The different types of second-hand shopper
Some buy used clothes to support sustainability, some for budget, and some for the love of past fashion. Second-hand shoppers are not all the same.
In recent years, the number of second-hand shoppers in fashion has grown significantly. In 2022, the value of the global fashion resale market was estimated at $177 billion. A value that forecasts say will reach $351 billion by 2027.
The growth of the second-hand market is the consequence of several factors, first and foremost the explosion of online e-commerce platforms and apps dedicated to second-hand, also due to the pandemic.
Although the most active consumers in the second-hand market are Gen Z, not all pre-loved fashion shoppers are the same. On the contrary, we can distinguish different categories.
Reasons behind the success of the second-hand market
Before analysing the different types of second-hand shoppers in detail, it is worth dwelling a bit on the reasons that are driving the second-hand fashion market so much.
In our opinion, these reasons are at least 6:
- Affordable Prices: Second-hand fashion often comes at a fraction of the price of new clothing. This makes it an attractive option for individuals on a budget or those looking for designer or high-end items at more affordable prices. Consumers can find quality clothing and accessories at significantly reduced prices, allowing them to save money without compromising on style.
- Unique Style and Individuality: Second-hand fashion allows individuals to cultivate their personal style and stand out from the crowd. Vintage and thrift stores offer a wide range of unique and one-of-a-kind items that cannot be found in mainstream retail stores. Second-hand fashion enables people to express their individuality and create looks that are distinct and original.
Nostalgia and Fashion History: Second-hand fashion provides an opportunity to connect with the past and explore different fashion eras. Vintage enthusiasts appreciate the history and storytelling aspect of clothing. They enjoy wearing pieces with a sense of nostalgia and the ability to evoke a particular time period or cultural movement.
Sustainability: One of the primary reasons for the popularity of second-hand fashion is its positive impact on the environment. By buying second-hand clothing, people extend a garment's lifespan, reducing the demand for new production. This helps to conserve natural resources, reduce pollution from manufacturing processes, and minimise the amount of clothing sent to landfills.
- Ethical Considerations: Some people choose second-hand fashion as a response to ethical concerns about the working conditions and labour practices associated with the fast fashion By supporting second-hand shopping, individuals can distance themselves from supporting exploitative labour and contribute to a more sustainable and ethical fashion ecosystem.
It’s worth noting that these motivations are not mutually exclusive, and many second-hand shoppers may share two or more at the same time.
6 types of second-hand shoppers
When it comes to second-hand shopping, there are several types of shoppers with different preferences and motivations. Here are some common types of second-hand shoppers.
Thrifters are individuals who enjoy the activity of thrift shopping, which involves browsing and purchasing items from thrift stores, consignment shops, flea markets, garage sales, and other second-hand outlets.
They enjoy the thrill of hunting for treasures, they are often motivated by finding unique and affordable items, and they take pride in their ability to uncover hidden gems.
Thrifters embody the ethos of finding value, sustainability, and self-expression through second-hand shopping. Their passion for thrifting goes beyond simply acquiring items and extends to the joy of the shopping experience itself.
Bargain hunters are motivated by finding great deals and saving money. They are driven by the satisfaction of knowing they paid significantly less than the original or market value of an item. They enjoy the thrill of negotiating prices and may even resell their finds for a profit.
Bargain hunters shouldn’t be confused with thrifters. Both categories share some similarities, but there are differences in their motivations and approaches to shopping:
- Thrifters appreciate the uniqueness and variety of items found in thrift stores and enjoy the process of discovering hidden treasures. Their focus is not solely on getting the lowest price but on finding interesting and one-of-a-kind pieces. Bargain hunters, on the other hand, are primarily motivated by seeking out sales, discounts, and clearance sections to find items at significantly reduced prices.
- Another difference is their shopping locations. Thrifters typically enjoy exploring a wide range of second-hand outlets and they often develop a connection with the stores they visit regularly. Bargain hunters are not limited to second-hand stores. They are more likely to explore various types of retail outlets, including clearance sections in department stores, online marketplaces, and discount stores. They may also actively seek out sales events and participate in online auctions or bidding platforms to secure the best deals.
