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UK shoppers’ interest in second-hand fashion continues to grow

By Huw Hughes


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As sustainable-conscious consumers continue to swoon over pre-loved items, a new study suggests that the UK’s second hand item market is set to surge in the coming years, echoing industry reports that the market could overtake the fast fashion market by 2029.

In a poll of 1500 respondents conducted by waste management agency BusinessWaste.co.uk, almost half (45 percent) said they would buy pre-owned clothes, and, while only 20 percent said they currently buy second-hand clothes on a regular basis, a large majority said they could be convinced to.

So what incentive do people need to start buying second-hand? 94 percent of respondents said if celebrities did so than they would follow suit, while a slightly smaller 90 percent said they would buy second-hand if their friends or family did so first. Only 6 percent said nothing could convince them to buy second hand.

Oldest and youngest generations embrace second-hand items

In terms of age groups, the youngest and oldest respondents were most comfortable with the concept of buying pre-loved items, with 80 percent of 16–21 year olds and 91 percent of over sixties saying they were happy to shop second-hand. The overall percentage averaged at 45 percent, however, suggesting that those in their thirties and forties remain somewhat reluctant to embrace the concept.

Breaking the numbers down further, of those who said they would be happy to buy second-hand items, the places those items were sold made a difference. For example, the study revealed that charity shops perhaps still carry a slight stigma, with 62 percent saying they would shop in one, compared to 80 percent who said they would shop second-hand from a high street retailer. That number increases to 92 percent if celebrities or friends shopped second-hand at high street retailers first, suggesting also that there remains some hang-ups about what peers are doing in terms of fashion.

The rise of the ethical consumer

“People are turning to second-hand clothing – not just out of financial necessity, but out of choice. There’s a huge opportunity here for retailers to improve their green credentials and tap into a growing number of consumers who would like to buy stylish clothing, but without the ethical concerns,” Mark Hall, communications director of BusinessWaste.co.uk, commented in the report.

“Some well-known retailers already feature vintage or pre-loved selections in store and there’s clearly room for these to be more widely available – consumers still have the benefit of shopping curated lines of (second-hand) pieces in line with their preferred style, but without the environmental impact.”

Photo credit: Mentatdgt, Pexels

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