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Secondhand clothing sales are sizzling

Market for used apparel takes off amid inflation

By Maria Halkias, The Dallas Morning News
Published: March 30, 2024, 5:42am

The U.S. secondhand apparel market grew seven times faster than the broader retail clothing market last year, according to a widely followed annual report on the state of the resale market.

Retailers have noticed the change in shopping habits. Last year, 39 more companies set up their own brand resale shops bringing the total to 163 retailers with resale programs, according to the ThredUp Resale Report 2024 released Wednesday by the online secondhand apparel company and retail analytics firm GlobalData.

Brands that launched resale programs last year include Journeys, Fabletics, H&M, Toms, Kate Spade New York, American Eagle and J.Crew. Nearly 2 in 3 retail executives who offer resale say it will generate at least 10 percent of the company’s total revenue within five years.

The U.S. secondhand apparel market is expected to reach $73 billion by 2028 after growing 11 percent to $43 billion last year. That compares with a 1.6 percent increase in U.S. clothing sales in 2023, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Inflation is having an impact on the secondhand market. About 55 percent of consumers said they’ll spend more on secondhand apparel if the economy doesn’t improve.

Thrifting is gaining ground with more generations, and 52 percent of consumers shopped secondhand apparel in 2023. About 63 percent of consumers who bought secondhand apparel last year made a purchase online.

“With more than half of all consumers shopping for secondhand apparel last year, it’s evident that resale is now firmly embedded in the fashion landscape,” said Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData.

Saunders breaks down the generational path to shopping for secondhand goods: Younger shoppers are seeking self-expression and a personal style; parents rely on secondhand to outfit their families in a cost-effective and eco-conscious way; and older generations snag higher-end brands for the thrill of the hunt.

About 87 percent of retail executives who offer resale say it advanced their sustainability goals and 52 percent said they would adopt circular business models if there were government-sponsored financial incentives.

GlobalData’s assessment of the secondhand market is determined through consumer surveys, retailer tracking, official public data, data sharing, store observation and secondary sources. These inputs are used by analysts to model and calculate market sizes, channel sizes and market shares. The report is also based on a survey in December of 3,654 adults and a survey of the top 50 U.S. fashion retailers and brands.

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