Fashion resale surged during the pandemic under a unique set of circumstances. With people stuck at home during lockdowns, the need for office wear and dressy attire vanished overnight, sparking a wave of closet cleanouts. For some, financial uncertainty made selling unused apparel a necessity, while buyers sought out unique finds and deals by shopping secondhand. Fashion resale also benefited from the unprecedented gains in ecommerce across the board during this period.
These shifts coincided with younger consumers emerging as a major force in fashion retail. Resale benefits from Gen Z’s commitment to sustainable consumption, its love of thrifting, and throwback fashion trends such as Y2K, which has brought looks from the 1990s and early 2000s back into style.
The potential in fashion resale has barely been tapped. Cowen and Company estimates a total addressable US market in the range of $150 billion to $300 billion (based on 10% to 15% of annual purchases of $500 billion on clothing, accessories, and footwear, multiplied by three to four years of purchases), although only a fraction of that is being captured. Cowen expects online sales of secondhand fashion to surpass sales from physical stores for the first time in 2022.
However, growth in the number of resale buyers will be more modest. Consumption of secondhand apparel is unlikely to fully enter the mainstream given that nearly half of respondents expressed no interest, according to a June 2021 CivicScience survey, and nearly a third of those who had made secondhand purchases did not like the experience.