Retail

The Future Looks Good for the Second-Hand Clothing Industry

Image Credit: Unsplash

The Gist: Thrift shops and second-hand stores currently appeal to a niche crowd. However, interest is growing from men, middle-income earners, and Generation X.


Thrift shopping, or buying clothing at second-hand stores, has been popping up on our radar lately. With the rise of companies that allow users to sell their gently used clothing in exchange for cash, such as ThredUP and PoshMark, it has become easier than ever to participate in the second-hand clothing craze. So we wanted to find out, who is buying clothes second hand, and why?

As it turns out, thrift shopping has caught the attention of the majority of US adults. Although only 9% say they shop for clothing at thrift stores very frequently, 27% do so somewhat frequently and 16% say they don’t, but they are interested in doing so. All together, that comes out to 52% of US adults with a positive opinion of and participation in the thrift shopping experience.

And lest you think that all of these interested respondents are women, think again.

While women very clearly outweigh men in the ‘very frequently’ category, the percentages of men and women are almost equal in the ‘interested’ category, which is made up of 48% men and 52% women. This breakdown indicates that thrift shops may actually appeal to a more diverse crowd.

While second-hand stores are known for offering a deal–36%, in fact, say they shop second-hand for that reason–the income breakdown may be a little different than you would think.

It’s not necessarily surprising that those who make less than $50,000 a year report shopping at thrift shops very frequently–if budget is a top priority, then this makes sense. But, we should note that interest in starting to shop second hand comes from all income levels.

In fact, in the interested category, the percentage of those who make up to $50k a year (37%) only slightly outweighs the percentage of those who make $50k to $100k a year (34%). In this category, interest is even strong from those who make more than $100k a year, further supporting the notion that the thrift shop has the potential to be a place of equal opportunity.

That said, there are still plenty of divides along generational lines.  

Yes, yes, you probably expected Millennials to be the most avid thrift shoppers. And they are. But, once again, the interested category shows us that there is the potential for a different story, as Generation X pulls slightly ahead of Millennials as being the most interested in getting into the thrift store scene.

So what does all of this mean for the future of thrifting and second-hand shopping sprees? While current avid thrifters are largely female, under $50k per year income earners and Millennials, it’s unlikely that it will stay this way for very long. Although thrift shopping may have started out appealing to a very specific demographic, rising interest from men, mid-range income earners and Gen Xers indicates that the future of thrift shopping may become more mainstream.

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