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What’s in Style? Secondhand Sofas, According to This New Resale Report

With lingering supply chain issues and inflation driving prices up for home goods, the vintage and resale furnishings category has seen another year of exponential growth. That’s the finding of a recent research report conducted on behalf of furniture resale retailer Chairish by GlobalData.

The report found that the home category is growing the fastest among all resale sectors, including books, fashion and electronics. Since 2015, home furnishings resale sales grew 62.6 percent, compared to growth of 34.7 percent for new furniture sales over the same period.

And over the next five years, the home furnishings resale segment is projected to grow by 29 percent to $22 billion in 2027.

Over the past year, 36 percent of consumers said they purchased secondhand furniture and home goods. And Chairish reported seeing an 85 percent uptick in product listings so far this year compared to the same period in 2021.

Chairish president and co-founder Anna Brockway said that in addition to macro trends such as inflation and supply chain disruptions, changes in consumer attitudes about furniture resale have shifted in recent years.

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“One of the biggest changes that’s happened is consumer sentiment moving to considering resale the new normal, a new way of buying that has become completely mainstream,” she said. “When we started Chairish, we took a poll of customers on resale, and for some there was an ick factor about the idea of buying used furniture. But what we’ve seen is that has really dissipated.”

The resale customer

Looking at who’s shopping for vintage and used furnishings, the report found that higher-income consumers—those making at least $150,000-$300,000 per year—accounted for 43 percent of sales. Shoppers making $50,000-$149,000 per year accounted for 41 percent of sales.

Globally, Europeans lead furniture resale with more than 40 percent of consumers saying they bought secondhand furnishings in the past year and 47 percent saying they’re fully comfortable  buying resale furniture.

Age-wise, younger consumers are more enthusiastic about resale furnishings, with 88 percent of 25-34-year-olds, 87 percent of 18-24-year-olds and 86 percent of 35-44 year-olds considering used furniture purchases. That said, around two-thirds of older generations—ages 45 to 75-plus—also indicated they would be open to buying resale.

Overall, 87 percent of buyers plan to spend more or the same on resale home furnishings this year, while 84 percent of sellers plan to sell more or the same amount of used furnishings.

Online resale retailers such as Chairish have enjoyed the lion’s share of that expected growth, with 86 percent of growth projected to be online versus 37.6 percent offline. And of the estimated $22.2 billion in sales on furniture resale over the next five years, digital channels are expected to account for 28 percent of spend, an increase from 22.5 percent in 2021.

Another major vintage and resale customer? Interior designers. According to Chairish’s interior designer survey, 98 percent of respondents said they used vintage furniture and art in their projects. And 70 percent said they are buying more vintage products today than they were at the same time in 2021. Plus, around 45 percent of a typical residential design project budget goes toward vintage furniture and decor.

Three main factors fueled interior designers’ desire for shopping vintage. Ninety percent of designers said vintage items “make a space more multidimensional,” while 60 percent pointed to the sustainability factor of used furnishings. And half of designers reported using vintage because of the immediate availability of items.

Driving the trend

Inflation and price increases due to elevated shipping charges, as well as longer lead times due to supply chain and shipping delays have spurred many consumers to look at vintage and resale furnishings as an alternative to buying new.

According to the survey, 80 percent of consumers have noticed recent price increases for new furnishings. And prices for new living room, kitchen and dining room furniture have increased 15.4 percent from June 2021 to June 2022. Nearly 25 percent of consumers cited rising prices as a reason for buying more secondhand home goods, and 67 percent agreed buying vintage or used is a good way to save money.

“Inflation has certainly changed things significantly in the past year since we did this report, and vintage’s advantages in that environment are quite significant,” Brockway said.

Price isn’t the only driver of the growing interest in secondhand furnishings. An increased awareness of and concern about sustainability has changed the way many consumers view their home goods purchases.

According to the report, 54 percent of consumers strongly support buying secondhand due to being better for the environment, and a quarter of respondents cited sustainability as a key motivating factor for buying used.

Photo by Brittany Ambridge styled by Martin Bourne at the home of Moda Operandi co-founder Lauren Santo Domingo.

Breaking it down by age, 60 percent or more of consumers ages 25-54 said sustainability is an important factor in resale shopping, with 50 percent of those aged 55 and older and nearly half of those ages 18-24 agreeing with that sentiment.

“We think of resale as being part and parcel of the circular economy,” Brockway said. “The circular economy is about minimizing waste by reusing and reselling items, and we are wholly focused on the circular economy. We’ve kept in circulation almost 662,000 items since our inception.”

Style points

As part of its report, Chairish analyzed style, category and brand-focused trends of both listings and sales on its site.

Brand-wise, Baker Furniture ranked first in sales on the site, with the company’s Historic Charleston collection and its Michael Taylor line from the 1970s leading the way.

“When we look at what’s selling, it’s a brand story, and our bestselling brand of the year is Baker Furniture,” said Noel Fahden Briceño, vice president of merchandising, Chairish. “Baker is known for its incomparable quality, it’s made in the U.S., and it offers such a range of collections.”

Looking at year-over-year growth, Baker saw a 25 percent increase. Other top-growing brands included Ethan Allen at 55 percent, Knoll at 27 percent, Ralph Lauren at 22 percent and Henredon at 18 percent.

Fahden Briceño said the number one emerging brand of the year was Ligne Roset, with gross product sales up 151 percent year-over-year. Those sales have been overwhelmingly driven by the company’s ‘70s-era Togo sofa, which has garnered significant attention recently on Instagram and in shelter magazines.

Category-wise, dining tables led sales over the past year with a 43 percent growth, followed closely by bed frames at 42 percent. Nightstands came in third at 32 percent. Looking at popular styles within those categories, farm tables, marble pedestals and burlwood Parsons tables led the dining category. Chinoiserie, Louis XV and four-poster beds led the frame category, while newly painted, split reed, and walnut and brass nightstands were most popular.

Looking at materials, antique pine leads in sales growth at 50 percent over the past year. Burlwood enjoyed a 40 percent increase, raffia came in third at 31 percent, and bamboo saw a 12 percent bump in demand.

Fahden Briceño identified a number of items that fly off the virtual shelves at Chairish, including seating by George Smith, newly-lacquered case goods, crystal chandeliers under $2,500, 19th century pine dressers under $2,000, vintage lamps with colorful shades, scalloped rugs, sets of ladderback dining chairs under $2,000, original paintings under $500, Carlo Moretti glassware and tole topiaries.

Drawing from the global survey and the company’s own internal data, Brockway said this past year has been strong for the resale furnishings category, and she sees that positive momentum carrying on for years to come.

“Not only is vintage chic and unique—and style is the primary driver of this category—but it’s more popular than ever because it’s an exceptional value and really the best choice for the planet,” she said. “And all of those factors are coming together to create great tailwinds to the resale industry.”