Sustainable fashion: Resale finding its place in fashion industry

Welcome to the latest column within our broader sustainability section, which focuses on what fashion retailing is doing to address the issues in its industry.

This month’s column explores some of the exciting activity taking place in the resale market that is drawing in more fashion brands and proving increasingly attractive to a growing number of consumers who have fallen for pre-loved clothing. Brought to you by Retail Insider with GXO.

With eBay renewing its partnership for a second year with Love Island (having replaced the failed Missguided) and a former store of the fallen Topshop in Brent Cross housing a pop-up that brings multiple charities together to sell a range of pre-loved fashion items then you know something is really stirring in the resale market.

Wayne Hemingway and Maria Chenoweth

The initial eBay/Love Island deal proved to be a major success and since the start of the partnership searches for pre-loved clothing on the site have increased 1,600% year-on-year and eBay has enjoyed a 24% jump in the number of circular businesses joining its platform. Helping these numbers, as well as emphasising eBay’s commitment to reducing waste, is its ‘Imperfect’ category that includes luxury clothing, shoes and accessories that might lack their original packaging or might be missing some component such as buttons but are very much functional.

Meanwhile, entrepreneur Wayne Hemingway (founder of Red or Dead), and Maria Chenoweth, CEO of sustainable charity Traid, have joined forces to create the first multi-charity pre-loved fashion department store, Super.Mkt, in North London’s Brent Cross shopping centre in a store vacated when Topshop hit the rocks.

Hemingway has highlighted how the venture chimes with societal shifts – from the impact of the current cost-of-living crisis to climate issues, disposable fashion, and the circular economy – and that this should help fuel demand for pre-loved clothing. This certainly appears to be true judging by research from Stylus, which found 31% of consumers in the UK used second-hand clothing websites to buy or sell items in 2022 – a meaningful increase on the 20% in 2019.

There is no doubt that the ability to access pre-loved clothing continues to improve dramatically. Not a week goes by without another announcement of a resale-type initiative being launched by a recognised fashion brand. Brands including Madewell and Tommy Hilfiger have teamed up with resale platform ThredUp while Trove provides a solution for handling the circular economy activity of many brands including Levi’s, Patagonia, Canada Goose and Lululemon.

EBay itself has agreed partnerships with the likes of Reskinned, which takes worn items from shoppers and reconditions them for resale, repurpose or recycle, and ACS that sanitises and repairs items to ensure they have a second life. Rival marketplace Etsy is also providing a platform from which goods can be resold. There is no doubting its growing popularity among consumers as its results showed its revenues are three-times greater than pre-pandemic levels. One of its bright spots is UK-based Depop, which it acquired in 2021, where in the fourth quarter average transactions grew 49% year-on-year.

Such marketplaces are the digital equivalent of the charity shop and while the new Super.Mkt store has been attracting all the publicity the traditional high street charity shops are also enjoying something of a renaissance. In the three months to the end of September they collectively enjoyed an 11% rise in sales and at Oxfam specifically, its sales rose 40% in the run up to Christmas.

This all bodes very well for the circular economy and resale that still has its challenges but as more fashion brands experiment and consumers dip their toe into buying pre-loved goods and also selling their own onto the various marketplaces then the future looks increasingly bright.

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