The Resale Market: Retail’s 'Realest' Revolution

Recycle, renew, repair, resell: Retail's newest revolution promises real, concrete efforts towards sustainability and a circular fashion economy. And the timing is perfect.

Nikole Wintermeier | Sep 24, 2021


Recycle, renew, repair, resell: Retail's newest revolution promises real, concrete efforts towards sustainability and a circular fashion economy. And the timing is perfect.

Every year, we discard more than 134 million tonnes of textiles. In 2017 alone, Burberry destroyed $3.8million worth of their clothing. While it’s not uncommon for luxury brands to burn excess products, no one knows for sure how much retail revenue goes up in flames.  

The luxury market isn’t the only sector paying the price. Nike reportedly throws away unworn shoes, and H&M stands accused of burning 12 tonnes of unsold garments per year.

In an era where consumers expect transparency and desire sustainability, people were quick to boycott Burberry and hold H&M accountable. With so many options on the market, brands that don’t follow through with their ‘green’ pledges fall quickly behind. 

To respect real sustainability efforts (and stop burning clothes), brands look to the resale market. Expected to grow 11x more than the broader retail clothing sector by 2025, resale expects 118.8 million future sellers (according to a report by ThredUp). 

It’s retail’s biggest revolution for a number of reasons, reinforcing trends like luxury resale, financial frugality post-pandemic, and technological innovation. But the most crucial reason shoppers and brands subscribe to resale is to empower their sustainable roadmaps.


Reselling closes the loop 


Footprint of Used vs New clothing chart

ThredUp: Resale vs. new sale


73% of GenZ consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products. They are committed to a brand’s values (from diversity and inclusion to going green), and skeptical about those who don’t have authentic sustainability goals, e.g., ‘green washing’.

The resale market promises to ‘close the loop’, engaging new models of production and consumption to reuse, recycle, and refurbish fashion items. 

And not just fashion. In Charish’s Resale Report, resold furniture is projected to grow by a whopping 54%. 44% of Millennials have already resold furniture online. Protecting the environment is on everyone’s agenda (80% of discarded home furnishings end up in landfills). 

In parallel, the post-pandemic consumer wants to be more thrifty than ever before (‘thrifting’ has actually become a new pandemic habit, with 33 million consumers buying secondhand for the first time in 2020). 

Buying used closing is expected to reduce our carbon footprint by 82% – which is a top priority for GenZ and Millennial shoppers. Although GenZ and Millennials make up most of the online shopping space, consumers who are more skeptical of buying secondhand seem open to trying it. ThredUp shows that 76% of people who have never resold clothing would give it a go.

This is reflected by the growth of resale platforms like Deepop. To follow suit, bigger, legacy brands are starting to form partnerships with resale marketplaces. Lululemon, Patagonia, and COS have all launched their own pre-owned resale platforms

The timing couldn’t be more perfect; with the growing aversion towards fast fashion and new eCommerce innovations that make buying and selling used clothing easy, the resale marketplace is booming across all product categories. 


What about luxury resale?

resale marketLuxury resale network


In 2017, Stella McCartney partnered with The Real Real, setting the precedent for luxury disruption. As one of the leaders of the resale market, The Real Real’s mission is to, “encourage all consumers to support the circular economy and [reduce] fashion’s carbon footprint” (CEO of The Real Real Julie Wainwright talking to Elle). 

In 2020, The Real Real partnered with Gucci. Vestiare Collective, another leader in the resale marketplace, recently hitting $1.7billion valuation, partnered with Alexander McQueen in February 2021. They also joined forces with leading eCommerce luxury platform Mytheresa in June. 

Luxury consumers have always loved buying vintage clothing, so the move towards resale seems not only predicted but strategic. 69% of luxury shoppers in the U.S. already buy pre-owned luxury, where handbags, apparel, and small leather goods are the most popular categories, according to Vogue Business.

Luxury products have a long history of counterfeit. Duplications saturate the market. With such rich legacies and recyclable products that are still high in demand, resale is becoming key for luxury brands to repair past errors while at the same time building a more sustainable future;  both financially and environmentally.  


Resale is restoring and renewing the fashion world – and it’s here to stay 


resale market fashion



Retail needs revolution – and resale will keep the players in the race. The pandemic has shifted people’s buying behavior. Protecting the environment has never been more top-of-mind. But 88% of consumers don’t trust brands that simply say they’re sustainable. More concrete efforts need to be displayed to build trust, relevancy, and bring back customers. 

Recycling, restoring, and reselling products is already seen as a legitimate move to appeal to younger consumers, adopt disruption and new technologies, while at the same time cultivating the push towards circular fashion

But brands have a long way to go. Overall, secondhand products make up less than 1% of the total apparel volume sold by retailers who launched resale shops in 2020. 

What’s clear is that luxury is making headway as we’ve seen through the successful partnerships with The Real Real or ThredUp. Luxury brands have the privilege of foresight and maturity to know that there is a huge opportunity in the resale market.

Competitive brands that aim to grow and appeal to modern-day consumers are quickly catching on – it’s out with the old, in with the old. 


Crobox's Retail Unboxed series covers current and upcoming trends in the market, to help brands keep their finger on the pulse of the fashion industry. 


state of luxury cta