Should retailers worry that secondhand apparel is flooding the market?
In February of 2018 I wrote a piece for RetailWire asking what clothing retailers should do in the face of the growing popularity of consignment shops. Little did we know at that time that the apparel industry was about to be hit with the biggest phenomenon since fast-fashion, now dubbed “The Marie Kondo Effect.”
“Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” launched on Netflix on January 1st of 2019. Since the show’s debut customers have donated so much clothing that thrift stores in the Bay Area, California put limits on how much merchandise they take in. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t buyers for the influx of merchandise brought on by Kondomania.
Customers are thirstier than ever for secondhand merchandise because it gives them an opportunity to buy reasonably-priced clothing without contributing to the environmental crisis that’s been exacerbated by fast-fashion. Sustainability is a growing priority for consumers of all ages, and the number of consumers who “prefer to buy from environmentally friendly brands” jumped 15 points since 2013 — from 57 percent up to 72 percent.
Mobile thrifting platforms such as Swap.com and ThredUp let customers thrift shop from anywhere, so it’s just as convenient to buy secondhand as it is to buy mass-produced goods.
Sourcing Journal reports, “ThredUp wants to make the experience of browsing women’s shoes, shirts, slacks and more on its website ‘indistinguishable’ from shopping first-run goods at a traditional retailer. The company sells 35,000 brands in 100 product categories, processes 100,000 unique SKUs each day and is on track to clinch its 100 millionth SKU this year.”
With Payless going bankrupt and Charlotte Russe following suit, it’s getting easier to see why ThredUp predicts that the resale market will grow to be 1.5 times larger than fast-fashion by 2028. While Millennials and Baby Boomers are the biggest thrift shoppers right now, more than one in three members of Gen Z will buy secondhand this year.
Consumer priorities are shifting, secondhand shopping is now as convenient as buying fast-fashion, and customers can find nearly anything they want by thrift shopping. It’s hard to imagine these changes will come without cost for traditional retailers.
- 2019 Resale Report – ThredUp
- ’Marie Kondo Effect’ Leaves Bay Area Thrift Stores Swamped With Donations – CBS SF Bay Are
- What are Clothing Retailers to Do as Consignment Shops Grow in Popularity? – RetailWire
- ThredUp and Rebag on Fashion’s New Resale Reality – Sourcing Journal
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How can retailers who are paying wholesale prices compete with secondhand retailers who are getting inventory for cheap or for free? Should more businesses strive to implement secondhand or thrift into their inventory model?