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Second-Hand Fashion: A New Paradigm

Global used clothing market expected to reach 350 billion US dollars by 2028

Second-hand Fashion is here to stay. If trends were already pointing to a growth of this practice, especially among younger consumers, the figures confirm that we are on the verge of a new paradigm.

According to the ThredUP Report Sale, published by Jornal de Negócios, the global second-hand clothing market is expected to reach 350 billion US dollars (325 billion euros) by 2028. By 2025, this segment will account for 10% of the global fashion market.

In fact, GlobalData predicts that used clothing sales will grow fifteen times faster than traditional clothing sales already in 2023, with the online option growing at 23% over the year.

Are we facing a "seismic shift” in the sector? The study suggests that we are. Sustainability, environmental concerns and rising cost of living are behind the evolution of this business, which is growing three times faster than traditional fashion. "There is a value-for-money perspective, which has become more important at a time of high inflation. There is the sustainability angle that makes many customers positive about the circular economy, and there is also the individuality angle, where consumers value the uniqueness of second-hand products”, explains Neil Saunders, Retail Analyst at GlobalData.

Neil Saunders also believes that the global second-hand market will grow by 77.8% between 2023 and 2028. The analyst expects the sector to grow fastest in Asia, to 150 billion US dollars by 2028, making the continent the world’s largest market, followed by Europe.

Brands and sustainability
"Brands should consider selling used items because it is a growing segment and a part of the market that consumers are interested in and engaged with”, says the analyst. "The second-hand market also helps brands showcase their sustainability credentials, which can be an important point of differentiation”. 

The report reveals that 62% of retail executives believe that customers are concerned about brand sustainability. Promoting sustainability goals was a reason for 77% of the brands surveyed to consider selling used goods, the third most popular reason after attracting more customers (89%) and generating revenue (85%).
Zara, a pioneer in many fashion industry trends, launched Zara Preowned in late 2023, a platform that allows customers to resell the brand’s clothing. "One of the challenges facing the textile sector is extending the useful life of garments. With this in mind, we have created Preowned, a platform that will help you extend the life of your Zara garments”, the website reads. "As part of our commitment to a more sustainable model, this initiative allows you to repair, resell or donate your used garments”.

Online platforms
The study estimates that online purchases of second-hand fashion will continue to grow because Generation Z and Millennials prefer digital to physical retail. The report concludes that 51% of Gen Z shoppers prefer to buy second-hand items online, a figure surpassed only by Millennials, 55% of whom prefer to buy second-hand clothes online.

Vinted and Wallapop are two examples of platforms that continue to grow in this segment. In 2022, Vinted reported a turnover of 370.2 million euros. The resale app has more than 2,000 employees, is present in 20 countries and has a total of 100 million members on its website. Its biggest market is France, where it has 27 million users.
Individualism and self-expression are determining factors among these consumers. However, consumers in general want to prioritise value in future purchases, according to the report, which found that 59% of shoppers prefer not to purchase if they can’t find a "good” deal.

"Younger shoppers - Generation Z and Millennials - will contribute the most to growth over the next five years. Both generations are very interested in sustainability and like to shop second-hand. Generation Z is also seeing its purchasing power increase, which will help boost its spending” argues the analyst.
The report also looks at the potential for government involvement in the second-hand market. It notes that 44% of consumers see a circular textile policy as a non-partisan issue, and 42% believe the government should take legislative action to promote sustainable fashion. "The global second-hand market continues to thrive - a testament to the intrinsic value shoppers find in the second-hand experience and evidence of the seismic shift towards a more circular fashion ecosystem”, says James Reinhart, CEO of ThredUP. "As we celebrate this progress, we also recognise the powerful role government can play in accelerating the transition to a more sustainable future for fashion. (...) Until fashion is no longer one of the most damaging sectors of the global economy, we will continue to advocate for the government to help drive a behaviour change in fashion”.