Re-commerce: Clothing resale surges among Gen Z and Millennials

We’re all familiar with the accusations thrown at Millennials of destroying weddings, killing mayonnaise and ruining sex. And as Gen Z join Millennials in the workforce and become a major consumer segment in their own right, the impact on the market of this generational shift will only become more pronounced.

But it's not all bad news.

Resale economy

The latest market trend attributed to Millennials and Gen Z, enabled by a combination of changing attitudes and advancements in technology, is a massive surge in clothing resale. According to an in-depth report commissioned by clothing resale website thredUP*, the resale market grew 21x faster than the retail apparel market from 2017 to 2019.

The report explains that clothing resale satisfies two major characteristics of the 'Instagram generation':

  1. They want to be seen in new styles - 56% of 18 to 29-year-olds prefer retailers that offer new arrivals every time they visit.
  2. They want to be sustainably conscious consumers - 74% of 18 to 29-year-olds prefer to buy from sustainably conscious brands.

And when you consider that buying a used item of clothing reduces its carbon footprint by 82%**, you can see how a growing interest in sustainability could go hand-in-hand with an increased willingness to shop second-hand.

Thrifting goes digital

One of the biggest drawbacks of second-hand clothes shopping has always been the time required to browse through charity and vintage shops, or scroll through online marketplaces, wading through hundreds of thousands of items to find something suitable. But advances in data science developed by companies such as thredUP have ushered in a revolution in clothing resale by enabling valuation, storage, curation and transport of items on a massive scale.

And the scale truly is massive. UK-based peer-to-peer shopping app Depop has 40,000 items listed every day. It's even estimated that an astonishing one in three 15 to 24-year-olds (that's Gen Z, broadly speaking) is registered on the platform.^


So what does this mean for marketers? For one, these peer-to-peer resale sites are now a significant potential source of trends and fashion influencers. Because users can participate as both buyers and re-sellers, they can build a following and a reputation based on their clothing curation.

There are also partnership opportunities. Most recently, Gap has partnered with thredUP to offer bags and labels in-store, which customers can use to mail their clothes to thredUp in exchange for Gap credits, while Depop has done a series of collaborations with brands including Dickies and Ralph Lauren.

Clearly this market trend is not one to be ignored.


*thredUP 2019 Resale Report (research by GlobalData)

**Green Story Environmental Study, Green Story Inc. Savings calculated across greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and water consumption.

^The Cut, 'Got it on Depop', 19 Aug 2019

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