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How the secondhand clothing industry brings sustainability and growth


Did you know that the average person buys 60 new clothing items per year? When you think about it, that’s a lot of money going towards something we might only wear a handful of times, if ever.

But what do most people do with those 60+ items per year? After a year or two, clothing items often gets stuffed in the back of closets or dressers and then eventually, thrown away. Many people throw clothes they don’t need any more into the trash, along with other waste products such as food. Many people know, clothing does not belong in the trash. But, if it doesn’t belong in the trash, what do we do with it?

The rise of the second-hand clothing industry

Back in the day (before the internet) we only had a few ways to sell our clothes. This included having a yard sale or selling your clothing to a clothing shop. But thanks to the convenience of the internet, we can now go online and sell the clothing we no longer need. It’s a win-win for everyone. The seller makes a bit of cash off a product they no longer use and the buyer purchases clothing at a discounted price.

Companies like E-Bay, Poshmark, ThredUp, and The RealReal saw the potential of second-hand clothing and they are now the future of the fashion industry.

In 2009, James Reinhart, cofounder and CEO of ThredUp came up with the idea for the company after trying to sell a bunch of shirts to a local consignment shop that rejected him. Reinhart knew the clothing still had value which is how the company came to existence. After finding that the company was a huge success and there was an opportunity in the market, the company became a full-service model that allowed customers to send their items to ThredUp to photograph, list for sale and ship to the second buyer. The final result? They are a success and led the way for many other second-hand retailers.

The RealReal is a company with the same concept as ThredUp, but they sell designer items that have all been authenticated. Like T-shirts, jeans, and other apparel, consumers realized their designer products such as handbags, sunglasses and shoes all could be reused rather than tossed in the trash. And of course, they could make a little bit of money off of the resale.

The secondhand clothing market is growing rapidly with no signs of slowing down. By 2023, the resale industry is projected to generate $23 billion in revenue.

So, what is so great about the secondhand fashion industry? Well for starters, it brings sustainability and growth. Let’s take a look at how it’s done:

Selling Creates More Space For New Products

Selling secondhand products is good for both the economy and consumer’s wardrobe. The average person buys 60 pieces of clothing per year, but most of those items are only worn once or twice, if ever.

Chances are, most people have done a ‘spring cleaning’ of their closet. They get rid of unwanted items and realize there is plenty of space in their closet for new items. When you sell your unwanted clothes and make a little bit of money off of the items you no longer need, you have more money to contribute to new clothing items. So, in the big scheme of things, the secondhand market is driving the regular clothing market.

Clothing serves a bigger purpose

In the past, the biggest reason why people sold their clothes was to make some cash. But as wardrobes grew and people found that they had brand new items in their closets that have never been worn before, they found that there is a greater purpose of those clothing items. Throwing unwanted clothing in the trash doesn’t make sense when those clothing items can be used and treasured by someone else.

Also, many of the resale items are sold at a discounted price. This gives others who might not be able to afford brand new clothing an opportunity to enjoy and own quality pieces at a discounted price. Selling your unwanted quality items to those that can make use of it makes a lot more sense than simply throwing it in the trash where it does not belong.

Secondhand clothing uses different target groups

When you get onto secondhand clothing site like Poshmark or ThredUp, you’re not just searching through one brand, but you have access to hundreds of different brands. This opens up a huge market with all different types of target groups. For instance, someone could search through one of these resale sights searching for a white polo shirt. They usually wear the brand Polo, but they come across a new brand such as Abercrombie that looks just as good at a discounted price.

Recycling plastic bags and clothing- what’s the difference?

Most people understand the importance of recycling things such as plastic shopping bags or plastic water bottles. But what most people don’t understand is clothing works the same way. A recent Vogue article talks about the environmental effects of clothing if we continue to just throw it away once we are done using it.

In the article, Stacy Flynn, CEO of Evrnu talks about her experience in China. She visited a factory town that was so polluted that she could hardly see her colleague, who was standing just a few feet away, due to the amount of smog from the pollution. After seeing this, she realized that, by constantly producing new clothing, she was contributing to the problem. The fewer clothing itemes that are produced, the better off the environment will be.

Get Involved With Jordan Alliance Group

The truth is, the secondhand clothing industry is the future of the fashion industry. If you’re not finding ways to get involved with secondhand fashion, you’re already behind.

Not sure where to begin? Our team at the Jordan Alliance Group is here to help! Reach out to us to learn more!

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Jordan Alliance Group, Inc. is a Black-Owned and Women-Led Boutique Management Consulting Firm Serving The Fashion Retail Industry and Academia.

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