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Study: Resale apparel market set to skyrocket in post-COVID-19 world

The market for  resale clothing will more than double in the next five years.

The total apparel resale market (which includes online resell as well as thrift and donation stores) market will grow to $64 billion during the next five years, up from its current $28 billion, according to the 2020 Resale Report from online fashion resale marketplace ThredUp and Global Data. Resale grew 25 times faster than retail in 2019, and 70% of surveyed consumers are now open to buying secondhand. Sixty-four million consumers bought secondhand products in 2019.

“It’s not a niche market anymore; it is a mass-market experience,” Anthony Marino, president of ThredUp, told WWD. ThredUp has entered into partnerships with a number of retailers, including Macy’s, Gap, J.C. Penney and, most recently, Abercrombie & Fitch.

The projected five-year growth margin for the online secondhand market includes an increase of 27% in 2020 (through COVID) and 69% from 2019 - 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be accelerating consumer engagement with secondhand retail. Half of consumers are cleaning out their closets during the pandemic more than pre-COVID.

Specifically, ThredUp saw increased activity during the COVID-19 lockdown, with record site visitors in May 2020. Those visitors spent 37% more ‘time on-site’ treasure hunting than pre-COVID. 

Looking ahead, consumer sentiment shows promise for online secondhand retail. Four out of five consumers say they would buy used clothing if money gets tight, with 79% planning to cut their apparel budgets in the next 12 months. The only apparel sectors ThredUp expects to gain customers in 2020 are secondhand and Amazon fashion.

Other statistics from the report that indicate online retail is primed for significant growth in the next few years include: 

•    Nine out of 10 Gen Z consumers are open to buying used clothing. 
•    In one year, the number of consumers who plan to spend more on sustainable brands has doubled. 
•    Nearly half of consumers say they plan to buy more sustainable fashion in the next five years. 
•    In a survey conducted during the COVID pandemic, 70% of consumers said that addressing climate change is more important than ever.

However, the acceleration of online resale does not mean that a large amount of waste isn’t still occurring in the apparel sector. For example: 

•    One in two shoppers don’t want to be seen in the same outfit twice.
•    One in two shoppers still throw unwanted clothes in the trash.
•    Consumers wore over 100 million single-use outfits in 2019, generating 208 million pounds of waste. Forty percent of those single-use outfits were worn to weddings. If everyone wore a thrifted outfit to a wedding in 2021, ThredUp analysis indicates it would be the carbon equivalent of taking 56 million cars off the road for a day.

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