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Resale’s Rise Stands to Sway Holiday Spending on Secondhand Clothing

Despite the threat of a recession, shoppers are poised to buy this holiday season—and may even spend more than they did last year. However, research shows that their attitudes on what to buy are shifting.

On Tuesday, Accenture released its 13th Annual Holiday Shopping Survey, which gleaned insights from 1,500 U.S. consumers. This year, the average American is expected to spend $637 on holiday shopping. More than half of respondents (57 percent) said they planned to spend the same amount as last year, while more than one quarter (28 percent) said they planned to loosen their pursestring.

While those numbers might appear to point to high consumer confidence, the number of cautious shoppers also rose versus last year’s results. This year’s survey indicated that 15 percent of consumers planned to spend less than they did last year, up from 11 percent of consumers in 2018.

The two top factors causing consumers to pull back on spending are rising food bills (cited by 32 percent) and the aim of avoiding credit card debt (cited by 31 percent).

For both the money-conscious and those willing to spend, attitudes about what to buy are quickly evolving with newfound knowledge about the fashion industry’s environmental impact. The spotlight has shone on the issue of apparel and footwear waste in recent seasons, and many shoppers are looking to secondhand options, even in gifting.

In fact, nearly half (48 percent) of the survey’s respondents said they would consider giving second-hand apparel as gifts, and the majority (56 percent) said they would be happy to receive a vintage or pre-owned gift for themselves.

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With the resale market set to grow to $51 billion by 2023 (up from $24 billion in 2018), it’s become clear that whatever reservations shoppers may have held about secondhand clothing are quickly falling away, thanks in large part of businesses like ThredUp and The RealReal that are bringing the polish and standardization of a modern retail experience to a sector largely relegated to musty, tired thrift stores.

A recent report from SellHound, which amassed insights from 1,000 U.S. respondents who had sold items on secondhand marketplaces, found that selling clothing has become the most popular method for consumers looking to clean out their closets. Almost half (46 percent) of respondents said they preferred to sell their used clothing, while 40 percent said they preferred to donate.

While profiting off of their purchases beats donations in popularity, both avenues allow consumers to give their clothing a second life in the hands of someone new. Of those who choose to sell online, SellHound reported that the majority of resellers (70 percent) favor eBay as their marketplace of choice, followed by Facebook Marketplace (39 percent) and Poshmark (21 percent).

The mainstreaming of secondhand has even reached subscription box services. Wee Blessing, a Columbus, Ga.-based subscription service for children’s apparel, announced on Tuesday the launch of its “Like New” program. Lightly-used garments for newborns to 16-year-olds are available for up to 95 percent off retail prices, with each mint-condition item averaging about $4.

The resale model seems tailor-made for children’s clothing, as many tiny garments are worn just a handful of times (or less) before their wearers grow out of them. The company’s CEO, Alicia Werle, asserted that it’s more affordable to use Wee Blessing’s Like New styling service than it is to shop in bargain stores. And, with selections from popular kids’ retailers like Nike, Justice and Gap, the Like New program offers “quality pieces for people of all budgets.”