Consumers set sights on secondhand clothes

The U.S. secondhand apparel market grew seven times faster than the broader retail clothing market last year, according to a widely followed annual report on the state of the resale market.

Retailers have noticed the change in shopping habits. Last year, 39 more companies set up their own brand resale shops bringing the total to 163 retailers with resale programs, according to the ThredUp Resale Report 2024 released last week by the online secondhand apparel company and retail analytics firm GlobalData.

Brands that launched resale programs last year include Journeys, Fabletics, H&M, Toms, Kate Spade New York, American Eagle and J.Crew. Nearly 2 in 3 retail executives who offer resale say it will generate at least 10% of the company's total revenue within five years.

The U.S. secondhand apparel market is expected to reach $73 billion by 2028 after growing 11% to $43 billion last year. That compares with a 1.6% increase in U.S. clothing sales in 2023, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Inflation is having an impact on the secondhand market. About 55% of consumers said they'll spend more on secondhand apparel if the economy doesn't improve.

Thrifting is gaining ground with more generations, and 52% of consumers shopped secondhand apparel in 2023. About 63% of consumers who bought secondhand apparel last year made a purchase online.

About 87% of retail executives who offer resale say it advanced their sustainability goals, and 52% said they would adopt circular business models if there were government-sponsored financial incentives.

GlobalData's assessment of the secondhand market is determined through consumer surveys, retailer tracking, official public data, data sharing, store observation and secondary sources. These inputs are used by analysts to model and calculate market sizes, channel sizes and market shares. The report is also based on a survey in December of 3,654 adults and a survey of the top 50 U.S. fashion retailers and brands.

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