Secondhand Apparel Is Set to Outpace Off-Price and Fast Fashion

The resale market is expected to grow 49% between 2017 and 2018

Thrifting used to mean sifting through piles of cast-off clothing at Goodwill, but newer upstarts are attempting to take used goods into the digital age.

ThredUp, an online marketplace for used clothing and shoes, published a new study about the $20 billion resale market. Disrupters like Poshmark, Tradesy, The RealReal and ThredUp itself are estimated to grow 49% between 2017 and 2018, a much greater increase than traditional retail (9%), off-price retail (7%) and the apparel category overall (2%). 

According to the report, used items accounted for 11% of clothing owned by secondhand buyers in 2012. That figure rose to 24% in 2017 and is estimated to jump to 40% by 2022. Moreover, the study found that one in three women shopped for secondhand apparel last year, with penetration highest among those 18 to 24, at 40%.  

There is a dichotomy in which that younger age group was most likely to impulse buy (such purchases made up 49% of their shopping) and discard items after just one to five wears, but also most likely to buy thrifted clothing because of environmental reasons. 

By and large, the retail segment that might be most affected by the rise of resale shopping is off-price stores, like Marshalls or T.J.Maxx. Half of ThredUp customers shifted spend from off-price retail to resale, and 71% of consumers said they would spend more on resale in the next five years. 

Amazon and direct-to-consumer brands (for example, Everlane) are also set to benefit from increased spending. The biggest loser was department stores, with 71% of respondents saying they would spend less at stores like Macy’s over the next five years. 

Whatever resale shoppers' motivations are—saving money, environmental concerns or looking for specific vintage pieces—these digital resale sites offer the convenience and searching capability that consumers have become accustomed to with online retail.