Second-Hand Shopping

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Millennial Second-Hand Shopping

Millennials (25 to 37 years) account for 33% of all secondhand shoppers and this generation thrifts the most among all other generations. It was found that people age 18 to 37 years are adopting the trend of secondhand apparels 2.5 times faster than any other age group. The reasons why millennials shop at second-hand and thrift stores include budget constraints, the ability to bargain, eco-consciousness, hunger for thrift items, need for uniqueness, and that millennial generation is most fashionably wasteful. The secondhand or resale industry in the US is booming and was expected to reach $41 billion by 2022.


1. Budget Constraints:

  • Millennials always have a budget on their minds and they have been "primed to have secondhand shopping as a preference."
  • According to a survey by YPulse, November 2019, 57% of consumers age 13 to 37 years said that they “never pay full price for clothing.”
  • Secondhand shopping has been a "big part of shopping behavior" of young consumers including Gen Z and millennials have come up as a "threat to the retail industry."
  • The survey concluded that the secondhand shopping behavior of Generation Z and millennials is not only "changing luxury retail," but has a "far bigger impact."
  • ThreadUp reported that due to budget constraints, 66% of thrifters used to "buy better brands they would otherwise never pay full price for" and that "13% of shoppers are actually millionaires."

2. Quality deals, the ability to haggle, and “the thrill of the hunt”:

  • Although online apps for secondhand shopping are not yet included in the top ranking, or the top five apps for any single age group, young consumers including millennials found Goodwill/thrift stores as their "favorite place to buy clothing."
  • The availability of online apps for secondhand shopping such as Depop, ThredUp, and Poshmark has made "shopping more affordable secondhand items more accessible than ever."
  • These apps are preferred primarily by females and for the "quality deals, the ability to haggle", and “the thrill of the hunt” are the "major reasons" they love shopping for secondhand items on the platforms.
  • YPulse's survey found that 25% of females ages 13 to 37-years and 29% of females ages 18 to 24-years have "bought clothing from a resale site/app—far more than those who say they have rented clothing."
  • Now, the popularity of apps for resale or secondhand shopping among young consumers including millennials is "potentially hurting major retailers."

3. Eco-consciousness and sustainability:

  • Apart from the budget the most important reason why millennials shop at second-hand and thrift stores is their eco-consciousness.
  • According to the ThreadUp report, 77% of millennials prefer buying from environmentally-conscious brands. As compared to other generations, millennials are "more likely to switch to thrifting for an environmental reason."
  • Young shoppers including millennials "increasingly asking brands (and politicians) to take action on issues like climate change."
  • Therefore, some apps like ThredUp are taking the benefit of an "earth-friendly shopping option." They have filled up their website and social media with messages around circular shopping helping the planet."
  • ThreadUp is encouraging young secondhand shoppers including Gen Z and millennials to "be proud of their secondhand clothing, and that “Wearing secondhand is a vote for the planet.”
  • The brand, ThreadUp hopes that "bragging about buying and wearing secondhand items will be the future," and so, they are spreading the message.
  • The CGS study found that for 70% of millennial and Gen Z consumers, sustainability is an important factor while making buying decisions. Some of these consumers choose a brand that is eco-friendly while many other choose to shop for a second hand or resale item.
  • Most importantly, secondhand buying has a positive impact on the environment as it was found that the "life of an item extends by 2.2 years if sold secondhand, which reduces the carbon footprint by 73%."

4. Hunger for thrift items:

  • The study revealed that the expected US market size for the resale market will reach $41 billion by 2022 and the boom in secondhand shopping cause changes in the fashion and retail industry.
  • It was found that in 2014, smart brands had started "incorporating resale into their sites" as an experiment mainly to earn profit from "hunger for thrift items" among younger (Gen Z and millennial) generations.
  • According to a report by ThreadUp, 2018, "millennials thrift more than any other generation."
  • However, as more and more brands work towards tapping into the resales market trend to attract back the Gen Z and millennial shoppers; they are losing!
  • Big brands have adopted various strategies to tap the millennial demographics mainly by partnering with "secondhand shopping startups."
  • The YPulse survey revealed that secondhand shopping has been adopted by Gen Z and millennials “2.5 times faster than other generations.” They expect this trend to be continued as they "start buying clothing for their own children."
  • The study concluded that secondhand shopping is not merely a passing fad, but "a major shift in retail" that young consumers including millennials are driving.

5. Most fashionably wasteful generation:

  • According to the ThreadUp report, millennials are the "most fashionably wasteful generation." They are also known as the "most impulsive shoppers." But thrifting has provided a way to the millennial generation to give a second life to their unwanted clothing.
  • People aged between 18 and 34, on average, "only wear an item one to five times before discarding it."
  • The report found that "millennials thrift more than any other generation;" however, they are also the "most wasteful when it comes to fashion."
  • Secondhand shopping has provided a way to the millennial generation of impulse buyers "to offset the habit, and it could just change the world."

