The Resurgence of Secondhand Apparel: Revolutionizing the Fashion Industry

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Allure of Secondhand Apparel
  3. Growth Drivers in the Secondhand Market
  4. The Economic Viability of Resale
  5. Conclusion
  6. FAQ


Did you know that the secondhand apparel market witnessed an extraordinary growth spurt in 2023, outpacing the new clothing retail sector by a staggering 15 times? This phenomenal trend indicates a significant shift in consumer behavior and the broader fashion landscape. In recent years, the concept of purchasing pre-owned clothing online transformed from a fringe activity to a mainstream shopping habit, embraced by consumers across all age groups. This embrace is evident from the global sales of secondhand apparel soaring to $197 billion in 2023, a robust increase of 18% from the previous year. With ThredUp's annual Resale Report projecting the secondhand market to reach $350 billion by 2028, it becomes imperative to delve into the driving forces behind this boom and its implications for the fashion industry at large. This blog post aims to unpack the fascinating growth of the secondhand apparel market, examining its appeal across generations, the technological advances propelling its rise, and the evolving role of circularity in fashion retail. Join us on this exploration to understand why and how resale has become a cornerstone of the modern consumer's wardrobe.

The Allure of Secondhand Apparel

Getting More Consumers to Think 'Secondhand First'

The remarkable surge in secondhand clothing sales can be attributed to a growing consumer awareness and acceptance. While a dedicated segment of shoppers has long embraced resale for the bulk of their wardrobe needs, a broader shift in perception is under way. The potential for expansion lies not just with the passionate thrifters but also with casual shoppers who, when introduced to the benefits of secondhand shopping, often incorporate it into their purchasing habits. This transition is supported by a diverse appeal across generational lines, with younger consumers seeking unique self-expression, families looking for cost-effective solutions, and older generations hunting for affordable luxury.

Advancements in Shopping Technology

Technology plays a pivotal role in bridging the gap between potential consumers and the secondhand market. Innovations such as AI-powered search functions have significantly enhanced the customer experience, making it easier to sift through millions of unique items online. This technological evolution, paired with a growing preference for online shopping over in-store experiences, particularly among younger generations, is set to further fuel the sector's growth.

Growth Drivers in the Secondhand Market

Increasing Closet Share

An interesting trend observed in the secondhand market is the accelerating 'share of closet' it commands. The concept refers to the proportion of pre-owned items in consumers' wardrobes. With the convenience of online platforms, people are not only buying more resale items but also partaking in a faster cycle of buying and selling, thereby embedding secondhand goods more deeply into their fashion consumption patterns.

Codifying Circularity

The concept of circularity, emphasizing the reuse and recycling of clothing, has gained momentum, bolstered by recent legislative efforts in the United States and France. Such initiatives highlight a growing recognition of resale's role in promoting sustainable fashion practices. The push towards circularity is not just an environmental imperative but is increasingly seen as a bipartisan economic opportunity, with the potential to protect jobs and encourage sustainable business practices.

The Economic Viability of Resale

Proving that Resale Can Be Profitable

Despite the widespread enthusiasm for secondhand fashion, the pressure is on for platforms like ThredUp to demonstrate that resale can be not just popular but also profitable. Achieving this milestone involves honing in on unit economics, leveraging AI to streamline operations, and exploring innovative solutions such as resale-as-a-service (RaaS) to drive revenue. The success of these strategies is critical for sustaining the momentum of the resale movement and proving its long-term viability in the competitive retail landscape.


The explosive growth of the secondhand apparel market in 2023 is more than just a fleeting trend—it signals a transformative shift in the way we perceive and engage with fashion. From deep-rooted changes in consumer behavior to technological advancements and a renewed focus on sustainability, various factors contribute to the resilience and appeal of the resale sector. As we look towards a future where secondhand garments occupy an even more significant portion of our wardrobes, it's clear that resale is not merely thriving but also reshaping the fashion industry's very foundation. Whether driven by economic considerations, environmental concerns, or the quest for individuality, the allure of secondhand fashion is undeniable. As consumers, brands, and lawmakers alike rally around the principles of circularity and sustainability, the secondhand market is poised for even greater success, promising a more inclusive, eco-friendly, and dynamic fashion ecosystem.


What drives the growth of the secondhand apparel market?

The secondhand apparel market's growth is propelled by factors such as increasing consumer acceptance, technological advancements in online shopping, a wider understanding of sustainable fashion, and legislative support promoting circularity.

Can resale be financially profitable for companies?

Yes, resale can be financially profitable. Companies like ThredUp are focusing on improving unit economics, leveraging AI, and expanding into resale-as-a-service to prove the economic viability of the secondhand market.

How does circularity impact the fashion industry?

Circularity, emphasizing the reuse and recycling of clothing, aims to reduce waste and promote sustainability within the fashion industry. It encourages shifts in production, consumption, and recycling practices toward more sustainable models.

What role does technology play in the resale market?

Technology enhances the resale market by improving customer experiences through AI-powered search functions, authentication programs, and other tools that make buying and selling secondhand goods online more accessible and appealing.