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Why Secondhand is the First Choice for More Shoppers

Here’s an inconvenient truth: resale shops—and especially resale sites and apps—are doing a better job of suiting consumer tastes than traditional stores.

That’s according to ThredUp’s Annual Resale Report, which says that while regular stores are disappearing at a frightening pace, the apparel resale industry is worth $18 billion today. And it’s projected to grow to $33 billion in 2021.

Yeah, but it’s just a bunch of grandmas making those purchases, right? While 32 percent of these consumers are in fact someone’s grandmother, millennials comprise 30 percent of the shoppers. Further, 30 percent of this coveted demographic has shopped secondhand in the last 12 months, and 21 percent say they will in the future.

Forget the fusty, musty basement shops of old. Today’s resale is high tech and connected. Companies like Vestaire Collective, PoshMark and The RealReal have changed the face of secondhand commerce.

So why are more and more shoppers adopting a thrifting lifestyle?

It’s the discounts

What’s better than scoring a $385 BCBG Max Azria dress for $22? How about getting the coordinating Jessica Simpson strappy sandals for $12, down from $109? These are the types of deals ThredUp shoppers are scoring, and they’re often far better than discounters. In a time when it takes deep markdowns to pry purses open, savings like those resonate.

And no, these bargain hunters aren’t starving college kids getting by on ramen. The report reveals that high-income shoppers are 35 percent more likely to shop secondhand than those with a low income. What’s more, 77 percent are professionals and 71 percent own homes.

Burlington’s CEO, president and chairman Thomas Kingsbury said it best: “Looking at the numbers, there’s really two places where people want to shop today, and that is online and off-price.” And with online resale, they get the best of both worlds.

It’s the hunt

Kingsbury noted it’s the discounts and the hunt that makes off-price so appealing. But again, secondhand apps and the like offer the same benefits.

The thrill of the hunt keeps shoppers intrigued. They know that every time they shop, there’s a chance to make that big score that will make their girlfriends green with envy. It’s this possibility that drives 63 percent of resale shoppers.

And it pits off-price and thrift stores head to head. Fifty percent of ThredUp shoppers say if they weren’t shopping secondhand, they’d be spending at off-price stores like Marshalls. Ouch.

It’s the selection

Faster than any factory can churn out trendy frocks, fashionistas are listing tons of their former favorites on resale sites. That pace puts Zara’s two-week product development and TJ Maxx’s weekly deliveries to shame. On sites like ThredUp, thousands of new items are added on an hourly basis. That’s real speed to market.

All of these new items and the time it takes to comb through the virtual racks, makes online resale shopping one of the top ways consumers are spending their time online. On average, shoppers spend nine minutes a night shopping on traditional stores’ websites. Compare that to the 45 minutes they spend on secondhand sites and apps. It’s a number that even dwarfs the 35 minutes they’re likely to linger on Facebook.

It’s the environment

Going green is another factor motivating some shoppers to opt for thrifted items over new purchases. The report concluded that 52 percent of secondhand shoppers do so because of the environment. And millennials, specifically, are even more focused on sustainability issues with 75 percent taking the earth into consideration when selecting where to shop. So, while their favorite fast fashion chain may occasionally drop a conscious collection, these savvy shoppers recognize that rescuing a garment is an even more responsible move.

Deals, excitement and environmental responsibility plus great fashion add up to a great shopping experience. One that traditional retailers would do well to take note of.

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