When second-hand purchases become the first choice

Part of the appeal of second-hand clothing has always been due to the opportunity to find unique pieces that make a difference to conventional fashion. The current Millennials and Generation Z, focused on individuality, consider it a key factor that defines their buying behavior. Lyst, the global fashion search platform, has revealed that searches for “vintage” and “second-hand” products have grown by 42% in the last year.

The “If it’s from before, better” phenomenon

The appeal of nostalgia among Millennials is another major driver that motivates many young people to track down old fashion magazines and paparazzi photographs for inspiration, as evidenced by 485,000 Throwback Thursday (#TBT) publications.

Even fashion brands are taking advantage of this interest in nostalgia, as reflected in the recent Versace collections, which have recovered historic prints and contours, or Fendi, which has relaunched the Baguette bag of the 1990s. Over the past few years, style standard-bearers and celebrities have demonstrated their knowledge of fashion by wearing emblematic vintage garments by Thierry Mugler, Azzedine Alaia, Jean Paul Gaultier or Versace.

Hype Culture has contributed to this through resale companies such as Stadium Goods and StockX, which raise the profile of essential vintage urban fashion items, from old collaborations with Supreme to extravagant Nikes. The result is the boom in the second-hand urban fashion market, where the resale of sports footwear reaches the figure of 1,000 million dollars worldwide.

Second-hand sales are transforming the luxury market

In the past, many brands were concerned that resale would damage their luxury identity, but now analysts argue that the second hand can be beneficial to sales, especially for brands and products that continue to retain their value when resold. The truth is that more and more garments and accessories are enjoying a second life.

In fact, sales of second-hand luxury goods reached a value of 22 billion euros in 2018 according to Bain and forecasts indicate that annual turnover will increase to 51 billion dollars in 2023, and in GlobalData’s opinion will surpass the fast fashion segment in 2028. A closer look at Generation Z shows that it is the most active group of all, with 54% participating in second-hand trade, as a BCG-Altagamma report reveals.

Second-hand products currently account for 8 % of the world market for luxury goods, driven by Europe, which accounts for more than half of the total second-hand market. While vintage fashion has grabbed most of the headlines, 80% of total purchases are in the watch and jewellery sector. Luxury giant Richemont has signed up to this trend, recently acquiring UK-based online retailer Watchfinder.

The second-hand market operates almost entirely separately from the established luxury brands, in an environment where people sell their used goods through online consignment platforms such as ThredUp and The RealReal. Sophie Hersan, co-founder and fashion director of Vestiaire Collective, the world’s leading online reseller of luxury goods, delves into the phenomenon and estimates that “more than 80% of second-hand consumers buy online.

A new order in fashion

At ThredUp, brands like Frye, Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Burberry and Ugg occupy a place of honour for their resale value, while Vestiaire Collective highlights iconic bags like Hermes Birkin 35, Chanel Timeless Classic and Louis Vuitton Speedy. Because young shoppers conduct extensive research when making their luxury purchases, the resale value of key items is likely to play a greater role in making the right purchasing decisions.

While many luxury brands are still assessing how to deal with the potential threats and opportunities of the growing second-hand market, high-end retailers are setting the trend. The Selfridges store in London launched a series of luxurious second-hand pop-up stores in conjunction with Vestiaire Collective. In Hersan’s words, “it was an opportunity for us to reaffirm our position as a key stakeholder in the fashion industry with a true vision, and to interact directly with our community of passionate customers. In each of the pop-up stores, shoppers could purchase legendary vintage products such as Dior Saddle bags, Prada nylon accessories, Gucci garments from Tom Ford’s time and conceptual items from Margiela in the 1990s. They could also sell their own products, relying on the valuation and expert advice of Vestiaire Collective.

The reputation as a mecca for vintage clothing can be an essential motivating factor for buyers around the world to choose a destination to turn to. In Europe, London, Paris and Amsterdam enjoy wide recognition for the range and quality of their second-hand shops and markets. In Asia-Pacific, Tokyo enjoys prestige as a world centre where you can find exclusive designer pieces and mythical cowboy garments, but in the most popular Chinese shopping cities interest in the second-hand sector is just beginning to show, perhaps due to the old superstition that second-hand clothing can bring bad luck. However, sophisticated stores like Hula and OnceStyle in Hong Kong offer fashion savvy shoppers something different, and Vestiaire Collective has established its new Asian platform in the city. The company has reported that its Asian user base grew by 200% in 2018, with an increasing number of wealthy Chinese customers flocking to its VIP consignment service.

The future of second-hand fashion

Driven by nostalgic Millenials, celebrity style and sustainable consumption, second-hand clothing will have a significant impact on retail in the coming years. In Hersan’s opinion, “circular fashion is one of the answers to alleviate the fashion industry’s impact on the environment, a problem that occupies a prominent place in the concerns of Millennials and Generation Z”, and adds that “in the future we will focus on finding alternative and complementary solutions for the first-hand fashion market”.

Merchants need to take into account local opinion about second-hand clothing and accessories when creating promotions or collaborations, but there is enormous potential for luxury brands to reflect their icon status through wisely chosen collaborations and events.

Author: Global Blue