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How the cost-of-living and climate crises are combining to make secondhand clothing a growing area of fashion retail

Shoppers are now more likely to buy secondhand clothing. Image: Fotolia

Second-hand clothing is fast becoming a must-buy for shoppers negotiating both cost-of-living and climate crises, a new study suggests. That means the resale market is building online, according to the research from eBay Ads.

The findings come at a time when eBay UK is currently sponsoring Love Island, and has brought in celebrity stylist Amy Bannerman to style this year’s islanders with secondhand styles.

The study questioned 1,000 UK adults and found that 30% say they are now making more considered purchases to get better value for money, while 19% are buying more second-hand items in order to save money. Some 25% bought second-hand clothing in 2021, as they become more conscious of fast fashion, and a quarter of respondents told the study that they try to upcycle or repair their current possessions before buying new, while 20% frequently buy secondhand, upcycled or refurbished products.

In January, searches for ‘upcycled’ rose by 40% on eBay, compared to the previous month, searches for ‘second hand’ (+24%) and ‘repair kit’ (21%) also rose over the same period. Searches for pre-owned were 19% up in January 2021 on January 2021, and rose by a further 38% in January 2022.

Sustainability is a further reason to buy second-hand; 19% of shoppers said shopping as sustainably as they could was very important to them, while 22% are conscious of sending items to landfill that could be repaired, recycled or sold, and 19% try to avoid unethical brands, or fast fashion. Searches for ‘biodegradable’ rose by 59% on eBay in January 2022, month on month.

The leading factors that concern environmentally-conscious shoppers are sustainable packaging (37%), shopping locally (30%), whether a product can be recycled (30%), the product’s lifespan, and its sustainable credentials (24%).

Elisabeth Rommel, global GM at eBay Ads, says: “Between the rising cost-of-living and a growing desire to make more sustainable purchases, UK consumers are increasingly thinking about how they can be savvy with their shopping. With upcycling, buying second-hand, and more sustainably sourced products all rising on shoppers’ agendas, retailers in turn need to be adapting to these evolving preferences in order to engage their customers and contribute to the circular economy. Whether it be offering a repair service, starting a second-hand shop, or making packing and materials more sustainable – retailers must tap into what really matters to consumers today, and communicate sustainability credentials clearly in their marketing and product information.”

Commenting, Elissa Quinby, director of retail insights at product design specialist Quantum Metric, says the past two years have seen a clear shift in consumers’ shopping values.

“In the wake of Covid-19 and Brexit, combined with the current cost of living crisis, we are seeing a big shift in the way people are approaching shopping for non-essentials,” she says. “They are prioritising the things that really matter to them rather than buying on a whim. To combat this, retailers have to focus on providing high-quality goods at the best price, alongside a knockout customer experience in order to stand out in the marketplace. Seeing preloved fashion being celebrated on screen, and being talked about, is going to help everyone understand just how easy it is to achieve fashion on a budget.”

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