Inside FutureX / October 22, 2020

Reduce Reuse Recycle

Have you been keeping an eye on perhaps the most important recent trend in the fashion industry? No silly, we don’t mean male crop tops or the return of Crocs (2020, your cruelty knows no bounds) – we’re talking about the seemingly unstoppable rise of the resale market. 

Yes, we’re talking second-hand clothes. At first glance, it might not sound like the juiciest of subjects – perhaps conjuring flashbacks of tattered hand-me-downs from your siblings – and of course, reselling clothes is nothing new – we’ve probably all used charity shops or eBay at some point in our lives. 

However, something pretty huge has been happening, with the resale market growing exponentially over the last few years, at a rate around 20 times faster than retail. Not only that, it has maintained this trajectory in a period where many industries (including fashion in general) are stagnating or worse.

The trend has been accompanied – and accelerated – by a number of companies that have successfully tapped into this market and made it easier than ever to buy and sell used items, most notably Depop, which now has over 20 million users across 147 countries (more on them later!). 

The vast majority of these users are aged 18 – 25, and one of the key drivers behind the growth in reselling is a change in the shopping habits of young people – for reasons noble (sustainability), practical (value for money), and… well, superficial (need fresh threads for Instagram).

It’s interesting to see that established players across the business world are taking note. This month, IKEA announced plans to start buying back its unwanted furniture from customers to resell as part of their efforts to become more environmentally friendly, and John Lewis and Selfridges have also made similar moves in order to improve sustainability and gain customers. 

Reselling can also be seen as part of an even broader trend, moving away from buying things brand new or outright, towards reusing, renting or sharing (examples include little known success stories such as Netflix, Spotify and Airbnb).  

So what does this mean and why does it matter? 

Well, as consumers, it shows that our behaviour really can drive positive change. For entrepreneurs and business in general, it shows the importance of building organisations that can adapt to the needs of the modern consumer. You might not be trying to disrupt an entire industry like Depop, but an awareness of what the next generation wants – sustainability, convenience, value for money – could prove crucial to your success in the post-pandemic future.

Paul McMillan FutureX

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Paul McMillan

Head of Operations