6. Need for uniqueness and sustainable fashion:

  • Millennials and Generation Z consumers enjoy fashion and are interested in "expressing their personality through the use of fashion."
  • Therefore, most of the clothes that millennials purchase from secondhand or thrift stores allow them to express the "uniqueness of their style" and also "maintain a sustainable impact. "
  • The increased "need for uniqueness combined with wanting sustainable fashion" has led millennials to get attracted towards second-hand fashion.
  • 57% of millennials said that "they would purchase upcycled products."
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Student Second-Hand Shopping

Second-hand shoppers attending high-school or college in the United States claim to do so because of the low-cost of items, the ability to seek out new trends, to find unique clothing from different eras, the experience and atmosphere that comes along with thrift shopping, and ethical, as well as environmental, factors.

Second-Hand Student Shopper Statistics

  • A small-scale survey showed that thrift store shoppers tend to be better educated than the overall population, as 80% have some college experience.
  • A study analyzing the psychographic variables of second-hand shoppers in college showed that college students were more likely to be environmentally friendly, looking for lower priced items, likely to wear something more unique in style such as vintage clothing, and are attempting to be more ethically conscious.
  • According to an Instagram poll asking teens why they second-hand shop, 20% said they shopped at thrift stores because it was cheap, 12% because of unique items, and 68% voted for both cheap and unique.
  • Thrift stores are popular among those born between 1981 and 2010, many of which make up most of the United States average student body.

To Save Money

  • A Loyola University sophomore claims that low prices are what drove her to shop second-hand as well as the unique styles.
  • A professor of economics at Stockton University claims that Millennials are the first generation whose income is projected to be lower than their parents and grandparents and have a higher level of debt than previous generations, which increases their need to find cheaper options when retail shopping.
  • Mathew Shay, the CEO and National Retail Federation President, says that on top of the increasing fees of college students are looking to spend less money on clothes.


  • One student claims that outfits she has gotten from thrift stores turn out to be ones that she receives the most compliments on.
  • A Marquette High School sophomore student says she shops at thrift stores because of the individuality and personality that is shown through some styles found.
  • A PSUC senior claims that he shops at thrift stores because of the ability to find fashions from different eras.


  • According to a study, thrift stores can create a unique and captivating atmosphere where customers often experience feelings like nostalgia.
  • A third-year student at the University of North Carolina Wilmington likes to shop at thrift stores because of her mom taking her second-hand shopping when she was younger, which later became a tradition of theirs.
  • Thrift store owner Vivian Kim takes pride in her store creating a certain type of aesthetic, nostalgia, or any special feeling for her customers, the majority being high school and college students.


  • The University of North Carolina has a student-run second-hand retail shop that boasts an encouragement of socially responsible consumerism as well as financial relief.
  • A student at DePaul University shops second-hand because of the environmental factors involved when buying re-used clothes.
  • A 19-year-old employee at The Green Element says the concept of green economics is important when it comes to her shopping; she dd sustainability over convenience.

Shopping Experience

  • A frequent student thrift store shopper believes that you receive a unique variety of items that aren't available at other name-brand department stores.
  • Owner of Belmont Army Vintage claims that her high school and college customers shop second-hand because of a party theme item they are looking to purchase.
  • A sophomore English major at PSUC enjoys the experience of second-hand shopping because of the excitement of the wide variety of items that could be available.

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Single Parent Second-Hand Shopping

The United States holds the majority of single-parent family setups, mainly because of the increased rate of divorce and births outside marriage. About a quarter of children aged below 18 in the United States live with one parent. Since 1968, the number of children in the United States living with an unmarried parent has skyrocketed from 13% to 32% in 2017. As a result, the single-parent households have increased by 20%. Most single parents are shouldered with responsibilities like taking care of children, paying bills, and paying insurance. In fact, most single parents shop second-hand because of smart financial planning, being ethical, better online presence, the increased desire of value for money, and the increased variety.

Smart Financial Planning

  • Single parents practice smart financial planning to manage their limited earnings.
  • It is challenging for most single parents to meet the financial needs of their children and their own, as there is no second person to fall back on. By shopping second hand, parents can choose items that suit their styles. By doing so, they can save money that can be used to meet other essential needs like insurance.
  • Shopping used items allows a parent to save up to 70%. For example, one can save up to $15 by buying a pair of jeans at the Salvation Army thrift shop instead of Walmart.

Ethical Shopping

  • Single parents are focused on being ethical consumers and are often governed by the mantra reduce, reuse, and recycle."
  • According to Savers, reusing and recycling saves 700 million pounds of usable items from landfills annually.

