In with the old (and out with the new) – second-hand clothing market set to overtake the fast fashion movement

Consumers are increasingly turning towards second-hand clothing, studies are revealing – with conscientious buyers set to make pre-loved items a bigger market than so-called ‘fast fashion’ by 2029.

In a poll conducted by waste management collection company,, almost half of the 1500 respondents (45%) said they would buy clothes that had been pre-owned. This mirrors other studies that show that the second-hand clothing market was set to double in the next five years – and overtake the fast fashion movement in the next decade.

Fast fashion, commonly seen on the High Street, focuses on regular changes to clothing ranges, cheaply made garments, and low prices – meaning it has seen a boom in recent decades, as fashion conscious shoppers became accustomed to having the latest look. But it also results in many tonnes of clothing – much of which is made from non-recyclable fabrics – being sent to landfill.

However, it seems that consumers are beginning to shake off their prejudices about wearing second hand clothing. While just 20% said they currently regularly buy second-hand clothes, a huge amount said they could be influenced to start doing so 

What would encourage you to buy more second-hand clothing?
Friends or family doing so first        90%
Celebrities doing so            94%
Nothing would                   6%

Interestingly, while both younger and older fashionistas were seemingly happy to shop second-hand – 80% of 16 – 21 year olds and 91% of over sixties, respectively – the overall percentage averaged at 45%, suggesting that there are cultural elements at play.

Mark Hall, Communications Director of, said:

“Older people are used to buying clothes that were made to last and passing hand-me-downs through families, which explains this age group’s willingness to buy second-hand. And, on the other end of the scale, young people are increasingly environmentally conscious, which could certainly influence their shopping decisions and cause them to turn away from fast fashion. However, those in their thirties and forties are perhaps of a generation more used to consumerism, having grown up in the excessive 1980s – it’s certainly an interesting generational divide.”

Of those who said they would be happy to buy second-hand garments, there was a clear consensus that image played a part – with charity shops still carrying a slight stigma. 62% (2) said they would be happy to purchase from charity shops – much lower than the figure who would buy elsewhere.

Would you buy second-hand clothes from:
A charity shop?            62%
A High Street retailer?        80%

Interestingly, 92% said they’d buy second-hand clothing from a High Street retailer if celebrities or friends did first, suggesting that there remain some hang-ups about being part of the ‘in crowd’ when it comes to fashion.

Hall added:

“People are turning to second-hand clothing – not just out of financial necessity, but out of choice. There’s a huge opportunity here for retailers to improve their green credentials and tap into a growing number of consumers who would like to buy stylish clothing, but without the ethical concerns. Some well-known retailers already feature vintage or pre-loved selections in store and there’s clearly room for these to be more widely available – consumers still have the benefit of shopping curated lines of (second-hand) pieces in line with their preferred style, but without the environmental impact.”

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