Gone are the days where rummaging through the local thrift shop is the only way to find used clothing – unless you want to, that is. In fact, CivicScience data from a survey of 2,100 people show that just under half of the population has some level of interest or experience in shopping directly at thrift and second-hand stores. 

However, companies like Poshmark, ThredUp, and others have emerged, and they do the curating for you. You just browse, list, and buy used apparel from your computer or smartphone.

There’s a big demand for used clothing at large. In 2018, the global market value of apparel resale was estimated to be worth $24B U.S. dollars. The study looks at that first.

Thirty-Eight Percent of U.S. Adults Buy or Want to Buy Used Clothing 

A study from CivicScience found that interest in shopping for used clothing is strong. Thirty-two percent of the general population buys used clothing and likes it. 

Looking at life stage, used clothing buyers skew younger, to be sure, but a large portion of people up to age 54 are into the idea of used clothing and accessories.

There is a clear distinction when it comes to gender: women are far and away more interested in the used clothing market than men are.

This broad demand for used clothing explains why companies like Poshmark and women-specific ThredUp are taking off.

Used Duds Are all Over the Internet 

We’ll start with Poshmark, which offers men’s, women’s, and kids used clothing. Members join the site to buy and sell used clothing, shoes, and accessories.

An even half of the general population is aware of Poshmark. That’s pretty huge.
Five percent of people 13+ have used the site, and another 8% are interested or plan to use it. ThredUp, which is geared towards women (and also has kid’s clothing), sees similar adoption (shown just among women) but has slightly less awareness.

Awareness of ThredUp among women is strongest in Millennial and Gen X age segments. They will need to work on their awareness among Gen Z women who are even slightly more unaware of the brand than those over 55. Poshmark is the opposite. Awareness, adoption, and intent are high among Gen Z at large (male or female). Awareness is highest among Gen X, but they’re most likely to be uninterested.

Shopping second-hand is seen in many circles as the more sustainable option for clothing consumption, given that more than 15 million tons of used textile waste is generated each year in the United States, an amount that has doubled over the last 20 years. 

But among people who shop these sites, price is the driving factor (50% of respondents who buy used clothing online chose this) compared to 17% saying sustainability was the driver. Given what we know about the younger age segments, price makes sense, but isn’t the whole story, for certain. Seventeen percent is still high in terms of the sustainability factor. 

The Social Good Message

Overall, a company’s ‘social consciousness and kindness’ is at least somewhat important to 76% of the general population. 

Cross-tabulating this with Poshmark and ThredUp adoption, we see that Poshmark users place slightly more importance on the matter than ThredUp users do. However, 89% of ThredUp intenders place importance on this compared to 81% of Poshmark intenders. The message is clear: These companies (and others who peddle used clothing) should keep running with the social good aspect of used clothing in marketing messaging.

Getting more specific and crossing adoption of these used clothing marketplaces with climate change and environmental concern, current Poshmark users are more likely to hold concern for these issues than current ThredUp users do. However, nearly all of the intenders of both marketplaces are concerned about these issues right now, proving out what we saw above. 

It’s clear that low prices, social, and environmental good are important to people who shop on used clothing marketplaces, and it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere any time soon. How used clothing marketplaces weave in the virtue of shopping with them into their marketing story will go a long way.