Online Revolution

  • With the immense growth in technology, especially the internet, single parents can now buy and sell preowned goods over the internet. Besides, the second-hand product market has been revolutionized by social media that has, in turn, created more awareness to all.
  • Most single parents use the internet to sell their used clothes and buy others to make money. By selling on online merchants like eBay, a single parent can make a living from it like Mike Langer.

Increased Desire of Value for Money

  • By shopping second hand, single parents can buy in bulk.
  • Single parents buy their clothes second-hand because they can buy more for less due to high discounts that often exceed 50% of the retail price. One can purchase a $400 leather jacket at a maximum amount of $200.
  • An example is a North Carolina woman thrift shopper who spent $9.99 on an abstract painting valued at $15,000-$20,000.
  • Another reason why single parents buy second hand is that they can negotiate. After negotiation, a discount of up to 70% of the retail price can be achieved.
  • The second hand industry is among the top three growing sectors in the United States as present consumers look for value and variety.

Search for Variety and Better Quality Products

  • Some products stocked at thrift stores are donations. This gives consumers, including single parents who are looking for variety of products, better shopping experiences.
  • Another reason why single parents buy second hand items is that they perceive them as better quality than new ones despite being inexpensive.

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Families with Children Second-Hand Shopping

After an exhaustive search, we were unable to find statistics-supported insights into why families with children shop second-hand. However, some reasons to go second-hand shopping enumerated by family-with-children blog sites were less expense, less environmental impact, less hassle, less guilt, and less clutter.

Less Expense

  • Perhaps the most common and top reason why families with children shop second-hand is that they save money buying used items than new ones, as suggested by some family-with-children blog sites.

Less Environmental Impact

  • Also, one of the most common reasons why families with children shop second-hand is because they feel they are helping the environment by reducing carbon footprint related to the production of new clothes.

Less Hassle

  • Families with children feel less hassle shopping in thrift shops because they can fit the used clothing inside the shop, compared to new apparel, where they will have to take a trip to return if it did not fit them.
  • In shopping for furniture, families with children also feel less hassle buying a used one because it is already assembled.
  • With online consignment stores, families with children can still shop second-hand items without leaving the house or searching through thrift stores

Less Guilt

  • Families with children feel less guilt when getting rid of a second-hand item because they did not pay for it as much as a new one.
  • Specifically, when children break a second-hand toy, parents are less likely to get upset, compared to breaking a new toy.

Less Clutter

Other Helpful Findings

  • Families with children share 22.7% in the total consumer units in the 2018 consumer expenditure survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
  • More than half (56%) of U.S. consumers buy used or second-hand items, as reported in Euromonitor International’s Lifestyle Survey (2019).
    • Estimating the share of families with children that buy second-hand items on all consumers in the US results in 12.71%, based on the triangulation of data from the BLS consumer expenditure survey and Euromonitor International's Lifestyle Survey.
  • According to an Accenture survey, 48% of the respondents were "willing to give second-hand apparel as gifts" and 56% of the respondents would "welcome such gifts for themselves."
  • Sales from used merchandise stores in the U.S. were at $18 billion in 2017, increasing every year since 2009, compared to department stores' decreasing sales, according to the Census Bureau’s Annual Retail Trade Survey latest update (2019).

Research Strategy

To provide statistics-supported insights into why families with children shop second-hand, our strategy was to look for survey and other statistical reports. We searched government websites like the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, but none of the surveys talked about the reasons why U.S. consumers purchase from used merchandise stores. Instead, only the numbers and amounts of sales were presented. We also checked surveys from the industry, such as Euromonitor International’s Lifestyle Survey and Accenture Annual Holiday Local Shopping Survey, but there was no data segment for families with children in both. The Resale Reports of ThredUp provided several insights into factors affecting second-hand shopping, including technology and consumer trends, but, similar to Euromonitor and Accenture, there was also no data segment for families with children. Instead, the demographic data segment was age group (Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z). Our search for scholarly articles about second-hand shopping was also unfruitful. While we found a profile analysis of second-hand shoppers, the data was segmented by store types. There seems to be no publicly available hard-data/statistics on why families with children shop second-hand because the segment is already too specific and may require a specialized survey of its own. Such surveys and reports are usually available online over a pay wall, like IBIS World's Thrift Stores Industry in the US — Market Research Report.

As our last resort, we consulted family-with-children blog sites that may have talked about their experience with second-hand shopping. We consolidated our findings from these blog sites, and picked the commonly occurring reasons why families with children shop second-hand.

