The Rise of the Retail Resale Business

The second-hand clothing business has become mainstream in the fashion industry. More and more brands are involved in the resale segment of the industry. According to Statista, “The global market for used and resale apparel is estimated to be worth $96 billion in 2021.”

Most recently, Amazon partnered with luxury vintage clothing company What Goes Around Comes Around to sell high-end brands on their website. What’s interesting about this partnership is that many of the luxury brands that Amazon will now launch through the partnership are the same ones that have turned down Amazon’s requests to sell on its site.

intergenerational exchange

In the resale business, consumer behavior appears to change with age. The RealReal reports that more than half of its 2021 sellers are Gen X or older, or at least 42 years old. Young shoppers are the ones who buy these second-hand clothes most often.

As of 2021, 42% of millennials and Gen Z respondents in a global survey said they are likely to buy used goods.

In 2021, the average U.S. online secondhand shopper will spend nearly $340 on resale apparel items.

The younger generation is attracted to these second-hand items not only because they generally cost less, but also because it is more environmentally friendly. Today, the ability to buy used clothing through apps and websites also makes the process easier, rather than sifting through brick-and-mortar store shelves.

Nordstrom has launched what they call an e-commerce experience “See You Tomorrow,” an online marketplace and in-store experience at Nordstrom’s NYC flagship store. Shoppers can buy used clothing and accessories here or participate by contributing their own used items through the Customer Aspiration Program.

earth consciousness

Resale of used goods isn’t the only way brands are catering to younger generations. Zara has partnered with biotech company LanzaTech to focus on sustainability by making clothing from captured carbon emissions.

The partnership is the first to sell clothing produced from captured carbon emissions.

“LanzaTech has technology that can help fashion brands and retailers limit the impact of carbon emissions,” said Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech. “By partnering with Zara, we’ve found a new way to recycle carbon emissions to make fabrics.” The company is also working with Lulu Lemon collaborates to produce clothing made from captured carbon emissions.

Many retailers are also adding clothing donation boxes to their stores, while marketing the moves as an eco-friendly element of fast fashion. H&M is adding the bins to its more than 4,200 stores around the world and says it can repurpose pre-used donated items. However, the plan has been criticized given that fast fashion is a major contributor to the vast amount of textiles that end up in landfills.

About 85% of unwanted textiles in North America end up in landfills – more than 11 billion kilograms per year. Recycling clothing into new clothing is expensive and difficult. H&M’s 2018 Sustainability Report states that of all the materials it estimates are used to make 5 billion garments each year, only 0.7% are recycled. However, the company also said in the report that they aim to use 100% recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030 at the latest.

Zara, another company that offers donation boxes in its stores, is also now entering the resale market through its own P2P shopping platform, called Zara Pre-Owned. In addition to resale of previously owned Zara clothing, the platform will allow shoppers to request the repair of any used Zara clothing in any season and arrange for a donation to be picked up from their home.

According to ThredUp’s 10th annual resale report, the global second-hand apparel market will grow by 127% by 2026, three times the growth rate of the global apparel market as a whole. The U.S. used market will more than double to $82 billion by 2026.

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