Secondhand Market May be Twice the Size of Fast Fashion by 2030, Says ThredUp

The industry may still be recovering from its Covid blow, but resale is resilient.

It may come as no surprise given the recent traction in the resale space, but the category is growing 11 times faster than broader retail and will be worth $77 billion by 2025, resale marketplace ThredUp noted in a new report. The report marks ThredUp’s ninth annual study, with analysis by market research firm GlobalData.

“Displacing new clothing purchases means secondhand has the ability to change fashion,” said Karen Clark, vice president of communications at ThredUp, who said this report is the first proof-case of displacement happening.

By 2030, secondhand is expected to be twice the size of fast fashion, with the former valued at $84 billion and the latter at just $40 billion. (Fast fashion was valued at $36 billion in 2019, according to ThredUp’s report, and the platform expects secondhand will slow the impact of fast fashion).

What’s also underway is accelerating seller interest. Many consumers have never resold their clothes but, according to ThredUp, the “ease” of reselling is opening up some 118 million consumers to try reselling compared to 36.2 million first-time sellers in 2020.

What is driving this onslaught of new sellers?

Clark said, after ease of reselling, being able to monetize one’s wardrobe and hitch an environmental benefit is a motivator. Meanwhile, on the buyer side, 76 percent of first-time secondhand buyers are expected to increase their spend on secondhand in the next five years.

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Another important callout in the latest report is that “sustainable clothing” is not getting the same adoration as secondhand, dropping eight spots down in purchase intent behind categories like “value chains,” “off-price” and even “luxury.” This equates to 42 percent of consumers who plan to spend more on secondhand while only 26 percent plan to spend more on sustainably marketed new clothing.

“We’ve seen Millennials and Gen Z be much more adamant about [shopping sustainably],” said Clark. However, she recalled a certain shock with the findings: “Consumers are saying they care more about sustainability — why was there a drop in consumers who say they would buy new, ‘sustainable’ clothing?”

She attributed consumer hesitation with sustainably marketed clothing to be mainly a matter of price — especially among cash-strapped moms and Gen Zers — not to mention greenwashing, since that’s dramatically on the rise.

Moreover, consumers find sustainably marketed clothing to be less “inclusive” and “transparent” than secondhand.

To illustrate the environmental gains of secondhand, ThredUp launched its “Fashion Footprint Calculator” in January 2020 with carbon foot-printing conducted by independent research firm Green Story Inc. By its account, buying used over new is an 82 percent savings on CO2 emissions. Brands, however, are still getting a taste for ancillary resale by working with business-to-business services such as ThredUp’s Resale As a Service model or other owned or outsourced means.

As for how Clark sees this due diligence in resale (conducting carbon footprint calculations or allocating entire budgets to resale) catching on in fashion, she said: “It’s new, it’s early for these folks. They’re trying it and seeing what it’s like to test resale,” adding that there is not “a ton of clarity on how it’s going to impact their overall production strategy.”

Among other insights, ThredUp’s report also dedicated a section to various governmental actions in the adoption of circular fashion, which has risen among brand priorities in the past year.

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