NEW YORK — Second hand. Like new. Thrift. Buy Nothing. Gently used. There are lots of ways to describe consumption in the booming resale market.
Add “Merry Christmas!” to the list.
Resale has taken off among those looking to save the planet and spend less on gifts during what can be the most wasteful time of the year — the December holidays. This year’s supply chain delays have provided extra motivation.
“Gifting at its core should be about thoughtfulness, and arguably more thought is put into finding a meaningful, interesting secondhand gift for someone than just hitting the ‘buy’ button on something everyone is getting from Amazon,” said Ashlee Piper, a sustainability expert and author of “Give a Sh(asterisk)t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet.”
One of her favorite gifts ever was a tattered copy of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” that a friend found for $2 at a thrift shop.
“It’s kitschy, thoughtful and totally unique,” Piper said.
The resale market is far from dominant overall, and spans all ages. Industry reports have said the recent gains are driven mainly by Gen Z and Millennial shoppers.
Players large and small are reaping the benefits.
Luxury resale marketplace The RealReal, which has more than 23 million members after going public more than two years ago, said it saw a 60% jump last year over the year before among those choosing gift boxes with purchases during the holiday season. Last month, the online site, which has 16 brick-and-mortar consignment stores around the U.S., saw orders with gift boxes rise by 73% over the same month last year for unbranded jewelry. Such purchases were up 62% for Gucci items and 53% for Louis Vuitton selections, according to company data.
“The stigma is gone,” said Marshal Cohen, a consumer behavior and retail analyst for the NPD Group. “There is a new view of how valuable some of the resale product is. Grey market selling of new and used items are now reaching new heights. Scoring a great item others can only dream of is the new form of luxury.”
Sales of gift cards for online thrift giant ThredUp, which went public earlier this year, were up 103% during the first two weeks of December compared to the entire month of November, said Erin Wallace, vice president of integrated marketing.
Kristi Marquez, 36, in Jupiter, Florida, has two young daughters. She has cut down her gift list from about 20 people to 10 this year after her family opted to buy only for their kids. A good three-quarters of her gifts will be resale items. She used Thriftbooks.com and other book resellers to purchase previously owned titles at deeply discounted prices. Facebook Marketplace and local moms’ groups have proven fruitful for toys.
Sometimes, she said, going resale isn’t about the environment or saving money, especially this year.
“At the top of our oldest’s list is the Magic Mixies Magic Cauldron. At first, I didn’t know the toy was so popular and was shocked to see it sold out everywhere, except at more than double the price from resellers on Amazon and Walmart,” she said. “After wading through potential scammers, I finally got a hold of one on Poshmark for $99. It’s not the eco-friendly toy we’d hoped for and it’s still overpriced but we’re happy we found the main toy she asked for this year.”
The plastic toy, which makes sounds and produces mist after kids create a “potion,” retails for $69.99.
As more retailers have added resale as an option, tech middlemen have jumped in to assist. One company, List Perfectly, offers tools for resellers to cross-post their wares on 11 marketplaces.
“Resale doesn’t necessarily mean used. A lot of resellers resell new items that are currently scarce as they’ve planned their inventory for months to accommodate holiday shopping demands,” said Clara Albornoz, co-founder and CEO. “Buyers can see a variety of options, easily price compare, shop from their home, get their items quickly and affordably, and delivered straight to them, usually with opportunities to return if there are any issues.”
Another company, Recurate, enables brands to create their own resale platforms on their websites.
“Recurate’s sales over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday week were over 50% higher than average,” said Karin Dillie, vice president of partnerships. She said customers are seeking resale items “to satisfy their own deal hunting as well as to purchase as gifts.”
Appealing specifically to Gen Z, the resale marketplace Galaxy provides live shows for buyers and sellers to interact in real time. It recently hosted a five-day holiday event involving 40 top sellers.
“By being able to have real time conversations through live video and SMS messaging, sellers and shoppers get to build a relationship. This often leads to sellers becoming trusted curators of your wardrobe and your holiday shopping,” said Danny Quick, co-founder and CEO.
Sadie Cherney, a franchise owner with three resale Clothes Mentor boutiques in South Carolina, said resale is a buyer-beware market.
Her tips: Search for items that are new with tags, do your homework on return policies, make sure things like zippers are functional, check for stains and tears, and — perhaps most importantly — decide whether you will tell your gift recipient that you shopped resale.
Kahlil Spurlock, 32, in Jersey City, New Jersey, turned to resale for holiday gifts this year in an effort to reduce his carbon footprint. He used Grailed, a site not unlike The RealReal but focused on menswear.
“I was buying for my 20-year-old brother, who does buy resale,” he said. “There are some items that are just so cool, like some streetwear, you can only find on resale.”
Spurlock picked up two items from hot brands for his younger sibling.
None of this is new to 50-year-old Amanda Spencer in suburban Philadelphia. She’s a longtime resale hunter on Facebook Marketplace, local Buy Nothing groups that offer items for free, and events like sales at her church.
This year for Christmas, she found a series of books on Facebook that her daughter wanted. And from a Buy Nothing group, she picked up a beanbag chair her daughter had asked for.
“It’s not exactly the one but who cares,” Spencer said.
For her son, she found Minecraft cube building toys at a yard sale.
“Most of the stuff that they’ve ever gotten throughout their lives has either been hand-me-downs or from consignment shops,” Spencer said. “Why bother paying full retail?”