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Pandemic Fuels Home Furnishings Resale, Study Shows

As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt throughout the home goods industry, one of the more surprising impacts has come with the significant uptick in resale furnishings sales.

According to a recent research report commissioned by furnishings e-commerce retailer Chairish and conducted by Statista, 48 percent of Americans purchased an item for their homes through resale in 2020. And from 2017 to 2024, the global resale market is expected to triple to $130.6 billion.

Prior to the pandemic, fashion led the resale category in growth at 49 percent with home only accounting for 11 percent. But according to the Chairish report, $16.6 billion in secondhand furniture is expected to be sold by 2025, an increase of 70 percent over 2018.

“What we see is as goes fashion, so goes home, and we definitely see that in resale,” said Anna Brockway, cofounder and president, Chairish. “In 2018, fashion dominated the resale category, but in 2020, similar to the rise in e-commerce, resale in home became the fastest growing in all resale categories.”

According to Chairish’s consumer report, 35 percent of Americans purchased home products in 2020 on resale apps, and 31 percent of Millennial and Gen Z consumers said the pandemic increased their interest in buying used, vintage, or antique furniture online.

One big driver for that growth is the shipping delays for new furnishings due to supply chain disruptions, shipping logjams, and other pandemic-related issues.

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Vintage and resale things have already been made,” said Gregg Brockway, cofounder and CEO, Chairish. “They’re ready to go, ready to ship, and you don’t have to worry about the factory closures, the port closures, the transportation issues.”

And with a supply chain as disrupted as the one currently stretching furniture lead times from weeks to months, even for domestic product, minimizing roadblocks means consumers can get what they want much sooner.

“It’s not only the carbon impact of all those trucks, but all those places where a breakage can happen,” the Chairish president said. “Getting caught in a port, containers sliding off the sides of ships, labor shortages—there’s a lot that can go wrong. And with resale, there are less places for friction.”

Carbon imprint is an important consideration for many who decide to purchase used or vintage furniture rather than a new item. And just as in the fashion industry, where fast fashion has received backlash because of its negative impact on the environment, fast furniture—cheaply made pieces designed to only last a few years—has also drawn ire.

Several major home furnishings retailers have recently made commitments to reduce their environmental impact by incorporating resale options. Made.com partnered with giving platform Geev to launch an initiative that helps consumers find a new home for used furnishings and homeware. And even IKEA has transitioned its Bargain Corners into Circular Hubs in UK stores, selling secondhand and recovered products.

Chairish, which specializes in resale home goods, saw its sales increase by 60 percent in 2020.

“We see that the change in consumer mindset about fast fashion is coming over to the home sector, as well,” the Chairish president said. “Resale has the opportunity to really significantly change the greenhouse gases in the manufacturing process alone.”

Another factor feeding the growth of the resale furniture market—particularly for design enthusiasts—is the excitement of discovering a hidden gem or finding a coveted item for an affordable price.

“People like vintage and resale because of the thrill of the hunt and getting something that’s one of a kind,” the CEO added. “There’s this very emotional connection to vintage that happens.”

That’s especially true for the interior design community. Chairish has made a major push to reach out to interior designers, encouraging them to shop for vintage pieces for their projects. They offer a Trade Only program, which includes a net pricing discount, a loyalty program with cash rewards, and worry-free returns, among other perks.

Interior designers are the power shoppers in our industry, and anyone who works with them has the opportunity to influence who they give their business to,” said Chairish’s CEO. “In many situations, vintage or sustainable goods are a great choice for solving design problems.”

Particularly when that problem is a client who needs something now and can’t wait months for an item to ship.

“A powerful game-changer is the availability issue,” he added. “Being a designer and explaining to your client why you’re looking at a 40-week lead time is tough. The idea of just rolling a truck and getting the piece reupholstered is a much easier sell.”

According to the CEO, those vintage or resale pieces, reupholstered or not, can give designers a valuable tool to create distinctive spaces for their clients.

“It allows designers to deliver to their clients one-of-a-kind, bespoke spaces that they can’t go get at the big box on the corner—it’s individualized and personalized,” he said.

Whether this trend continues remains to be seen, but according to Chairish’s survey, 70 percent of shoppers plan to continue to purchase resale items once the pandemic wanes. For many of them, what was initially a matter of convenience has become a small way to make a positive impact on the environment. And the Brockways see the effect of those individual purchases adding up to something much greater for not only businesses like theirs, but the wellbeing of our planet.

“It has these outsized impacts later down the chain for the environment,” the president said. “It’s not an all-or-nothing, zero-sum game—small changes in consumer behavior can have a really lasting effect.”