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Farfetch Gives Shoppers the Skinny on Secondhand’s Sustainable Impact

Buying secondhand fashion has environmental benefits beyond keeping usable clothing out of landfills, a new study claims. It may even curb the desire to purchase additional items fresh off the rack.

In fact, 57 percent of consumers in China, the United States and the United Kingdom say that snagging a pre-owned fashion item prevented the purchase of something brand new, according to a survey of 3,000 people published Thursday by luxury e-tailer Farfetch, in collaboration with Icaro Consulting, QSA Partners and the London Waste and Recycling Board. This so-called “displacement rate” was higher in the U.S. and U.K.—65 percent compared with China’s 41 percent.

Other findings are a testament to resale’s growing market share, which is expected to surge past $51 billion by 2023. More than one-third (38 percent) of respondents said more than half of their wardrobe comprised secondhand items. For 52 percent of pre-owned purchases, buyers were actively searching an item that was used rather than new.

Specific pre-owned purchasing habits were split by geography. American and British resale shoppers, the survey found, purchased more clothing, whereas in China they gravitated toward footwear, jewelry and watches. Respondents in the United States and the United Kingdom were driven to buy resale because of price. Chinese shoppers, on the other hand, were keener to purchase used because of item rarity.

Overall, 42 percent of those polled cited price as their top motivation, followed by rarity (30 percent), environmental concerns (13 percent) and favorable past experience (11 percent). Chinese consumers topped the average spend for pre-owned items at $88, followed by U.S. shoppers at $59 and U.K. ones at $47.

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Resale isn’t just booming in the luxury space, either. Respondents purchased 49 percent of their pre-owned fashion from high-street brands, 35 percent from premium brands and 16 percent from luxury brands.

To help “engage consumers” with the information from the research, Farfetch says it has created a footprint tool to help shoppers understand the environmental impact of their pre-owned choices. On average, the study said, one pre-owned purchase saves 1 kilogram of waste, 3,040 liters of water and 22 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

The tool is part of the company’s Positively Farfetch sustainability initiative, which launched last year and includes a resale program with a handbag trade-in component.

This latest move, it said, “further exemplifies Farfetch’s mission to be the global platform for good in luxury fashion—empowering everyone they work with to think, act and choose positively.”

Buying secondhand fashion through resale may curb the desire to purchase additional items fresh off the rack, a Farfetch study has found.
The latest Positively Farfetch edit Courtesy of Farfetch

“With this research, we want to support our partners and more broadly the luxury industry, in helping to drive positive change,” Giorgio Belloli, chief commercial and sustainability officer at Farfetch, said in a statement. “In addition to the core-business initiatives we are launching within the sustainability space, we aim to become a source for data and tools in the circular space to drive this positive change. This marks the first step into that direction.”

According to some estimates, luxury resale represents a $24 billion market that is growing four times faster than the primary luxury market, in part because of consumer interest in sustainable fashion, Farfetch noted.