4 Stats Showing Fashion Resale Is Poised for Growth

New report from online thrift shop ThredUp shows secondhand outpacing new apparel

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The secondhand clothing market is growing 15 times faster than traditional apparel, and people are increasingly thrifting online, a new report shows.

For the 12th year running, ThredUp released its 2024 Resale Report, an annual, data-heavy look at the fashion resale industry. The report tracks consumer sentiment around secondhand shopping, what barriers and opportunities retail executives see in the resale sector, and the rise in branded resale.

“[The data] continues to show, each year, that more and more consumers are shopping resale,” said ThredUp CEO James Reinhart. “This is the first year where it was clear that online was outperforming offline.”

But while resale’s growth is strong, analysts warn that circularity in fashion will remain elusive unless there’s a regulatory cost associated with the production and disposal of cheap clothes and shoes—the same $510 billion industry that’s undercutting resale and preventing even stronger growth potential.

1.) Resale is growing faster than the apparel market

The resale market—defined in the report as a primarily online sector of the secondhand marketing that includes ThredUp, The RealReal and upscale offline players like Buffalo Exchange—is growing faster than traditional apparel retail. That outpaced growth is predicted to continue through 2028, according to GlobalData, which conducted the market research and surveys for the report.

2.) Online resale marketshare will double by 2027

The challenging logistics of online resale have long plagued the industry’s frontrunners, with ThredUp and The RealReal struggling to turn a profit for years after they were founded in 2009 and 2011, respectively. ThredUp expects to have its first fully profitable year in 2024, Reinhart said.

As more consumers look online for secondhand, profitability could become easier for players across the entire online resale category.

3.) Most (63%) people who bought secondhand last year, bought online

That’s up 17 points from 2022, demonstrating that awareness of online resale is growing fast. Among younger consumers, that number is even higher, with 71% of secondhand shoppers buying online.

Still, fast fashion also remains popular among young consumers, noted Forrester retail analyst Sucharita Kodali.

“There are more people that just want to get stuff for cheap than who want to get stuff in a way that’s beneficial for the planet,” she said. The scales could be tipped with extended producer responsibility laws that would add fees for producing and disposing of cheap garments, she added.

And while ThredUp supports lobbying efforts to improve accountability, transparency and environmental impact through legislative action, there isn’t currently a regulatory framework in place to curb fast fashion’s ever-increasing output of low-cost, petrochemical-based garments.

4.) Branded resale business more than quadrupled since 2021

Brands are continuing to build out their own resale businesses, often with the help of third-party platforms like Trove, Recurate, Archive or ThredUp’s resale-as-a-service platform.

While just 39 brands launched branded resale programs in 2023, fewer than the 88 additional programs in 2022, that’s still 31% year-over-year growth. ThredUp added brands including American Eagle, H&M, Kate Spade and J. Crew last year.

Retail executives have an increasingly positive view of branded resale, the report showed, with 74% considering adding it to their business in the future.

“It’s no longer us trying to convince [brand CEOs and chief marketing officers] to be interested or to care about this,” Reinhart explained. “It’s them coming to us saying, ‘I want to get started, I want to launch it this year—how can you help?'”

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