The year that has just ended has shown an incredible fervor for second-hand clothing, fueled by a series of factors that we tell you about in this article:
- Digitization of the offer
- Economic uncertainty
- Interest in sustainability
- Influence of social media
- Search for the unique piece
30-40 billion dollars, the value of the second-hand market
A report by Boston Consulting Group created on behalf of Vestiaire Collective, the French online sales platform for luxury second-hand clothes, estimates the current value of the global second-hand market between 30 and 40 billion dollars, equal to 2% of the entire fashion and luxury market. The growth forecast is between 10% and 15% per year by 2024.
The youngest generation is showing that they want to help solve fashion waste in the long run
According to another study from 10 billion in 2009, the expected growth is considerable. A phenomenon that goes beyond a temporary fashion trend. About 40% of Generation Z respondents planned to buy used, 30% of Millennials and 20% of Generation X. A figure that inspires optimism: the younger generation is showing that they want to help solve fashion waste in the long term (1).
The trend of second-hand purchases comes from the United States, where the second-hand market developed already in the hippie years (70s), giving everyone the opportunity to sell and buy clothing no longer used, making room in the wardrobe for one part and enriching it at an affordable price on the other.
And in Europe? At DressEcode, we wondered about this trend in 3 countries (United Kingdom, France and Italy) to understand how much consumption habits are culturally pervading. Is it one of the changes in consumer paradigms in the post-Covid era?
Second-hand, pre-owned or pre-loved shops are part of the clothing market with a stable number of stores over the last 10 years (about 4,000 between 2008 and 2018) (2).
Sales of used items on eBay have saved the equivalent of 900 double-decker buses of clothing from being dispersed, thrown away or incinerated
An eBay study reveals:
- The lockdown period prompted 12 million Brits to buy used clothes in 2020
- 66 million second-hand pieces have found a new home
- A sales rate of 2 second-hand fashion items every 3 seconds, between January and July 2020
- Sales growth of 30% between March and June 2020 and of 1,211% compared to the same period in 2018
- The sales have made it possible to avoid the equivalent of 900 double-decker buses of clothes from being dispersed, thrown away or incinerated.
UK sales of second-hand fashion even surpassed US sales on eBay. Emma Grant, head of the second-hand fashion department of a well-known online sales site, said that in the UK the quarantine has accelerated the transition to a more conscious and sustainable society (3).
The second-hand phenomenon (d’occasion) was born with the antiques markets, called marchés aux puces. Here from the 2000s onwards there are more and more vintage fashion items. As in friperies shops (from fripe, old rag).
If in 2009 25% of the French bought second-hand, in 2018 48% bought used (4). In 2019, 39% bought at least one dress or accessory used on mobile applications
The retail giants are about to create second-hand departments
Hélène Janicaud, head of the fashion sector at the analysis firm Kantar, says that during the confinement 40% of French people lightened their wardrobe. In the second quarter of 2020, the number of articles published on Vinted app grew by 17% (Le Monde).
A market, that of second-hand fashion, estimated at 1 billion euros, growing by 10% annually according to the Institut français de la mode.
An attractive figure also for the giants of retail, who are preparing to develop collaborative projects with clothing brands to create second-hand departments. This is the case of Auchan for example, which has already opened used departments in 5 of its supermarkets, or of Zalando, which will extend the presence of the second-hand department to France, after Germany and Spain.
The success of the Vinted platform in France brings the French market to the top of European sales of used clothing:
- 21 million users of the platform worldwide
- 8 million French users, with an average daily consultation frequency of 1.5 million visitors, thus placing the Lithuanian app in the top 10 of e-commerce, just behind eBay (5).
The Lithuanian giant’s competitors in France are many. In our opinion there are two main ones:
- Once Again, which aims to interface between sellers and buyers, with a guarantee of quality and the possibility of buying clothes in bandle regardless of the seller;
- Vestiaire Collective, the French platform created in 2009, which defines itself as the world’s first market place for the sale of luxury fashion items and which benefited from an investment of 40 million euros in June 2019 by Condé Nast to dedicate to its development international.
