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Cost-of-living crisis creates £150bn global boom in second hand goods

A strong shift in the consumer perception of second hand items has driven a £150bn boom in the buying and selling of used products, a new report has found, as shoppers look for cheaper and more environmentally friendly goods. 

The report, by OC&C Strategy Consultants, shows how second hand goods now represent a £150bn ($180bn) global market ($2.4tn including automotive). The focus on second hand buying is occurring across multiple sectors, with significant contributions from clothing, worth £66bn ($79bn), and consumer electronics, worth £39bn ($47bn). 

The trend is being driven by the cost-of-living crisis, with shoppers increasingly looking for cheaper alternatives. An increased reuse and recycle culture among shoppers who are increasingly conscious of their impact on the environment is also driving the trend. Saving money was listed as the primary reason for shopping second hand, while the second highest motivation was sustainability. 

These findings come on the back of a significant shift in mindset when it comes to second hand shopping. A recent survey from ThredUp found that 74% of US consumers think that second hand apparel is more acceptable now than it was five years ago, while three quarters (75%) going out of their way to tell people they are shopping second hand and 59% saying it gives them bragging rights.  

The trend shows no sign of slowing as a quarter (24%) of consumers say they will consider buying more second hand clothing if first-hand retail prices continue to increase. The overall second hand market is expected to grow to c.£275bn ($330bn) by 2027, representing growth of c.11% pa. 

While many retailers highlight the green credentials of their own products, the report shows how consumers are taking the challenge into their own hands and using more second hand products to reduce their own environmental impact. The sustainability focus drives both second hand selling (to reduce items thrown away) and buying (to reduce ecological impact of purchases), making it a key driver of the marketplace. 

Mostyn Goodwin, Partner, OC&C Strategy Consultants, explains: “For a long-time the words ‘second hand’ elicited thoughts of car boot sales or hand-me-down clothes, but in reality second hand is now a thriving market, fuelled by online marketplaces, which is significantly contributing to the UK economy. Consumers are increasingly realising their old goods that were gathering dust in the cupboard can be sold and reused, and are buying and selling everything from phones, clothes, furniture and jewellery.” 

Goodwin concludes: “This entrepreneurial spirit from UK shoppers is not only saving them money, but also contributing to cutting down on environmental impact and fuelling growth in internet giants like ebay and gumtree, along with creating a new breed of circular-economy internet start-ups designed to help consumers buy, recycle and re-use their goods.”  

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