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Young British shoppers embracing 'buy, sell, mend, swap, rent' mentality

By Huw Hughes


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Young British shoppers are looking for ways to increase the lifecycle of their clothing, by selling, mending, swapping and renting them, according to new research.

Last year, 52 percent of UK shoppers aged 25-34 bought secondhand clothes, compared to an average of 43 percent, while 50 percent sold their unwanted clothes, compared to 35 percent of consumers as a whole. That’s according to research by market research firm Mintel.

The popularity of secondhand fashion has skyrocketed in recent years, with the resale fashion market growing 21 times faster than the retail fashion market in the past three years, according to ThredUp’s annual Resale Report.

Young British shoppers are also looking to repair clothing - in the spirit of ‘make do and mend’ 50 percent of 25-34-year-olds repaired damaged or worn-out clothes.

Gen-Z (16-24-year-olds) - perhaps unsurprisingly - is the demographic most likely to use rental services, with 54 percent saying they have rented or would be interested in renting fashion items, compared to an average of 33 percent.

Young Brits looking for sustainable alternatives to fast-fashion

‘Swishin’ - or swapping fashion items with others - is also popular among younger shoppers, with three quarters (75 percent) of 16-24-year-olds having either swapped clothing with others or saying they would be willing to in the future - that compares to an average of 51 percent.

Chana Baram, Mintel retail analyst, said in the report: “The idea of ‘reusing, reducing and recycling’ has the potential to be a big disruptor in the fashion industry. Young shoppers seem to be emulating their grandparents, who were forced to ‘make do and mend’ during World War II. As the climate crisis continues to gain headlines, consumers’ perspectives are shifting. It’s no longer enough for clothing to be priced well, or to reference the latest trends; fashion brands and retailers also have to think about working towards a goal of providing more sustainable options.

“Many young people today are likely to be influenced by the ‘Attenborough’ or ‘Greta’ effects and are becoming far more aware of the negative effects fast fashion can have on the environment. As a result, we have seen a real increase in the number of businesses and retailers offering repair services, second-hand items or rental options.”

The research also found that younger consumers are making more of an effort to reduce their environmental impact when it comes to buying clothes, with 68 percent of 16-24-year-olds trying to make more ethical fashion purchases now than they did in the last 12 months - that’s compared to an average of 57 percent.

Overall, 30 percent of consumers now say they would choose to shop at a retailer based on whether or not it offered sustainable fashion ranges, with six in 10 (59 percent) of Brits saying they are willing to pay more for sustainable fashion. However, 79 percent find it difficult to know which fashion retailers are ethical. Over two thirds (67 percent) of people believe fashion retailers should inform customers about which items are not made sustainably.

Baram said: “Media coverage has helped to raise consumer awareness regarding how harmful certain shopping habits can be to the environment. Consumers want to see fashion retailers doing more to help them shop more ethically and sustainably. However, with so many conflicting messages regarding what is, and what is not, sustainable, many shoppers are finding it difficult to understand which retailers and brands are truly leading the way.

“It has become more necessary than ever for the fashion industry to work together and push for industry-wide best-practice guidelines when it comes to producing fashion in a way that will have the lowest environmental impact.”

Photo credit: Tirachard Kumtanom, Pexels

Gen Z
secondhand fashion
Sustainable Fashion