First came Black Friday. Eventually Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday arrived. But what about the Sunday after Thanksgiving? Online marketplace Poshmark has the answer: Secondhand Sunday, a new holiday dedicated to “supporting secondhand sellers, circular fashion and the planet.” Poshmark is calling on people to buy used instead of new on Nov. 27 and to share their finds on social media with the hashtag #SecondhandSunday.
While this new holiday has yet to grow into an actual social movement, it is another example of how perceptions of secondhand shopping are continuing to evolve. No longer is “buying used” something only done for oneself. It’s an opportunity to shop sustainably and affordably while buying unique, high-quality gifts for others, too.
Call it what you will — secondhand shopping, thrifting, upcycling, vintage hunting, and so on — but consumers are buying previously owned clothing, shoes and accessories in record numbers. And the trend is expected to continue throughout the 2022 holiday retail season.
According to a September survey conducted by Deloitte, the two most popular reasons people gave for gifting secondhand items this holiday season were “to save money overall” and “to afford something a little nicer." These results are far from surprising, considering the rise in costs of everything from utilities to groceries this year. Many consumers are looking to cut spending any way they can, and buying used is one way to stretch those budgets even further.
The same survey found clothing is the most popular secondhand gift category this holiday season, with more than half of respondents saying they are most likely to buy used attire.
“Certified pre-owned” fashion
In response to this demand, many traditional fashion retailers are entering the resale market directly. In fact, 48 percent of retail executives in Deloitte’s survey said their companies “planned to sell refurbished/used products this holiday season.”
Websites like Poshmark earn revenue by charging a commission for each transaction individuals make on their online platform. What many fashion brands are doing now, however, is selling previously owned merchandise directly to consumers, just as they would with new products. This process is often referred to as “Resale as a Service” (RaaS). RaaS programs are often likened to “certified pre-owned” programs run by car companies. Both new and used merchandise are sold in the same branded retail setting (in person or online), and customers can be reassured that the used items have passed quality inspections before being resold.
ThredUp reports that the number of fashion brands with RaaS programs has grown by 300 percent this year compared to 2021. Some of the biggest players entering the field include Tommy Hilfiger, Athleta, PacSun and Vera Bradley.
As more sustainability-focused (as opposed to fast fashion) brands enter the RaaS space, the hope is that the stigma of “buying used” will dissipate, and consumers will look to resale first when searching for the perfect gift.
Millennials and Gen Z: Secondhand shopping becomes second nature
For many consumers in their twenties and thirties, secondhand shopping is already part of their routine. PwC reports that 53 percent of millennials will include resale or upcycled items on their holiday shopping lists, compared with 37 percent of shoppers across all ages. (Specific numbers for Gen Z were not available.)
Millennial and Gen Z shoppers are especially motivated by the “concern for and awareness of the environmental and social effects of the consumption process," Michelle Childs, an associate professor of retail merchandising and management at University of Tennessee, told TriplePundit. “These shoppers tend to think ahead about if their purchases and values align. They consider things like, ‘will this item end up in a landfill after only a handful of wears?’ or ‘was this shirt made in less than favorable conditions?’ They genuinely care about the impact.”
Another important factor — specifically for Gen Z — when it comes to buying secondhand fashion, whether for themselves or others? Uniqueness.
“Gen Z-ers have more discretionary income than previous generations do. They are often willing to pay more for secondhand items,” Childs said. “It used to be you only bought used because you couldn’t afford new. Now, it’s so you can be unique. Gen Z consumers participate in trends, but also want those one-of-a-kind finds. Secondhand shopping — especially vintage fashion — combines both of these desires while also helping the planet.”
Image credit: Hannah Morgan/Unsplash
Megan is a writer and editor interested in sharing stories of positive change and resilience. She is the author of Show Up and Bring Coffee, a book highlighting how to support friends who are parents of disabled children. You can follow her at JoyfulBraveAwesome.com.