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Why Gen Z loves the resale shopping market

by Joni Sweet
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    Shopping secondhand makes a lot of sense for sustainability-minded, financially-savvy Gen Z.


    Can wearing other people’s old clothes actually be cool? Absolutely, according to Gen Z, who have taken over the resale shopping market. At least one in three Gen Zs are expected to buy secondhand clothing, shoes or accessories this year alone—a 46 percent growth from 2017.

    But Gen Zs aren’t just buying used apparel—they’re purging their closets and putting price tags on whatever they no longer want. Some financially-savvy teens are even getting rich selling their pre-worn digs online on sites like Poshmark, Depop and StockX. Demand for secondhand, driven by young shoppers, is expected to push the resale sector to $51 billion by 2023.

    Understanding what’s behind Gen Z’s preference for used clothes can help marketers find fresh ways to make their brand more appealing to young shoppers. Here’s why Gen Z has embraced the resale shopping market in full force.

    A sustainable way to keep up with trends

    Climate change looms in every Gen Z’s mind, and they’re using their dollars to lessen their environmental footprint. Almost 70 percent of people in this generation consider sustainability to be an important factor in making a purchase. While some have switched to eco-friendly brands, others have gone down an even more sustainable path: Buying secondhand. Zs know that reusing, and thereby using less stuff is preferable to recycling because it consumes far fewer resources. ThredUP, a major online consignment shop, estimates that we would save 5.7 billion pounds of carbon emissions, 25 billion gallons of water and 449 million pounds of waste if everyone bought one used item instead of a new product this year.

    The resale shopping market makes it easy for Gen Zs to enhance their wardrobes in a sustainable way. As the resale market continues to surge, brands that offer new products will need to show how they’re working toward a greener future through sustainable supply chain practices if they want to attract Gen Z.

    Buying secondhand makes style affordable

    Gen Z loves luxury as much as previous generations and they’re willing to spend big on items that are “worth it.” But rather than putting a major purchase on a credit card, they’ll patiently pinch pennies until they’ve saved enough to afford it outright. Around 25 percent of Gen Zs say they’re saving up to buy a luxury item right now. They look for items like high-end handbags and collectible sneakers on resale sites so they can have them in their hands that much sooner—and for much less than they’d pay at the store.

    The flipside of the resale shopping market is the ability to sell, and Gen Z is leveraging it to earn extra cash. One college student said she can make almost $300 a week selling clothes she has held onto for years. Selling on resale sites also includes a social side, complete with likes, comments and shares, that makes the platforms even more appealing.

    To compete with resale, brands selling new products can court Gen Z by emphasizing longevity. If Zs believe they can resell an item later on for a decent sum, they may be more inclined to buy it new. And if you haven’t already implemented social features in your online store, now’s the time to add them.

    Dressing retro with authenticity

    Fashion trends never die—they just hibernate for a decade or two and reemerge, more stylish than ever. And while the racks of every fast fashion retailer might be filled with retro-inspired clothes, you probably won’t find Gen Z browsing them. Instead, they’ll hit the resale shopping market to find the real deal product from its original decade. Thrift stores are seeing more shoppers from Gen Z than previous generations, with nearly 40 percent of Gen Z projected to buy secondhand apparel this year.

    Buying secondhand is just one more way Gen Z cultivates authenticity—a trait considered “cool” by more than two-thirds of them. Fashion brands that want to offer young shoppers the latest trends should keep authenticity at the heart of their latest lines. Consider collaborating with vintage brands to recreate retro products with a contemporary spin, and be sure to tell an authentic story to complement your collab. Better yet: Seek out bonafide vintage apparel and accessories, and offer them at your store alongside your new merchandise.

    From the savings to the sustainability, shopping secondhand gets to the heart of some of Gen Z’s most cherished values. Align your brand’s principles with those of Gen Z to foster a long-term relationship with these shoppers.

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