Precise data on the consumption of second-hand fashion in Italy are not available, but we do have an overview of second-hand purchases in general made in our country. In the last 5 years, the second-hand sector has grown by 33%, reaching 24 billion euros in 2019, equal to 1.3% of the Italian GDP. The “home and personal products” sector, which includes clothing, is worth a total of 2.8 billion euros. The trend, already underway before the pandemic, was mainly driven by online (in 2018 it generated value of 10.5 billion euros) (6).
Between March and June 2020, Italy recorded 128% more orders for second-hand clothes (on Vestiaire Collective)
Second-hand fashion has literally exploded during 2020, thanks mainly to 3 levers:
- Economic: in addition to limiting access to physical stores, the economic crisis accompanying the ongoing health crisis has favored the use of second-hand purchases with items whose price is more accessible, in line with the decrease in purchasing power during the lock down period.
- Environmental: the sale and purchase of second hand are in 4th place among the most widespread sustainable behaviors among Italians (49%), immediately after separate collection waste (95%), the purchase of LED bulbs (77%) ) and zero km products (56%) (6).
- Social: the growing phenomenon of fashion bloggers, who propose the latest outfits, increases the desire of users/followers to frequently renew their wardrobe. The preference for the second hand increases. A trend encouraged by the same fashion bloggers who, according to Nss G-Club, after showing new clothes, resell them on the second-hand market.
With 41% of European fashion production, Italy is the first country in Europe for the production of textiles, clothing and accessories (7). Is this also why, until a few years ago, second-hand fashion was not such a widespread consumer habit?
From a data processing by Vestiaire Collective for Il Sole 24 Ore, between March and June 2020 Italy recorded an increase in second-hand clothing deposits of 137%, and 128% of orders, with a particular boom in 3 categories: menswear (+ 190%), women’s ready-to-wear (+ 149%) and women’s accessories (+ 108%).
In the study, the data indicate that:
- Those who buy are on average between 30 and 50 years old
- The seller is between 35 and 45 years old
- The biggest buyers of second-hand fashion are women between the ages of 25 and 34 (75%)
The consolidation of this trend as a real new consumer habit is confirmed by the development of online sales proposals, but not only. In addition to the well-known Depop, Armadio Verde and the newcomer to Italy Vinted, Italy has many physical outlets for second-hand clothes and accessories (you can find them in our map of sustainable clothing stores).
Despite the perceptions that were still found a few years ago, Italy is also following the global trend of preference for second-hand fashion items.
If the main reason for this fervor still remains the economic one, the new generations, mainly Gen. Z, are the driving force for this cultural change, proudly displaying their second-hand purchases in the name of sustainability.
Fast fashion is experiencing its final years at the top of the industry sales ranking
An important figure in our opinion is that of the forecast of the trend between now and 2028 of the value of the second-hand market that will surpass fast fashion. Reading several reports (BCG, thredUP and some national observers), fast fashion is experiencing its final years at the top of the industry sales ranking.
A beautiful opening for a different future of the fashion world, which we hope will benefit first and foremost the workers of the countries exploited by the big fashion buyers in the production phases, but also to protect the environment: the biggest global challenge in the next 30 years.
Photos: Dress Ecode; Priscilla du Preez; Onur Bahçıvancılar; Thomas Vogel; Jaclyn Moy; Dress Ecode.
(1) Report thredUP 2020
(4) Report 2019 di Centre de recherche pour l’étude et l’observation des conditions de vie
(5) Report of Médiamétrie
(6) 6th edition of Osservatorio Second Hand Economy, BVA Doxa.
(7) Carlo Capasa, president of Camera della moda italiana in an open letter to government, published on La Repubblica, April 11 2020.