliminated from our landfills this year. Additionally, these secondhand alternatives would conserve 25 billion tons of water, equivalent to over one billion showers, and reduce 5.7 pounds of carbon emissions produced, enough to plant 66 million trees.

The same study also found that, statistically, shoppers equally value sartorial variety and sustainability.

70% of the research participants reported having purchased an outfit they’ve only worn once in all of 2019. 50% of those surveyed said they never want to be caught wearing the same outfit twice. With each reuse, a dress’s carbon footprint reduces its carbon impact by 79%.

Therefore, swapping these one-off purchases for secondhand options would have still provided these customers with a new look while also reducing 209 million pounds of waste currently sitting in our landfills.

Fashion’s Resale Boom & Consumer Reward

thredUp’s research found that the online secondhand shopping sector will increase 69% with the overall retail market projected to shrink by 15% between 2019 and 2021.

These platforms offer a viable way to exchange goods simply and safely from home, making resale shopping as seamless as buying a garment fresh off the digital racks. And convenience factor has become a driving factor to help consumers shop more sustainably. The Vestiaire Collective x BCG report found that 60% of consumers would not have given a second life to these no longer desired garments if these secondhand marketplaces didn’t exist. More significantly, 70% of the fashion consumers surveyed said that the growing resale market has encouraged them to take better care of the items they already own.

This shift in shopping mentality both helps to fuel the circular economy and creates a new paradigm for fashion consumption. While investing in items themselves, secondhand shopping also constructs a sustainable change in lifestyle habits – encouraging users to engage in social shopping and start bargain hunting for preloved higher-quality items over the latest trendy pieces.

These statistics prove that the fashion resale market’s economic and environmental sustainability incentives go hand-in-hand. Amid the financial recession, thredUP reported that 90% of Gen Z shoppers have or are open to buying secondhand fashion when on a tight budget, and 80% believe that there is no stigma associated with purchasing goods on the resale market.

With trend cycles moving faster than ever before and styles constantly evolving, newness has become relative in fashion. Uniqueness and buying into your values have evolved into the next generation’s primary definition of uniformity.