The Power of Second-Hand Clothing

Is resale the new retail? The answer is yes: according to ThredUp’s 2019 resale report, the second-hand apparel market is growing 21x faster than the primary market, making it an interesting business for brands to invest in.

 

The numbers are promising: by 2028, the used-fashion market is set to skyrocket in value to $64 billion, while fast-fashion will only reach $44 billion. ThredUp’s 2019 report explained that this trend is driven by the rise in online resale and consignment marketplaces, as well as young consumers who look to make more sustainable shopping choices.

 

“We have witnessed a shift in consumer attitudes towards sustainable shopping, which shows no sign of slowing down for the gift-giving season,” explained Brian Whitaker, B-Stock’s EMEA director, to NOWFASHION. B-Stock is a UK-based online B2B platform for returned and excess apparel operating worldwide. “Over the last two years alone, we have seen a 254% increase in transactions for used apparel, and it looks set to continue long into the future,” Whitaker added.

 

In fact, second-hand clothing has already left an indelible mark on the luxury and fashion retail sectors. Luxury brands are starting to include a circular loop in their business practices, such as the French shoe brand J.M. Weston that just launched “Weston Vintage,” a new concept that proposes to restore old shoes of the brand’s customers and offer them back for sale. Multi-brand stores, for their part, such as Citadium in Paris and Selfridges in London, are increasingly incorporating vintage and second-hand selling points in their brick-and-mortar stores. The latter caused ink to flow in late October when the London department store announced its partnership with Vestiaire Collective, a B2B leading online luxury second-hand retailer.

 

Since October 30th, Selfridges has implemented Vestiaire Collective’s vintage and second-hand selection in the Women’s Designer Studio at Selfridges, Oxford Street London, next to the department store’s seasonal collections. This is de facto Vestiaire Collective’s first permanent physical store launch since the company was founded in 2009. In this context, the new in-store boutique features a dedicated resale point where customers can deposit items through the concierge service and Vestiaire Collective App in real-time. 

 

“Responding to changes within the consumer landscape, this partnership aims to raise awareness of the importance of circular fashion in order to drive positive long-lasting change in the fashion ecosystem,” explained Vestiaire Collective’s CEO Max Bittner in an official statement, adding that the initiative represents a collaborative and long-term mission to make circular fashion the retail standard. “Together, we are committed to making the circular fashion system accessible and engaging, complementing our wider fashion offer,” added Selfridges’ executive buying director, Sebastian Manes.

 

And indeed, establishing a circular loop in-store offers the possibility to consumers to sell items they no longer wear and extend the item’s lifespan by an average extra nine months of active use, which, according to official data provided by Vestiaire Collective, would reduce carbon, waste, and water footprints by around 20-30% each. “We really wanted to empower consumers to become more sustainable and give a second or third life to their own items,” stated Fanny Moizant, Vestiaire Collective’s co-founder. “It’s about buying better, investing in quality, reselling, and making sure we don’t create more waste.”

 

There is no doubt that the shift in consumer behavior led by Millennials and Gen Zers – who, according to ThredUp, are adopting second-hand 2.5x faster than other age groups – is putting pressure on fashion and luxury businesses to rethink their best practices. However, many major retailers still have to develop a circular resale loop within their own companies. According to Whitaker, a “re-commerce” solution that includes selling used, repaired, or rebuilt items directly to consumers via a branded re-commerce site is the way to go. 

 

Besides, B2B marketplaces dedicated to re-commerce would enable retailers who have large amounts of excess or returned inventory to sell their bulk quantities of merchandise directly to secondary market business buyers. Still, according to Whitaker, this B2B solution would not only offset loss for inventory – but would first and foremost ensure excess clothing and accessories stay out of landfills. “It is now easier to access big brands for smaller budgets via resale and consignment marketplaces,” Whitaker further stated, adding that the current Christmas sales season is under the sign of sustainability. “Giving the gift of sustainability has become this year’s Christmas fashion, which everyone wants to wear.”

 

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