With COVID-19 Cases Surging, Why Resale Is Quickly Becoming the Retail Category to Watch This Holiday Season

As COVID-10 cases surge all across the United States and Americans brace for a dark winter, holiday shopping plans are continuing to shift as consumers look to find a balance amid persistent uncertainty.

One trend that could get a boost this holiday season, as the pandemic weighs on many Americans’ wallets and decluttering their homes-turned-workspaces (and classrooms) becomes top priority, is resale.

A new survey by Mercari, a Japan-based e-commerce marketplace, found that 46% of cash-strapped Americans have supplemented their holiday budget by selling personal items, including clothes, furniture and electronics. The report, based on an online survey of 1,000 people in the U.S, also indicated that a majority of Americans (82%) plan to spend mostly on items that are a good price or good deal this year — another win for the resale category, where gently-used, and sometimes high-end, wares are sold at cheaper prices. (Mercari commissioned IPSOS to conduct the online survey.)

What’s more, Mercari data showed that 78% of Americans thrift shop so they can find unique items they wouldn’t find elsewhere, which can give some consumers the added satisfaction of gifting vintage or one-of-a-kind items without breaking the bank.

In line with the pandemic-borne acceleration of digital trends, Americans this year are more likely to consider shopping for resale items online or on an app versus in store: About one-third (30%) said they are more likely than last year to consider browsing on an app for resale items.

Mercari’s report is only the latest to draw attention to the fact more people are engaging with circular fashion — in terms of both buying and selling — as part of a more sustainable lifestyle, heightened by the global health crisis.

A Vestiaire Collective report last month indicated that the secondhand market currently represents $30 billion to $40 billion in value around the world, and will likely expand over the next five years by a compound annual growth rate of 15% to 20%.

In addition, the online reseller — which partnered with management advisory firm Boston Consulting Group for a survey of more than 7,000 respondents across France, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States — found that the average percentage of resale items in people’s wardrobes will climb from 21% to 27% by 2023. While affordability, selection availability and item uniqueness are among the key drivers of secondhand buying, a rise in concern over the state of the environment have also contributed to such growth.

At the same time, luxury labels, nationwide retailers and even new brands stand to benefit from an uptick in the secondhand market: According to the Vestiaire report, 62% of consumers would be more willing to buy from fashion firms that partner with secondhand marketplaces, and 48% of secondhand shoppers purchased a brand that was new to them.

Neiman Marcus, Macy’s and JCPenney are among the boldface retail names with partnerships in resale.

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