Gen Z, generation Z, thrift

Rather than halting the fervor for secondhand, the pandemic has exacerbated the demand.

Already set to reach $64 billion in the next five years, according to Global Data market sizing and growth estimates seen in ThredUp’s latest report — secondhand is growing rapidly among consumers, who in uncertain economic times increasingly turn to thrift.

“It’s not a niche market anymore; it is a mass-market experience,” stressed Anthony Marino, president of ThredUp.

Since shelter-in-place orders swept the U.S., the San Francisco-based resale marketplace has maintained 20 percent growth, “while other online shopping destinations dipped 24 percent,” as noted in ThredUp’s 2020 resale report that offers insights through a pre- and post-COVID-19 lens.

All that extra time spent cleaning closets full of clothes for donation and resale comes alongside a growing preference for online shopping. In the case of online thrift shopping, a 27 percent growth is expected this year alone, while broader retail is expected to slump by a similar percentage.

Speaking broadly about the 2008-09 financial crisis, Marino said: “Consumers migrated from department stores to off-price retailers. ThredUp is seeing the same effect,” comparing the jump as a “meaningful part of our resilience in this period,” as the U.S. officially entered an economic recession in June.

April and May were both “record-breaking months for ThredUp,” in terms of the number of items purchased by shoppers and time spent browsing, as well as steady supply from the surge in spring closet cleanouts.

Fast fashion is not spared. In the not-too-distant future, the report predicts that secondhand (including brick-and-mortar thrift and resale) will steal market share from fast fashion by 2029 — according to consumer buying intentions. The report states it is not verified by third parties and reaffirms it uses forward-looking statements.

Other than validating the mass appeal of resale, ThredUp has sought to immediately bring retailers more of what they desire.

In the report, top reasons for retailers seeking resale were to “increase foot traffic,” at 82 percent; environmental reasons, at 66 percent, and to appeal to a younger shopper, at 58 percent of respondents.

This May, ThredUp’s cofounder and chief executive officer James Reinhart spoke to the many resale partnerships the company has formed, whether it’s for brand credits or direct access to resale via Madewell, Macy’s and most recently Walmart. The recent partnership will provide more than 750,000 “new” and “like new” preowned items to the Walmart shopper.

While the 40-page report details the secondhand market extensively, some numbers are kept locked tight. ThredUp does not reveal exact customer breakdown by age but identifies Gen Z as its “fastest-growing segment.”

Neither does it disclose the performance of resale partnerships. “While we don’t publish the list of KPIs publicly, the long list of partners we’re now working with speaks for itself,” said Reinhart, in an interview ahead of Walmart’s resale launch.

But if one thing is certain, it’s that “sustainability has gone from a perk to a priority,” in the words of Marino. Meanwhile, sustainability surges with what ThredUp calls “transparent brands” like Patagonia, The North Face, Reformation and Everlane claiming top searches on the web site.

Come July, the company will launch a new campaign touting repurposed fabric fragments. Later this year, ThredUp anticipates the opening of its newest and soon-to-be largest garment-on-hanger facility in Atlanta, which will be twice the size of its largest processing facility.

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