Recommerce Grows As More Consumers Make Eco-Friendly Purchases

As eco-conscious consumers pull back spending and become more deliberative about what they buy, the recommerce market, buying and selling pre-loved goods, is poised for solid growth. More and more consumers are reusing, recycling, upcycling, and selling previously owned products.

Access to products, the value of goods, and less consumption

Consumers look to resale sites like Thredup, Poshmark, Depop, and Rent The Runway, which provide users access to preowned products at lower prices than new items and reduce consumerism. For example, a consumer may want to own a Gucci handbag but may not want to spend the money on a new one, so buying secondhand is an affordable option. In purchasing that secondhand product, consumers fill a need and contribute to a greener planet.

Participants in eBay’s
website buy and sell previously owned goods, a hobby that has grown post-pandemic, allowing users to earn money while contributing to a longer product life cycle. The eBay Recommerce Report cited 13% of respondents said they are selling on eBay due to lost household income, while 67% of U.S. sellers said they sell to make extra cash. The report showed 38% of Gen Z respondents said that the economy had caused an increase in their eBay activity, while 58% of Gen Z sellers said they sell on eBay to make extra cash. As consumer spending tightens in 2023, users want to save money by buying used while increasing their sustainability efforts.

The report showed that 93% of buyer and seller respondents stated that sustainability is a very or somewhat important factor in their decision to buy and sell on the website, in addition to pricing. “The number one cited reason for buyers and sellers to participate with eBay is the products are less expensive and provide better pricing,” said Renee Morin, chief sustainability officer of eBay. Of survey respondents, 90% cited reducing waste as an important aspect of sustainability in recommerce.

Conscious consumption driven by younger generations

“The recommerce trend will continue and is more popular with Gen Z, who are climate-driven and value-conscious shoppers. This has become more of a hobby, along with a good thing to do for the pocket and planet,” said Morin. eBay has over 135 million active users, a group large enough to make a sizable environmental impact if acting in concert. In 2022, eBay’s recommerce resulted in 73,000 metric tons of consumer goods being re-used instead of ending up in landfills, along with 1.6 million metric tons of avoided carbon emissions. Even if these goods eventually end up in landfills, extending their useful lifetime is essential for environmental sustainability.

First Insight found that 62% of Gen Zers and Millennials prefer buying from sustainable brands. Some of these younger consumers now shop secondhand markets almost exclusively for apparel and footwear because it gives them access to higher-quality products they might not otherwise be able to afford. Secondhand markets also allow them to minimize their consumption footprint and reinforce their social credentials.

Specialty stores move into the second-hand market

The growth of the previously owned merchandise market is not new. Even before the pandemic hit, used clothing stores were up 5.9% compared to specialty retail which was flat year-over-year in 2019. Many specialty retailers are offering their own version of a resale market, including the likes of Amazon
, Apple
, Best Buy
, and GameStop
, which all offer some second-hand electronic products. Allbirds, Eileen Fisher, Levi’s, Lululemon, Patagonia, and REI are some apparel and accessories retailers that sell pre-owned goods. IKEA stores have also begun buying back customer-assembled furniture and selling it in their “As Is” department.

The growth of resale platforms

In 2021, the recommerce market in the United States was estimated at more than $160 billion, a 15% increase from nearly $140 billion in 2020. That growth is expected to continue, with a forecast to reach $245 billion by 2025. ThredUp suggests that apparel resale alone will be a $64 billion market by 2024. Cowen, the equity research firm, estimates that resale platforms are growing at a compounded annual growth rate of more than 34%.

The future of recommerce

Livestream will be the next growth area for recommerce platforms. “eBay Live will allow buyers and sellers to interact with a live audience, thereby creating a community which will bring trust to the platform,” said Morin. Many people who took to selling pre-owned merchandise during the pandemic stayed with it. “Younger generations will remain dominant players as they get older,” said Morin. The eBay Recommerce report surveyed more than eleven thousand sellers and buyers globally.

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