The Resale Market Is Taking Over Fast Fashion, Report Says

March 19, 2019, 10:00 AM UTC

The fashion resale market is exploding, growing 21 times faster than the retail market over the past three years, according to research from retail analytics firm GlobalData.

The data, gathered in the 2019 Resale Report from online thrift store thredUp, shows that more consumers are becoming environmentally conscious, often pushing them toward more affordable used items.

“Mass market or luxury, if people can find a high-quality product for much less, they’ll choose used,” wrote ThredUp co-founder and CEO James Reinhart in the report’s forward.

The secondhand economy—a $24 billion market as of 2018—is projected to grow to nearly 1.5 times the size of fast fashion (retailers with high turnaround and lower prices, like Zara and H&M) within the next 10 years, hitting a $64 billion evaluation, thredUp reports.

Within the next five years, the secondhand clothing market will double, says thredUP. This is primarily thanks to the resale sector, which often focuses on more high-end used items (think thredUp and Buffalo Exchange, as opposed to traditional thrift options like Goodwill, Salvation Army, and yard sales).

According to the report, 72% of consumers prefer to buy from environmentally-friendly brands and 60% would increase loyalty to a brand if a recycling program was offered. And executives are noticing: thredUp reports that 9 in 10 retail execs say they want to get into resale by 2020.

With textile production set to account for 25% of all global carbon emissions by 2050, any trend toward a circular economy could be beneficial. Buying one used item reduces its carbon footprint by 82%, says research firm Green Story Inc.

Overall, people are buying twice as much clothing and using it half as long, but the data shows more people are making the switch to resale: 72% of secondhand shoppers shifted away from traditional retailers to buy more used items in 2019, says thredUP.

Moreover, the resale market spurs clothing rotation, not accumulation. The 2019 report says the average number of items in consumers’ closets is declining. This could be partially due to the popularity of organization guru Marie Kondo: thredUp says it saw an 80% spike in Clean Out Kits (the bags of clothing people send in for resale) when Kondo’s show aired on Netflix.