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ThredUp reveals fresh consumer insights in 12th annual Resale Report: 'Some of the most promising signals of what that future could look like'

"Secondhand's flexibility in meeting such varied needs is a key reason it's become so popular."

"Secondhand’s flexibility in meeting such varied needs is a key reason it’s become so popular."

Photo Credit: iStock

ThredUp has released its 2024 Resale Report, and its fresh new insights suggest that each generation has more in common with the others than may be initially believed — with more than half of all consumers purchasing secondhand apparel last year. 

According to a company press release, the secondhand apparel market will be worth an estimated $350 billion worldwide by 2028, significantly surpassing the growth of the traditional retail sector. 

The search for deals on quality items is one of the factors driving that growth, as nearly 75% of consumers said that value was their key priority when making a purchase, per the report, while 60% believed secondhand apparel provided "the most bang for their buck." 

Half of Gen Z and Millennials reported turning to secondhand stores first, but that percentage didn't drop considerably when taking into account other generations, with 41% of all consumers perusing secondhand deals before looking at other options. 

Another driving element is the boom of the online resale market. In the United States, which has seen its secondhand market grow seven times faster than traditional retail, online resale is projected to more than double over the next five years, according to ThredUp. 

The report noted that nearly 63% of consumers who bought secondhand apparel purchased at least one item online in 2023, a mark that was 17 percentage points higher than the previous year. 

Overall, finding incredible deals was a major part of the equation, as it's not uncommon to see thrifters sharing on social media unique, rare, and cult-favorite items purchased for a fraction of the original cost, but sustainability was another vital consideration.

In fact, ThredUp found that consumers could speed up the fashion industry's transition toward more eco-friendly practices. 

That's great news for our health and the planet, considering that 10-20% of toxic pesticide use can be attributed to the growth of material for textiles, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The fast-fashion sector alone accounts for up to 10% of planet-warming carbon pollution. 

Per ThredUp, around 42% of all consumers believe there should be regulations to encourage sustainable fashion, while 40% reported they're "more likely" to vote for candidates who support circular brands — which cut down on polluting waste by reusing or repurposing products.

Meanwhile, more than half of retail executives said they'd implement circular systems if government-funded financial incentives were available. 

🗣️ If you buy refurbished products, what's your primary motivation?

🔘 Saving money 💰

🔘 Salvaging old stuff 🗑️

🔘 Helping the planet 🌎

🔘 I don't buy refurbished products 🚫

🗳️ Click your choice to see results and speak your mind

Even though increased adoption of sustainable practices is possible, the branded resale market is encouragingly still on the rise, experiencing 31% year-over-year growth. This has also made higher-end brands accessible to more consumers, 38% of whom turn to the secondhand market to afford these types of products. 

Now, 163 brands are in the lineup of retailers offering resale programs, with H&M, Kate Spade, and Journeys among the 39 that were added in 2023.  

"Now in its 12th year, the Resale Report shows some of the most promising signals of what that future could look like with increased levels of support. Until fashion is no longer one of the most damaging sectors of the global economy, we will continue to advocate for the government to help drive adoption and behavior change in fashion," ThredUp CEO James Reinhart said in a press release.

"Secondhand buying transcends generations, with the role of resale changing throughout consumers' lives. … Secondhand's flexibility in meeting such varied needs is a key reason it's become so popular and has such a promising growth trajectory," stated Neil Saunders, the managing director for third-party firm GlobalData, which conducted the analysis.

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