In an average month, Ashley Peek earns about $11,000 selling vintage and secondhand luxury items from her Poshmark closet. But this month, she’s on track to earn as much as $20,000, with customers scooping up unique holiday gifts.
The stigma of giving a vintage or reused item, she said, appears to be disappearing.
“Secondhand really is becoming so much more of an acceptable way to provide gifts and such, especially with the Gen Z market,” Peek said. “They’re really into sustainability, and being really economically and financially savvy. So buying secondhand accomplishes all those things.”
Sales data and retail experts report signs of increased demand for secondhand items this holiday season as value-minded shoppers seek deals. Poshmark saw nearly 30% growth in the number of vintage items sold over Thanksgiving weekend compared to last year. Toy sales were 50% higher than last year.
This popularity translates into a big opportunity for sellers like Peek on retail marketplaces. Meanwhile, other individual sellers say they’re considering putting out sales or new bundle offers.
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On the business side, marketplaces like ThredUp and Vestiaire Collective are launching special limited collections of upcycled or vintage items. ThredUp anticipates its fourth quarter revenue will hit between $62 and $64 million. And while that’s less than the record-high $72.9 million of last year, the company is banking on a budget-minded consumer boosting a quarter that’s traditionally slow for thrift.
“As customers’ wallets are feeling pinched and they think about gifts around the holiday, we think they’re focused more than ever on the used (market) at a time like this,” CEO James Reinhart said during the third-quarter earnings call.
For her part, Peek plans to keep her Poshmark shop stocked with high-quality luxury items. She’ll be heading to the post office with shipments every other day and answering questions from customers. And she estimates that about half of her own gift-giving this year will be secondhand items, including baby clothes and athleisure.
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“If I can buy it secondhand, I 1,000% will,” Peek said. “It just depends on what people are looking for.”
New sales approaches
Part of what’s driving the demand is an appetite to be more conscious of waste and the environment. ThredUp found in its annual holiday survey that nearly three-quarters of millennials want to give more eco-friendly gifts this season.
But there’s also a strong economic component, brought on by the inflationary pressures of the year and rising costs of living. About a third of shoppers, or 31% plan to spend at least a little bit less on the holidays than they did last year, according to Modern Retail research. And 56% say they’re worried about increased prices.
“Record high inflation has consumers looking for value more than ever before,” ThredUp’s vp of integrated marketing Erin Wallace told Modern Retail. “That’s something resale does really well.”
In response to the demand for affordable and sustainable gifts, ThredUp launched its first-ever holiday up cycled collection this year. Full Circle, crafted in partnership with Brooklyn-based designer Zero Waste Daniel, features one-of-a-kind apparel, accessory and home decor items. ThredUp launched the collection on Nov. 15 with its own landing page, and has alerted its customers with text and email marketing.
The items were crafted out of 2,000 pounds of textiles out of unsellable inventory. Prices started at $10 for scrunchie sets and went up to $600 for custom coats, aiming to cover the range of inexpensive gifts to premium, one-of-a-kind items.
“We wanted to come in and give somebody something that was truly giftable, sustainable and unique,” Wallace said.
The collection’s bucket hats sold out within a day, with coasters, napkins and and other giftable home items also selling out quickly, Wallace said. The launch was accompanied by a marketing campaign featuring Fran Drescher, with 20% of proceeds going to her Cancer Schmancer Foundation.
In addition to the Full Circle collection, Wallace said ThredUp sees increases in purchases of items like vintage handbags and accessories from its marketplace. There’s also a spike in gift cards being sold by people who’ve never shopped ThredUp before, indicating that its a wish list item someone is purchasing.
“We do see the trend of consumers overall, just increasing year over year around their interest in shopping secondhand, and giving and receiving secondhand gifts,” Wallace said.
Online resale marketplace Vestiaire Collective kicked off the holiday season on Black Friday with an announcement it was banning fast-fashion items like Shein, ASOS and Fashion Nova from its marketplace by 2023.
To lean into the luxury side, its homepage prominently features “Gifts for Him,” “Gifts for Her,” and seasonal trends like jewelry, party dresses, and winter accessories. And it launched a partnership with designer Paco Rabanne to sell an assortment of its 1969 handbags, known for their sparkling reflective materials.
The company wouldn’t share this year’s sales data but said the holiday season tends to get a bit busier each year. “In recent years, we’ve definitely seen an increase in consumers interested in buying better, being conscious, and looking for sustainable solutions during the period of the year that is well known for abundant shopping,” a Vestiaire representative told Modern Retail via email.
The secondhand market isn’t just limited to apparel. Chris Richter, CEO of FloorFound, a furniture resale e-commerce platform, says the company has seen a boom in fourth quarter sales — especially with an uptick in sales of reused items like coffee tables and fitness equipment. Holiday sales are advertised at up to 80% off, with splurge items like massage chairs advertised as luxe gifts.
“The reality is, if you look at this macro environment and the way things are setting themselves up for this holiday season, a very spend-minded consumer is trying to do the right thing and looking for good deals at the same time,” he said.
Fashion stylist Jacob Shinall started selling vintage clothes in his Depop shop “Jake Ryan Finds” midway through 2020, when styling jobs were hard to come by due to the pandemic. He specializes in finding secondhand menswear items from the 1960s through Y2K, with a nod toward gender-neutral items.
He has seen a boom in his fourth-quarter sales as well, selling about 20 more items per month than what he averaged earlier in the year. He ran a 30% off sale for Black Friday, and bumped it up to 50% for Cyber Monday, and also paid to boost his listings. The deals yielded 80 orders in one weekend — and he attributes the success to learning from his experience the prior year.
“I knew there were going to be lots of people asking for discounts and sales, so I just tried to gauge my shop accordingly,” he said.
He said customers are also messaging him about bundling items to get extra discounts – and notes that not everyone is shopping for gifts.
“We’re definitely seeing a ‘Buy one for you, I’m gonna buy two for myself’ kind of vibe,” Shinall said.
Taylor Massey, a Depop seller who specializes in selling vintage goods from her shop “Honeycomb Hideout,” said the holidays “are often the best time of year for reselling.” She plans on putting out more discounts than usual, aiming to lure holiday shoppers as well cycle through old stock. She’s seeing some categories boom bigger than last year, including leather jackets and vintage tees, that are driving a bump in overall sales.
Beyond selling, Massey is also a fan of receiving vintage and secondhand gifts, citing the environmental importance of reuse and the singular quality of resold items.
“One year, my best friend gave me the most unique gift bag I’ve ever received,” Massey told Modern Retail via email. “It has a collectible copy of ‘Seventh Heaven’ by Patti Smith, a framed Twin Peaks laserdisc, and old used copies of John Waters’ books that I did not have in my collection. Still my favorite gift to this day.”