Resale is the New Retail

Author: Joyce Huang

The BRB Bottomline

When COVID-19 shut the doors of clothing stores across the nation, Americans flocked to a new platform: resale apps such as Depop, Poshmark, and ThredUp. As the greatest driver of this growth, Gen Z uplifted this growing focus on thrifting and shopping secondhand. However, this growth could propel the gentrification of thrift stores. Should we still support thrifting and reuse, and how?

I am elbows-deep in my search before I grasp onto the last one—the last 50%-off jacket in a toppling sale rack encircled by hungry teenagers and Yelp moms. Although the experience of Black Friday is one I desperately wish to forget, it is undeniable that a growing number of consumers succumb to a tunnel vision for clothes, more clothes, and even more clothes. 

When stores locked up their doors last March, many Americans opted for online shopping on resale apps such as Depop, Poshmark, and ThredUp. Ever since the lockdown began, these resale apps have become increasingly popular platforms for anyone to buy, sell, and trade clothing. Rather than accumulating brand-new clothes from retail stores, many consumers are now favoring secondhand clothes. In contrast to the “more is better” of days like Black Friday, now consumers focus on cleaning their closets and buying sustainably.

As one of the most popular resale apps, Depop has shown enormous growth since April: the company reports “a 163 percent year-over-year increase in new app signups, a 200 percent year-over-year traffic growth in the U.S. and a 300 percent year-over-year increase in items sold.” The greatest driver of this growth has been Gen Z.

This overwhelming growth signals a shift in the mindset of Gen Z: thrifting and shopping secondhand are now trendy. With COVID-19 crushing small businesses to the apparent apathy of large corporations, young adults have found solace in Depop, where they uplift buying locally and sustainably. 

Ethical Issues with Thrifting

Could all this improvement be too good to be true? A potential problem with Depop is the gentrification of thrifting. A growing number of wealthy users buy from thrift stores only to resell the clothes for much higher prices. Many worry that these resellers deplete the clothing supply at thrift stores that lower-income individuals rely on. 

However, it would be remiss to undermine the positive influence of Depop because of a few bad apples. The overwhelming majority of Depop users are not abusing the system, but simply gaining some extra cash in this recession. If anything, the successful users are not the short-term resellers who price outrageously for quick cash-grabs, but the business-minded folks who price carefully and strategically. In fact, most Depop thrifters are not depleting thrift stores because most thrift stores experience excess supply. The excess supply of clothing has only gotten worse with the pandemic, as those that are stuck at home clean out their closets. Thus, thrifting should be encouraged as long as we avoid thrifting in low-income areas and properly research prices if we resell.

As the main audience of Depop, Gen Z holds immense power in shaping the trajectory of clothes resale. Although resale apps have their fair share of problems, they are important in supporting sustainability efforts in our society that currently sends 73% of clothes straight to the landfill.In order to truly promote sustainability, we must continue to incorporate these resale habits into our lives even beyond the pandemic.

Take-Home Points

As resale apps skyrocket in popularity, it’s crucial to remember how to thrift ethically. It’s important not to thrift from lower-income areas and to research an honest selling price. As consumers uplift resale apps as the drivers of sustainability, we should also know that shopping sustainably does not mean only buying used clothes, but also buying less quantity in general.

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