ReCommerce Trend

Secondhand Fashion in the UK: Attitudes by Generation

ReCommerce, or the sale of secondhand products online, is becoming increasingly common in the UK. Fashion products are particularly attractive for reCommerce as consumer sentiments towards disposable fashion change.

Article by Nadine Koutsou-Wehling | March 20, 2024


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Fashion ReCommerce in the UK: Key Insights

  • High Consumer Inclination to Buy Secondhand: Statista's 2023 Consumer Insights show that 60% of online shoppers have purchased a secondhand item in the past year.

  • Clothing Most Popular: Clothing is the most lucrative category for secondhand fashion sales in the UK, with 29% of online shoppers saying they have bought a pre-owned piece of clothing lately.

  • Emerging Marketplace: In addition to established players with a used clothing section, such as ASOS and Etsy, marketplaces that focus exclusively on selling secondhand fashion are gaining popularity.

Selling and buying secondhand products online, also known as reCommerce, is a growing trend in the UK as consumers increasingly value sustainability and as online platforms for secondhand goods proliferate.

Fashion is particularly suited to reCommerce: Reselling fashion items can help mitigate some of the adverse effects of the textile industry.

UK Secondhand: Fashion's Favorite is Clothing

In Statista’s 2023 Consumer Insights, UK online shoppers were asked if they had bought secondhand products over the last year. Although the numbers are not limited to online purchases, we can use these responses to assess consumer willingness to buy pre-owned products.

Share of UK Consumers Buying Secondhand Fashion by Product Category, 2023

Secondhand purchases are not uncommon in the UK. Clothing is popular among UK secondhand shoppers, with 29% of consumers claiming to have bought a pre-owned piece of clothing in the last 12 months. For shoes and bags & accessories, 15% of users said they had bought items in these categories.

Looking at secondhand purchases in general, regardless of product category, an even higher percentage of UK users say they have recently purchased a secondhand item. In fact, 60% of UK online shoppers say they've bought secondhand in the past year, compared to 40% who haven't.

But what impact does age have on consumers' willingness to buy pre-owned products?

Secondhand Is Popular With All Ages

Age is negatively correlated with buying secondhand, which means that younger shoppers are more likely to have bought a pre-owned item recently.

Secondhand Purchases of Selected Fashion Product Categories by Generation in the UK

This is consistent with previous reports by other publications. In general, 69% of Gen Z users and 67% of millennial respondents said they have bought secondhand in the last year. Gen X are less prone to buy secondhand at 52%, followed by 45% of baby boomers. 

Although younger consumers are more inclined to purchase secondhand, consumers born before 1979 report a remarkably high level of secondhand purchases, with around 50% of respondents in their respective age groups. Although these figures do not specify whether products were purchased online or analog, they show us that there is a high willingness to buy used products among UK consumers, regardless of age. 

Secondhand Fashion Is Most Attractive to Younger Users

Looking at specific fashion product categories, we see that clothing is the secondhand category with the least variation across generations: 32% of Gen Z and Gen Y online shoppers said they have bought secondhand clothing in the past year, followed by 27% of Gen X and 22% of baby boomers. 

Bags & accessories are most popular among Gen Z shoppers (22%). Secondhand shoes were bought by Gen Z at a lower rate of 20%. For millennials, these differences do not exist, as 21% of millennials have bought both bags & accessories and shoes in the past year.

Older Users Are Less Interested in Secondhand Accessories or Shoes

The two categories other than clothing are of much less interest to Gen X and baby boomer secondhand shoppers. 9% of Gen X shoppers have bought either pre-owned bags & accessories or shoes, while these rates are even lower for baby boomers, at 7% and 6% respectively. 

The reasons for this disparity between the younger and older cohorts are thought to lie in changing attitudes towards fashion and the textile industry. While fast fashion has contributed to increasing amounts of waste in landfills around the world, affordability is also a major concern.

On the one hand, young users are the most likely to buy from the likes of Shein and boohoo, but there is a reverse trend where young users are buying secondhand to combine sustainability with lower costs.

A Changing Paradigm: Leading Secondhand Initiatives

Online fashion retailers are already taking note of this trend and offering customers a selection of used clothing, as well as repair services for damaged clothing that is still fit to wear or resell.

In addition to that, marketplaces are either integrating new secondhand features or starting out as reCommerce online stores focused exclusively on used apparel.

See which ones are best known among UK consumers.

Top 10 Secondhand Apparel Online Shops in the UK by Consumer Brand Awareness, 2023

Vinted and Etsy are most recognized by UK consumers, with respective awareness rates of 84% and 83%.

ASOS Marketplace is third most known for secondhand fashion (57%), followed by depop (47%). These four online stores tower over the remaining ones in the top 10, which indicates their market leadership. FARFETCH rounds out the top 5 on this list, but is notably less known among UK consumers with a fifth of respondents.

Places 6 to 10 include THRIFT+ (22%), Poshmark (19%), Vestiaire Collective (18%), Re Fashion (16%) and Cow (15%). Do not let yourself be fooled by these relatively low recognition rates. All these stores have devoted themselves to contributing to the circular economy and prove that secondhand and/or vintage styles do not need to be antiquated or outmoded.

While high-end products are certainly a focus for many of the aforementioned stores, it is not a must for a viable business strategy. More important is a good balance between quality and price at a tasteful product presentation.

Fashion Outfit (blue) Unsplash

UK Fashion ReCommerce: Closing Thoughts

The fashion market is coming under scrutiny for the quick disposal of usable items that could otherwise be repaired or resold. Consumers in the UK are aware of this issue, and buying secondhand is on the rise.

Although younger UK users are driving the reCommerce trend, all age groups show at least a basic inclination to purchase used products. Online stores that UK consumers are most familiar with include Vinted, Etsy, ASOS Marketplace, and depop.

Sources: Guardian