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H&M to Sell Vintage Clothing as Resale Takes Off

Fast fashion brand H&M has visions for a circular economy, and is trying to disrupt the cycle of making, using and disposing that has made it so successful.

H&M will launch a test pilot of a program that will allow users to buy used clothing through its & Other Stories brand website, the retailer’s head of sustainability, Anna Gedda, told Reuters. The initial launch will be on the Swedish site alone, but the ultimate goal is to open up the program to other markets and brands. H&M will partner with Swedish start-up Sellpy, a resale website it has been investing in, to build out the selling platform for & Other Stories.

“We see this as a growing part of the industry, with great opportunities both for consumers and not least for the environmental impact, and how we can drastically reduce that by extending the life of the products,” Gedda told Reuters at an event in Berlin centered around the future of fashion.

The appetite for fast fashion brands like H&M and Zara hasn’t diminished, but a new era conscious consumerism is taking root—especially within Gen Z. Brands like H&M and Zara have made a killing on cheaply-produced, trend-forward designs, counting accessibility and affordability as their greatest sales drivers. But with the secondhand apparel market set to grow to $51 billion in the next five years, according to a report from ThredUp, the wind could be shifting for mass market retailers.

“Compared to the overall apparel market, resale’s growth has been phenomenal,” said Neil Saunders, a lead market analyst in ThredUp’s resale report. “As the market uniquely meets consumers’ preference for variety, value, and sustainability, we expect the high growth to continue.”

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It stands to reason that H&M would want to play a part in this growth. The brand has seen shrinking sales over the past few years, and the rise in e-commerce has played a role in the decline. While an apparent inability to adapt to the changing retail landscape has by no means tanked the brand, H&M has launched sustainability efforts over the past few years that signal a change in its priorities.

H&M has been using more organic cotton, and has launched initiatives to encourage consumers to recycle their clothing. The brand also has plans to launch a new transparency program that will give consumers visibility into the specifics of where each garment was produced, as well as more information about the textile formulations, Reuters said. A resale platform for fast fashion wares could seem a logical next step in closing the sustainability gap.

“It comes back to the whole circular vision…it just makes great sense to look into this business,” Gedda told Reuters.