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Gen X (Remember Them?) Are Driving the Secondhand Market, The RealReal Says

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the realreal secondhand market
Image courtesy The Real Real

In its latest report on the luxury resale market, industry leader The RealReal says Gen-X continues to drive the category, even as younger generations start to prioritize secondhand shopping as a sustainable alternative to new clothing.

According to The RealReal’s 2022 Luxury Consignment Report, purchases across every generation increased in the last year. The findings are based on the platform’s 24 million members and more than 22 million items sold.

A commitment to sustainability is attracting shoppers to resale, say The RealReal, the world’s largest online resale platform. It also operates 18 brick-and-mortar locations including 15 retail stores.

“As buyers increasingly shop their values, they’re turning to resale for more conscious consumption,” reads the report. “Sustainability saw the biggest boost among TRR shoppers’ reasons to buy pre-owned.”

The findings show that consumers are indeed shopping their values more than ever; 40 percent replaced fast fashion purchases via items on TRR site, and 43 percent said they shop the secondhand platform because it’s more sustainable.

The secondhand trend is seeing unprecedented interest. French resale platform The Vestiaire Collective went public last year, earning unicorn status. It punctuated its success by achieving B Corp status. Data compiled by U.S.-based resale platform ThredUp last year anticipates the industry will see sales double to more than $77 billion by 2026. Late last year British luxury house Burberry, which is already one of the most sustainable fashion labels, announced it had partnered with My Wardrobe HQ in its first concerted resale effort.

Gen-X’s sustainability values

Gen-X—those born between 1965 and 1979—leads the demographics when it comes to shopping for sustainability, but they also led the intergenerational purchases, selling forward to Millennials and Gen-Z shoppers seeking vintage pieces including jewelry and watches.

Tiffany & Co. aimed to grab more market share from younger consumers with the tagline “Not Your Mother’s Tiffany”. It also curried favor with Millennials and Gen-Z by enlisting Beyoncé and Jay-Z in a campaign for its yellow Tiffany diamond. And while the brand saw an uptick in sales of 23 percent, Gen-X still made the most Tiffany & Co. products.

Image courtesy Tiffany & Co

The RealReal credits the return of the aughts style—with many items still parked in Gen-X closets, as key to its cross-generational sales. Gen-X sold 37 percent more ’90s style over 2021 and Gen-Z increased its purchases 61 percent.

The year also saw an increase in gender-fluid styles with Millennials driving the sales of items that go beyond gender constructs, boosting sales year-on-year 17 percent for unisex brand and styles.

Luxury brands lead the resale market

Gucci was the top-selling brand both for first-time sellers and first-time buyers, with dresses nabbing the top purchase item. Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Chanel also topped the brands most-shopped. High-value Nike sneakers grew more than any other brand, though, at 32 percent.

“Rapidly rising demand and limited availability for its most sought-after styles drove Nike to see double the resale value gain of any other brand this year,” said Mayank Hajela, The RealReal’s senior director of men’s. “While the release of new Dunk styles and ongoing collaborations with brands like Off-White and Sacai made Nikes coveted across generations, it’s primarily savvy Millennials who are flipping pairs for profit.”

Interest in vintage pieces saw some of the biggest increases across all categories and demographics. The company says desire for unique pieces “with character” is driving vintage jewelry and watch resale value up to two to three times more than current collections. Driving that is unbranded jewelry; the most expensive item sold on the platform was a $350,000 engagement ring, the company said.

Image courtesy The Real Real

“Over the past year, we’ve seen demand shift from statement jewelry and watches that pop to unique, vintage pieces that are rich in character,” said Steffi Lee, The RealReal’s editorial manage, fine jewelry and watches.

“These pieces are a quieter, and more versatile, way to stand out from the crowd,” she said.

The report said self-expression is seeing shoppers “flocking” to luxury resale for the rarest pieces including vintage, collaboration, and those with limited production. The demand for previously-worn luxury watches has seen WatchBox reach more than $1 billion evaluation. The second-highest price paid on The RealReal was for an Audemars Piguet watch—a Royal Oak Selfwinding Chronograph, which fetched $143,000.

“Resale has undeniably gone mainstream, and the luxury sector has one distinction that sets it apart: every demographic actively participates in luxury resale,” Rati Sahi Levesque, President of The RealReal, said in the report. “From Gen Z to the Silent Generation, every demo increased its adoption of secondhand luxury in 2021, and nearly every brand saw rising resale value as a result.”

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