Generation Z is behind a renaissance of thrift stores

Gen Z shoppers are sparking a rebirth in savings.

Why is this important: The clothing and footwear industry represents around 10% of the climate impact – superior to all international flights and sea trips combined. Buying second-hand clothes, shoes and other items can dramatically reduce fashion’s carbon footprint.

In numbers : The second-hand market is expected to reach $ 77 billion by 2025 – up from $ 36 billion in 2021 – and is growing at a rate 11 times that of the broader retail clothing industry, according to a report from retail analytics firm GlobalData and online thrift store ThredUp.

The engines of growth are younger consumers who are drawn to savings for its durability and eclectic, cool styles.

  • “I kind of stopped buying clothes in mainstream stores,” says Grace Snelling, a sophomore at Northwestern University. “People almost respect you if what you wear is frugal, and it looks good because you’ve managed to wear a cool outfit, and it’s durable.”
  • Aisha Gunnell, Digital Director at Beacon’s Closet super cool thrift store chain in Brooklyn and Manhattan – says secondhand shopping made it stick when she was in college. “Over the past 10 years it’s become a lot more popular,” she says.

The rebirth of the economy has hit all kinds of stores, says Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Stores. Big thrift chains like Goodwill and Crossroads are seeing more traffic, as are smaller independent stores.

  • Another growing part of the second-hand market is e-commerce, as Axios’ Hope King reports. Platforms like Depop (90% of users are under 26) and Poshmark have helped turn young buyers into stylists who can make some income, note hope.
  • Dozens of Gen Z consumers, including Snelling, are setting up online stores to sell their products. And they wisely advertise on Instagram and TikTok, further boosting the hype around savings.

But, but, but: The rise in popularity of savings among the wealthiest consumers – those who don’t need savings to build their wardrobes – hurts low-income buyers, Vox reports. The renewed interest is pushing up prices and depleting stocks.

  • Snelling says she makes sure to shop only at thrift stores in wealthier neighborhoods to make sure she doesn’t add to this problem.

What to watch: The revival of second-hand fashion by Generation Z is a boon to the retail industry. Even though online thrift stores are growing in popularity, younger people tell me they prefer physical stores.

  • It’s a weekend activity: gather a group of friends and visit a series of thrift stores, rummaging through trash cans on random stuff bins to find the winners.
  • Said Meyer, “They love the thrill of the hunt.”
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