Online second-hand fashion platforms are booming as younger, more conscious consumers flex their spending power

Online op shopping is booming. Image: Getty
  • Sales have spiked across online second-hand fashion stores in Australia.
  • According to a report from US platform Thredup, the resale market is tipped to surpass the traditional second-hand shopping and donation market by 2024.
  • Founders of Australian online resale stores Reluv and The Closet told Business Insider Australia how much sales have soared since they launched.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Online platforms that sell second-hand fashion items have been growing in popularity both in Australia and internationally.

These platforms take the traditional face-to-face op shopping experience to the online world, where people can send in clothing items they no longer wear and have them sold. It’s a trend that has been growing, particularly among younger generations, as consumers become more conscious of the environmental impact of fast fashion.

Overseas, companies such as Thredup in the US and UK-based Depop are among a crop of platforms in the fashion resale market. A 2020 Resale Report from ThredUp found that the resale market – which predominantly refers to online second-hand platforms – is tipped to surpass the traditional second-hand shopping and donation market by 2024.

It is projected to grow from a $7 billion market in 2019 to soar to $36 billion in 2024. All up, the whole second-hand market (both online and offline) is even expected to be double the fast fashion market by 2029.

Image: Thredup

In Australia, there are more than 2,500 op shops that charities operate, as well as vintage stores and online second-hand platforms like Restyle Closet, The Closet, Reluv and Mottanai.

The Closet is a consignment fashion retail store based in Queensland that sells clothing, accessories, jewellery and handbags. Sellers can go to the website, order a pre-paid satchel and fill it with good quality clothes they have that they want to sell.

Once these clothes are posted to the company, they are sorted, with The Closet taking pictures of suitable items and uploading them to the website, ready to be sold. Items that don’t meet the quality standards (but are still suitable) are given to the charity Dress for Success.

When an item is sold, both The Closet and the seller get a percentage of the revenue.

Louisa Forrester, founder and sole director of The Closet, told Business Insider Australia she started the business in 2019 after watching a documentary named “The True Cost”, which investigates the impact of fast fashion production on developing nations and the planet.

Since starting the business Forrester has seen a huge spike in the number of people buying from the website, even before the pandemic. She believes the second-hand market is “exploding”.

“If I compare the current 10 months to the previous 10 months, we’ve probably seen around about 350% growth in our sales on an average basis,” Forrester said. “And particularly since the pandemic we have experienced massive growth. Our sales are growing in excess of 25% per month.”

While The Closet has a wide range of customers, the majority are millennials and Gen Xers.

Melbourne-based second-hand fashion platform Reluv also allows you to send in items you no longer wear which are then sold. Founder Karen Freidin, who has worked in the sustainability sector for more than a decade, told Business Insider Australia that since the company began trading at the start of this year, it has seen a 100% growth month on month.

“With COVID, we really saw a spike in July, August and September,” she said. “And it was very much in line with the COVID lockdown that we experienced in Victoria. With the releasing of restrictions and end of year shopping and things like Cyber Monday and Black Friday, things have quieted a little bit, but we haven’t had a month that we haven’t seen growth.”

‘The clothing is often more affordable’

One of the major reasons why Aussies have been flocking to these platforms is because of the financial benefit.

“As the quality is improving, people are more amenable to continue to support second-hand,” Forrester said.

It’s another bonus for people hunting for luxury items. “There’s also the fact that the clothing is often more affordable especially [for] people that are looking for high level brands,” Freidin added.

There is also the joy of snagging a bargain. “Thrift shopping is very entertaining,” Forrester said. “That feeling that you get when you strike a bargain, it’s really uplifting and contagious.”

Another reason that attracts customers, particularly among younger generations, is acknowledging the impact fast fashion is having on the environment. Among the impacts is how the fashion industry accounts for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, causes water pollution and leads to large amounts of textiles ending up in landfill.

“People are becoming more aware of the damage done to the environment through consumerism and thoughtless consumption of clothing and other items,” Forrester said. “And so they’re searching for an alternative and as thrift fashion is losing the traditional stigmas that were attached to it, people are converting.”

Freidin believes resale platforms have made op shopping more accessible.

“Maybe 10 years ago, seven years ago, not everybody would want to buy second-hand and not everybody would want to go into an op shop,” she said. “But I think that all the platforms that we have now have made it accessible for a lot of people and I think it’s normalised it.”

She also believes more people are aware of issues with the fashion industry.

“Ethical and transparent fashion is something [that] people are demanding,” she said. “So I think this is an easy way for people to do it without having to vet where they’re getting their clothes from.”