Retailers look to sell pre-owned clothing in pandemic perk up

Major brands are turning to selling pre-owned clothing as a way to grow revenue streams amid pandemic slumps

The retail landscape has taken a dramatic shift as many clothing brands are going out of business or standing on the brink of collapse. Following months of store closures and restrictions wrought on by the coronavirus pandemic, major retailers are turning to other forms of revenue.

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In an unforeseen turn prompted by unprecedented events, many big brands have channeled new streams of profit by selling pre-owned clothing. In the past few months, the resale market has taken hold and even propelled retailers like Nordstrom, Macy’s, Patagonia and Eileen Fisher to enlist in the trend.

The world’s largest retailer, Walmart, is one of the latest brands to partake in the movement when the behemoth started selling used clothing on its website.

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Even though the resale market has seen growth over the past few years, the coronavirus pandemic has shaped a new consumer sentiment. According to thredUp, the world’s largest resale platform, 70 percent of women this year said they have bought or would buy used clothing, up from 52% three years ago.

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As more consumers are hunting for bargains from home, online secondhand shopping is also climbing, with projections to grow 69% between 2019 and 2021 compared with a 15% contraction in the broader retail space.

In 2020 alone, and in addition to the most recent alliance with Walmart, thredUp has partnered with brands like Gap, Banana Republic, Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister, Reebok, Athleta and Janie and Jack.

ThredUp is one of the most established secondhand platforms, alongside Poshmark and Tradesy. Other major players include luxury-consignment marketplace The RealReal as well as the peer-to-peer shopping app, Depop.

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Despite the tailwinds that resale has picked up in the e-commerce boom, The RealReal does not see resale as a complete replacement to shopping for new items in-store or online. Yet, it will impact the primary market with fast fashion.

“One-third of our customers say they shop TheRealReal as a replacement for fast fashion,” a spokesperson from The RealReal told FOX Business. “These customers are turning to resale as it’s inherently sustainable. It keeps items in circulation and out of landfills.”

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Sustainability is one of the top reasons people sell their clothes, and Gen Z shoppers will continue to pedal that trend. According to thredUp’s 2020 resale report, young shoppers are adopting secondhand fashion faster than any age group. More consumers feel a sense of pride when shopping green, compared with feelings of guilt and shame linked to unsustainable options. And since the pandemic, sustainable shopping has transitioned from a perk to a priority, with nearly 2.5 times more consumers planning to shift their spending to sustainable brands.

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With more people cooped up at home, thredUp saw exceptional growth in April and May driven largely by users looking to clean out their closets, and 50% of people are cleaning out their closet more than they were pre-COVID.

The resale market does not appear to be slowing down. In the next five years, it is set to hit $64 billion with a 39% compound annual growth rate. And with recession looming and wallets tightening, those numbers are bound to increase.

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