Relished’s CEO and Co-Founder, Eerik Toom, takes a look at the trends expected to shape the apparel resale market in 2022.
Over the past year, brands have been busy building the post-pandemic future of fashion. Across the industry, this future looks more purposeful, people-centric and responsible than the past, with brands looking to reverse the industry’s adverse impact on climate, biodiversity and communities. Creating circular systems will be essential to allow for continued growth without increasing new production and resource extraction. For many brands, resale is the most significant opportunity to make meaningful progress towards this goal in 2022.
Here are the trends we expect to see shaping the resale market this year:
An important shift to recognise is just how fast resale is growing. Last year, secondhand purchases among Gen Z and Millennials grew 33% year over year. Between 2021 and 2025, resale is expected to grow 11x faster than the broader clothing retail sector overall. All signs point to resale continuing to capture market share from the broader retail sector at an accelerated rate through 2022.
This rapid growth in resale so far has largely been driven by consumer demand for affordability, not sustainability. The latter has played a role too — but was only a primary reason for shopping secondhand for 18.9% of US consumers in 2021, compared to 74.6% who shopped secondhand to save money. Resale is exploding in demand because it gives people access to desirable products in a way that is seen as both sustainable and affordable.
But that equation is changing. As many as three quarters of Gen Z consumers now say sustainability is more important to them than brand name when making purchase decisions. This year, we will see Gen Z consumers continue to disrupt retail not just through their own increasing purchasing power, but also their formidable influence across generations:
“As a result of Gen Z’s influence over their Gen X parents on this issue, Gen X consumers’ preference to shop sustainable brands increased by 24 percent and their willingness to pay more for sustainable products increased by 42 percent since 2019.”
— GREG PETRO, FORBES
This year, more consumers will choose resale for sustainability reasons than ever before. This is significant for brands thinking about offering resale since not all resale schemes are created equal when it comes to their climate impact.
Resale supply today is dominated by wealthier Gen X consumers, while secondhand demand is highest among Gen Z and Millennials who are replacing fast fashion with higher-quality, secondhand pieces they might not otherwise afford.
The brands and retailers who already offer their own resale scheme have an enormous advantage in building direct relationships with the next generation of their customers today. Since the supply and demand are currently dominated by different consumer demographics, there is also very little cannibalisation of new sales.
This year, Gen Z consumers will play an increasingly important role in secondhand supply. Over the longer term, we also expect to see normalisation of buying secondhand across all age groups.
The early resale market has been dominated by third-party marketplaces like Depop and Vestiaire Collective in Europe. In the US, Poshmark, ThredUP and The RealReal are now public companies. But increasingly, resale will happen through brands themselves.
Leading brands, previously hesitant to embrace resale for fears of cannibalisation, have realised in the past year that getting resale right will be key to their future growth.
“We care a lot about controlling the customer’s experience, but we also realize that resale is going to grow whether we like it or not. So we want to play an active role in shaping it, and defining our own place within it.”
— GRÉGORY BOUTTÉ, CHIEF DIGITAL OFFICER, KERING GROUP
Over the next few years, we expect to the majority of brands who make high-quality apparel launch their own resale scheme.
A well-crafted resale channel is essential for building relationships with Gen Z and Millennial consumers. It also allows brands to reduce the risk of counterfeits and control the experience customers have with their products. This is particularly important for younger consumers, who will most likely experience a luxury brand for the first time through a secondhand purchase.
Consumers can already take their pick of where to sell and where to buy secondhand. As more brands enter the resale market, resale experience will become an increasingly important differentiator.
We therefore expect to see a shift away from the peer-to-peer resale model introduced by marketplaces like Depop, towards a centralised model where a brand controls the entire take-back and resale experience.
With resale-as-a-service providers like Relished, it’s now possible for brands to build a take-back and resale scheme where customers have a similar level of experience to shopping new. An additional benefit of this model is that a take-back and resale scheme that includes refurbishment can extend product life by twice as much as the peer-to-peer resale model.
In summary, the rapid growth of resale shows no signs of slowing down in 2022. We expect to see more consumers care about the sustainability implications of resale, and adoption will normalise across generations. Forward-thinking brands and retailers will launch their own resale schemes. Expect to see more of them choose a centralised model to optimise for both customer experience and climate impact.
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