Everything You Need to Know About the Thrift Clothing Business

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The trend of reselling thrifted clothes is expected to grow globally at a rate 11 times faster than fast fashion and should be worth US$84 billion by 2030, with fast fashion predicted to be worth about US$40 billion. This reshaping of the fashion industry means that secondhand clothing has grown in potential and thrift stores are seeing a resurgence.

The fast fashion industry was inevitably hit due to the pandemic in 2020 and the subsequent lockdowns imposed by governments globally. The lockdowns have accelerated this shift in consumer consumption patterns with regards to the retail and fashion industry – consumers have switched over to digital platforms and are opting to be more conscious with their purchases. The environmental and ethical considerations are strong factors for the shift away from fast fashion to thrifting. 

Changing Global Consumer Behaviour 

Thrifting has evolved from an economic necessity to manage your budget to a mainstream counterculture movement. More traditionally understood as shopping at a thrift store or flea market, thrift shopping has taken secondhand shopping online. This transition to secondhand shopping has experts projecting the secondhand market to double in the next five years to US$77 billion according to thredUP. About 33 million consumers bought secondhand apparel for the first time in 2020 during the pandemic, mostly through online shopping. Countries like Malaysia had their average online basket size grow by 24% as compared to the same period in 2019, according to Janio. 

The change in global consumer behaviour towards shopping is driven by a few factors:

Pandemic-driven Price Sensitivity 

The pandemic has seen many fall into difficult financial times, making affordability the key selling point of online thrift stores. An emphasis on slow fashion points to more conscious considerations for secondhand clothes that are of good quality and able to last. Not only are the fashion pieces found in online thrift stores cheaper than a brand new design, buying quality thrift pieces equates to needing to buy fewer pieces of clothing over time. These long-term savings make thrift clothing compelling for many consumers. 

For example, mothers are turning to online thrift stores to ease the burden of clothing costs for their young children. In fact, one in two plan to spend more on secondhand apparels in the next five years, revealed by the thredUP report. 

When clothes are put through washing, comfort and durability tests – those made of quality, sustainable material like Tencel, tend to retain their colour and shape after 30 washes, compared to those made with materials like cotton and polyester, Talking Point found. This makes buying such clothes more cost-effective in the long run. 

Environmental Considerations

The idea of sustainability had become more pressing given the imminent climate crisis. Sustainability in fashion has become more relevant fuelling the growing popularity of thrift culture. Instead of contributing to polluted rivers or a landfill full of textiles, thrifted clothing can be reused by different people to extend their shelf life. Slow fashion also dissuades the purchase of new pieces, decreasing the amount of energy and resources required to sustain a culture of fast fashion. According to the thredUP report, 51% of consumers are more opposed to eco waste than before the pandemic. One in three consumers care more about wearing sustainable apparel than before the pandemic too.

Evolving Taste and Behaviour 

The lockdowns across the world have driven retail consumption online. With e-commerce ballooning, the amount and variety of products online are alluring to the average. Consumers are less loyal to brands and desire to discover something new and unique. Thrift-flipping or upcycling fashion is a practice where people buy second hand clothes from thrift stores and tailor them into new and unique pieces that showcases their personality and style more authentically. Consumers are excited to create and find new brands through secondhand shopping. 

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How To Start A Secondhand Store Online

Understand the Demographics

According to the 2021 resale report by thredUP, the younger generations are driving this surge in popularity for thrift shopping. Over 40% of millennials and Gen Zs have shopped secondhand apparel, shoes, or accessories in the past 12 months. The  shift to digital platforms is largely driven by the younger generations who are more tech savvy and price sensitive. Millennials and GenZs are also more concerned than their older counterparts about the environmental impact of fast fashion, subscribing to an ideology of slow fashion and fuelling the growth in demand for thrifting and reselling of clothing.

Understand their Behaviour 

For Gen Z, thrifting is a lifestyle. Thrifting symbolises their desire to be independent, to save the planet,  to save money and make money. And they want to do it all looking good in an outfit that costs less than $10. To start a successful secondhand store online, businesses should aim to align their branding with the values of the target audience. Millennials and Gen Zs are willing to try new brands if they think they are able to trust the brand to help them save the world and provide a smooth shopping experience. 

Understand your Markets

According to the McKinsey & Company insights report, most consumers across 45 countries make their apparel purchases online with India, Spain and Japan leading the statistics. Most countries also planned to continue their new shopping behaviours post-pandemic with 96% of Indian consumers intending to continue with their new shopping behaviours. Consumers across the countries generally are driven by their own purpose, value and the quality of the product when trying a new brand. You should have an efficient omnichannel distribution strategy to ensure that your international customers get their deliveries correctly and quickly. 

Starting An Online Thrift Store in Malaysia 

In 2019, Statista reported the export value of apparel and clothing in Malaysia was valued at approximately 23.73 billion Malaysian ringgit, a slight increase compared to the previous year. Be on the right side of history and ride the wave of slow fashion. The “post-pandemic” consumer is here to stay and your thrifting business can benefit greatly from an experienced global 3PL logistics partner that provides innovative and sustainable solutions to your needs. 

Given the customer profile of the younger generation of shoppers in Malaysia, your logistics partner should be able to provide order fulfillment solutions to meet their customer service expectations. Each step of the order fulfillment process such as customs clearance, freight, last mile delivery, facilitating cash on delivery payments, or sustainable packaging, is crucial in defining a trustworthy brand image and shaping a seamless online shopping experience. A sustainable and efficient fulfillment solution will resonate with a younger target audience who prioritise convenience and sustainability for online apparel purchases.

Create an account with DHL Malaysia to start an online secondhand clothing store to resell thrifted clothes.