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Sustainability and Second-Hand Shopping


In 2018, the second-hand economy had a market value of $24 billion. This is expected to reach $51 billion by 2023 according to ThredUp, an online resale store. Sustainability, nowadays, is a major concern as business activities now operate in an increasingly globalized world. As more expensive ways of producing goods and services are being replaced by new, yet, efficient technologies and activities, people's perceptions of buying and using products have also improved. The younger generation, especially the millennials, has never been this environmentally and socially conscientious.


People's perceptions about sustainability in relation to second-hand shopping are controlled by how resources are used. As a consumer, one's budget is a major denominator. But with the growing importance of ethical ways of consuming products, people, especially younger ones, are more socially and environmentally conscious when it comes to sustainability goals.

1. Second-hand shopping is financially sustainable.
  • Being frugal or saving money is the biggest reason why people buy second-hand.
  • In a 2016 study, saving money is the main driving factor to go for second-hand products, especially for those aged 18 to 24 years. Fundamentally, going for a bargain, or so a sustainable choice, is greatly affected by an intrinsic desire to pay less while getting more value in return. Indeed, second-hand shopping gives consumers a wiser alternative to be more financially sustainable.

2. Second-hand shopping helps reduce waste.
  • Americans throw away at least 10.5 million tons of used clothing annually. Second-hand shopping can eliminate wastes significantly. And attitudes about the activity are increasingly going positive.
  • A 2019 Accenture survey showed that people are more critical with fashion waste, that something that is vintage is something "in vogue." As such, the survey found that 48% of respondents would consider giving second-hand gifts, while 56% would be grateful to receive these kinds of gifts for themselves.

3. Second-hand shopping is use-efficient.
  • The concept of efficiency of use, or simply how we derive satisfaction from what we buy at the lowest possible cost, is a hallmark of products that are cheap or sold for a bargain. According to a 2019 study published in the journal Social Sciences, the idea behind re-using and recycling of products is that their lifespans are being extended.
  • Longer lifespans allow for an efficient use by simply getting the most of the product while saving space, time and effort in procuring for newer products that replace old ones.

4. Second-hand shopping curbs pollution.
  • The pollutive impact of fast fashion, for instance, is well documented as 90% of cotton used in textiles is genetically modified and, hence, needing more waterbody-polluting pesticides.
  • With less pollution, users are able to help the environment. This fact is more popular on younger generations, especially students, as they are more in tune with environmental issues as per Tom Meyvis, a professor of marketing at the Stern School of Business, New York University.

5. Second-hand shopping is resource sustainable.
  • Production of any good demands the use of resources derived from natural sources. Energy from oil and coal as well as operationally important bioresources like water are critical in meeting consumer demand. According to Planet Aid, an environmental NGO, second-hand shopping is helpful as less energy (mainly from oil) is used for synthesizing fibers, which is a major component of many energy-intensive products.
  • As with water, to manufacture a pair of jeans, 1,800 gallons of water is required. Second-hand clothes, thus, reduce over-reliance from water.

Research Strategy

The research made use of scholarly publications, university- and NGO-authored web articles, and online business and media reports. To come up with the five insights, special attention was given to the underlying economic and ethical values that consumers, especially the younger generation, are most likely to consider when going for second-hand products. Empirical research, across the board, places the impact of finances (or budget) as the key driver when buying second-hand products. This is compounded by the need to be environmentally conscious as being one can only be considered ethical. The focus was on millennials and students and the larger "younger generation." Specific information about single parents and families with children was not obtained, hence, the use of the generalized term "younger generation." Data and information that supported these insights came from a mix of sources like market surveys, economic reports, and organizational data (i.e. environmental facts).

Research proposal:

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From Part 03
From Part 05
  • "The charity Oxfam contends that buying second-hand is not only more sustainable (undeniably, it utilizes no additional resources beyond transportation, compared to new clothing) but stylish, too."
  • "The secondhand apparel market is booming. By 2023, the market is expected to reach $51 billion, according to a recent report from the online resale store ThredUp."
  • "However, Millennials with low discretionary incomes have limited choices in today’s marketplace, and it is unclear as to how these consumers perceive low-cost apparel options, including fast fashion apparel and second-hand apparel."
  • "Second-hand apparel shopping and decision making encompass sustainability, human geography and retail geography.Location selection for retail stores and how to present goods based on where and how customers are shopping is a common question second-hand retailers face."
  • "Sarah Ye, Co-President of Garb, told me about this issue, saying, “a lot of people here know about things like compost and reusable straws but nobody really understands that if you shop at places like Forever 21 it’s not good for the environment.”"
  • "The online survey of 1,500 U.S. consumers found that Americans expect to spend $637 on holiday shopping this year, on average, with approximately six in seven respondents planning to spend either the same (57%) or more (28%) than they did last year."
  • "The secondhand clothing industry’s environment benefits range from fewer carbon emissions to saving water and reducing waste. "