Why we need better clothes take back schemes

If the second-hand market is to grow faster than fast fashion we need better take back or clothes collection systems.

In the last decade, the resale market (commonly referred to as the second and third-hand market) has grown by 3% and is projected to account for 11% of the fashion market by 2027. Actions taken by key figures in the industry suggest that resale might, in fact, have a bright future. At the V&A’s ‘Fashioned from the Nature’ conference, Claire Bergkamp, Worldwide Director of Sustainability and Innovation at Stella McCartney noted that the company is committed to encouraging the resale of their products. The luxury brand’s partnership with resale site, The RealReal, forms a part of the brand’s circular economy strategy and shows its commitment to the resale market. Other brands are hoping to do similar things. As part of the Global Fashion Agenda, 25 companies including Espirit and Zara have signed on to ‘increase the volume of used clothes sold’.

The benefits of reselling clothes

Diversion of market share to resale can have several positive implications for retailers, as well as the environment. For retailers and brands, it can introduce them to a new demographic of customers and grow their market share. Research shows that the second-hand market provides customer with opportunities to access brand that they would typically not be able to afford. Usually, this is thought to be true for luxury labels such as Stella McCartney, Gucci etc, however this is also true for mid-range products from the likes of Reiss and Whistles. Second-hand purchases from companies which are new to consumers can also act as a test of a brand. I was at the Workspace Business Insight dinner when a table mate told me about how her introduction to Cos came via second-hand buys. She reminded me that that was how I, too, was introduced to many brands I now buy at full price.

The secondhand market also has the potential to minimise brand’s, as well as the fashion industry’s, environmental footprint, as the reuse of clothes is a less energy and resource intensive process than production. In October 2018, The RealReal estimated that consignments (i.e. sale of its second-hand goods) undertaken between 2012 and 2017 has offset the equivalent of emissions from cars travelling “65 million  miles”.

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