- A great different lies in their approach to pricing. Thrifters may have a general sense of the value of items but are often more focused on the uniqueness and quality of the items they find rather than the price alone. While they appreciate a good deal, they may be willing to pay a bit more for a special piece that catches their eye or aligns with their personal style. Bargain hunters, on the other hand, prioritise finding items at the lowest possible price. They are skilled in identifying discounts, negotiating prices, and utilising various money-saving strategies.
- Finally, thrifters tend to visit second-hand stores regularly, while bargain hunters may shop more sporadically and strategically based on seasonal sales, promotions, or specific needs.
Vintage enthusiasts are second-hand shoppers who have a passion for seeking, collecting, and wearing clothing, accessories, and other items from past eras. They are drawn to the nostalgia and historical significance associated with vintage items and they appreciate the stories and cultural context behind each piece.
Many of them are avid collectors who focus on specific eras, designers, or types of items, such as dresses, handbags, or jewellery. Building a collection allows them to appreciate the diversity and evolution of fashion throughout history.
Moreover, vintage items are often cherished for their quality construction, attention to detail, and superior craftsmanship. Vintage enthusiasts appreciate the durability and longevity of these items compared to fast fashion pieces. They value the time and effort that went into creating vintage garments and often find them to be more well-made than contemporary clothing. As a consequence, they often take pride in preserving and caring for their vintage items. They may invest time and effort in restoration or maintenance to ensure that their treasures stay in excellent condition.
They usually visit vintage boutiques, online platforms, or specialised events to find their desired items.
Vintage enthusiasts are among the second-hand shoppers who fuelled the return of 80s fashion.
Collectors may look similar to vintage enthusiasts as they focus on specific items, designers or era too. However, they are not exclusive second-hand shoppers and they may also purchase brand new items. For example, a bag collector might have both vintage and contemporary pieces, while a vintage enthusiast might only have bags from a certain era.
Another difference between the two second-hand shoppers is the level of expertise.
Collectors often develop extensive knowledge within their chosen field of collecting. They study, research, and network with others who share their interest to deepen their understanding of the items they collect. They may have in-depth knowledge about the history, provenance, and details of their collection.
Vintage enthusiasts tend to have a more general knowledge and appreciation for vintage items. While they may be knowledgeable about specific eras or styles that align with their personal taste, their focus is more on enjoying and incorporating vintage items into their lifestyle rather than pursuing a specialised expertise.
Fashion-forward individuals who love staying on top of the latest trends but prefer sustainable and affordable options may be categorised as this type of second-hand shoppers.
They carefully curate their wardrobes by sourcing pre-owned designer clothing, accessories, and high-quality brands from consignment stores or online platforms.
They mostly buy contemporary garments and have no particular interest in vintage, although they may happen to buy a few vintage pieces.
DIY enthusiasts take the need to have a unique style to the extreme.
They see potential in second-hand clothes that others might overlook and they enjoy transforming them into unique creations through creative projects.
They often frequent thrift stores, flea markets, or online reselling platforms for materials and inspiration. They appreciate the potential and versatility of second-hand items and find joy in giving them new life.
DIY enthusiasts are great in upcycling and repurposing old items. They take pre-owned items and elevate them by modifying their design, structure, or embellishments. For example, they might transform a large dress into a stylish top, add patches or embroidery to jeans, or turn a scarf into a headband.
By combining their DIY skills with thrifted items, they can achieve unique and personalised looks without breaking the bank. Second-hand clothing provides a cost-effective foundation for their creative projects, allowing them to experiment and explore different techniques and designs.
Indeed, DIY enthusiasts are constantly learning and developing their skills. They seek out tutorials, guides, and online resources to enhance their knowledge of sewing, crafting, and garment alterations. They may also engage with online communities or local workshops to connect with other DIY enthusiasts, share ideas, and learn new techniques.
By investing their time, effort, and creativity into a piece, they develop a sense of attachment and pride in the final result. Each DIY project becomes a personal accomplishment and a reflection of their own craftsmanship.
Ecologically conscious shoppers
These second-hand shoppers prioritise sustainability and reducing their environmental impact. They opt for second-hand shopping as a way to minimise waste by giving pre-owned items a new chance.
They may focus not only on clothing, but also furniture, electronics, or any other items they can find second-hand.
Eco-conscious shoppers also take ethical considerations into account. They actively choose to avoid supporting brands that engage in exploitative labor practices or have a negative social impact. By shopping second-hand, they can distance themselves from supporting companies that do not align with their values and contribute to a more ethical fashion industry.
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