Growth of the second hand economy

The value of the global second hand apparel market is expected to reach $77 billion by 2025. This is almost treble the $27 billion value in 2020. Also 42% of Gen Z and millennial consumers worldwide are willing to buy second hand items.

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Niharika Khatri
June 1, 2022 8:18 am

The fashion industry has long been associated with a large carbon footprint. It uses a monumental 93 billion cubic meters of water every year. A pair of jeans could cost you $25 but the hidden cost is the environmental impact. 3,781 liters of water are needed, equivalent to a carbon footprint of 33 kilograms.

Fast fashion is making the problem worse. The idea that it becomes socially unacceptable to wear a garment more than 2 or 3 times is strange to me. Manufacturers have to increase their production, which of course impacts the environment further, and people feel the need to regularly update their wardrobe because of social pressure, putting a strain on their financial resources.

The environmentally conscious among us, which is a lot of people, want to minimize our carbon footprint. That is the beauty of second hand fashion. As said, a shift in attitudes (perhaps driven by environmental concerns) is turning people away from fast fashion. I personally prefer to shop for pre-loved garments. There are some hidden gems available in the second hand market and there is this quaint, wholesome feeling knowing it was pre-owned… and I haven’t contributed to the degradation of our planet.

We are also seeing the advent of a digital fashion industry. This is exciting to me for 2 reasons. The first is that digital fashion will have a much lower carbon footprint than physical fashion. Second, there is potential for the culture of second hand fashion to be strengthened through second hand digital fashion.

Purchasing pre-owned digital items of clothing might sound peculiar. So did (and does!) the concept of digital fashion. However I predict there being a demand to buy digital clothing that has already been worn online by influencers and celebrities. As we know, when there is demand for something, a market will be created for it! Besides, this already happens in the real world. Jennifer Lopez’s Yellow Caped Jumpsuit and Loafers worn by Justin Bieber have gone on sale to much publicity on eBay.

Jennifer Lopez & Justin Bieber items.jpg
Jason Ng
May 31, 2022 12:55 pm

The growth of the second hand economy can be attributed to necessity as other posters have already written. If you don’t have the financial means to buy new goods, the second hand market gives you plenty of options. I would argue that second hand item sales are also growing because of changing perceptions. Just like when there was a stigma with online dating or being a gamer, the perceptions of second hand goods are changing too. Maybe you’d be embarrassed to admit the jumper you were wearing was bought at a garage sale. Or maybe you’d vehemently deny that the sunglasses you donned were a hand-me-down from your big bro. That doesn’t happen anymore.

Society is much more comfortable admitting to purchasing second hand items. Actually I would go as far as to say it is a badge of honour and a thing of pride to say you got something at a bargain price second hand. An interesting eBay statistic is that more than 50% of used items get sold compared to 33% of new items. Don’t forget, the first item sold on eBay was a humble, used (and broken!) laser pointer.

The change in language is also an indication of society’s acceptance. These items aren’t called “second hand” as much, a term that conveys a loss of value. Instead they are “pre-loved”, a term that conveys that the item has value, but just happened to have been loved by a previous owner.

May 29, 2022 5:00 pm

This may not be pretty to say but we live and breathe ‘second hand’ in Nigeria. In a country where the most basic infrastructures are lacking, living on a budget is the only way to live. Given the situation, people do not care about the quality of these second hand products; they just want to be able to have basic things essential for living and functioning. The country imports almost everything and a good percentage of these goods have been used in the country where they’re being shipped in from.

It is no surprise that second hand stores thrive and are legit seen as a very lucrative business in the country. From clothing, to electronics to cars, spare parts, and cosmetics; it’s an endless list of second hand commodities that are basic and necessary, yet unavailable in the country and wholly embraced when received as fairly used.

Also in this age of social media where everyone posts their best lives and stories online, who cares where you bought something or whether it’s brand new, so long as it’s well packaged and looks really good, pleasing or aesthetic? Suffice it to say that 90% of Nigerians sit comfortably on this table.

May 29, 2022 10:21 am

High costs of living alongside high rates of unemployment make second-hand goods the only option for a large proportion of Kenyans. The Kenyan market consumes second-hand goods in almost everything that is involved in day to day life. The UK is our most preferred country to seek second-hand clothes (mitumba), cars and electronics. Refurbished laptops from the UK market, commonly referred to as ex-UKs, often outstrip new laptop sales. I own an ex-UK HP laptop and I cannot complain about its performance. Institutions, university and college students prefer buying ex-UK laptops because they are quite affordable. To public institutions, it’s more economical since they are making bulk orders which might help get some discounts. Asking most of my friends who own laptops about how they acquired theirs, I get to realize we all bought ex-UKs.

The mitumba industry is among the major tax-generating businesses in Kenya. Gikomba and Kongowea market are the largest mitumba markets in Nairobi and Mombasa respectively. You can easily get lost when having a walk in these markets. People like quality second-hand shoes because if they are in good condition they will last long. Most of our car imports are from Japan and the UK, a large portion being second-hand cars. I think we will continue to be consuming second-hand goods more and more. The economy in our country and current living standards are giving us no option.

Taabia Ahmed
May 30, 2022 9:25 am

Due to a large segment of the population living below the poverty line, the culture of buying second hand goods is quite common here in Pakistan. There are special bazaars setup on particular days, especially Sundays where vendors sell items like used clothing, shoes, jackets and bags. Most of the items are used by people abroad. You can get Versace coats, Gucci bags and what not at a good bargain. An interesting aspect of these bazaars is the fact that visitors are from all walks of life; not just those who can’t afford new items.

Many years ago, I myself bought autobiographies of Lady Diana, Michael Jackson and Jinnah from similar markets, that time I paid less than 10 US dollars for all three books. I find myself strongly encouraging friends and family to buy second hand books, avail swapping services or borrow books from the library. New e-commerce websites are also being launched here that have “pre-loved” items as the core of their business model. You can post your own item to the business if it meets certain criteria (no damages etc.). Either the business pays you up front or you sell through their website/platform. Moreover, there are multiple Facebook groups of mothers selling used baby items (since they grow up so quickly) and ladies selling preloved party/fancy clothing.